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St. John's Hospice can't find its roots at UBC

Character sketch of St. John's Hospice image provided by Rositch Hemphill and Associates Architects

Over 200 upset condo residents have signed a petition to stop construction of a two-level 15-bed hospice at UBC, The Province reports.

Construction for St. John's Hospice at the Northeast corner of West Mall and Stadium Rd is slated to start in July 2011 but may be delayed if residents persist with threats of protest.

The project is being developed in partnership with The Order of St. John, UBC's Faculty of Medicine, UBC Properties Trust, and Vancouver Coastal Health.

Janet Fan, a stay-at-home-mother, had much to say about the University's plan to build a hospice in her "backyard" to the CBC.

"In Chinese culture, we are against having dying people in your backyard," said Janet Fan, who has signed a petition against the hospice. "We cannot accept this. It's against our belief, against our culture. It's not culturally sensitive."

The proposed location of the hospice has been shuffled around eight potential sites around UBC over the past two years.

Two of the proposed locations near Place Vanier and St. John's College, both student residences, was met with opposition from students in 2009. Students believed that the construction of a hospice nearby would infringe on students' rights to a "proper student life," according to a Facebook page called "Building a Hospice Near Vanier hurts UBC Students".

According to the page, "proper student life" encompasses "socializing, meeting new people, and partying". Students believe that the location of the hospice near student residences would not be the ideal situation for students nor to those who require palliative care and their families.

The cultural ammo being used by angry residents is an attempt give leverage to their position that property values are threatened. Portraying children as victims is a manipulative way to place pressure on the university and Vancouver Coastal Health to stall construction.

Headlines like "Angry Asian UBC condo owners to protest 'bad luck' hospice" have ignited individuals to write heated comments that slam differing cultural values based from bigotry.

Focusing on cultural superstitions and the threat of monetary loss will continue to divide people on an issue that should be of shared concern.  The proposed hospice will continue to be tossed back and forth at UBC, unless a location away from late-night partiers and stubborn mortgage-holders replaces the current site.

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