Dogwood Pearson Policy Statement: Human dignity vs. development plans

VCH wants to develop the Pearson Dogwood complex, bringing in money from apartment rentals. However, seniors and disabled Vancouverites don't want more institutionalized living.

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Neither Seniors Advisory Committee nor the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee is on board with this policy statement.

Paul Caune, a former resident at Pearson, said, "I ask Council to reject the Policy Statement as it is now." Placing disabled people in an institution often results in rapid mental and physical deterioration. "Regardless of the intentions of the designers of these platforms, what are the outcomes?" Obviously, says Caune, placing people into such institutions "is bad health care": "You don't need to be a doctor to understand that."

In the 2011 video below, Caune spoke of his forced confinement at Pearson Centre.

Norman Kunc said, "At its core, your decision comes down to this: Does Vancouver City Council do what is best and ethical for persons with disabilities, or does City Council do what is advantageous and convenient for VCH?"

He added, "The problem of institutionalization... is the inherent imbalance of power" between the clinicians and the patients.

Reps from VCH came back to defend the plan, but were unable to deliver on specifics.

When challenged by Clr. Andrea Reimer as to whether or not they would be willing to directly reference the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement, the reps waffled. They were also unwilling to firmly commit to building the new facilities under a Green House model, under which residents would have greater say in their treatment; saying it would be difficult to actually build "in a unionized environment".

Charlotte Kates of Inclusion BC said, "What we see here in the Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement... does not recognize and implement" the rights of its patients. Global best practices for people with disabilities, says Kates, means living in the community. "It's deeply troubling" that we're discussing the rebuilding of an institution for people with disabilities. The vagaries of the statement point to an institution being built on that site. "It's a human rights issue, and therefore it's well within the City's purview to decide."

Brian Couche: "VCH said, 'Accept this document and we can rewrite it.'" It's like getting married, he said, and then signing a prenup. "Unconscionable" to accept the proposal as it is currently written.

Susan Masters, Executive Director, Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said, "We know the effects that institutions have. I congratulate VCH for looking at other models," but there isn't yet a partnership with those VCH serves. "Why is there such a gap, when everyone is well-intentioned, and everyone shares the same goal?" The gap comes from a lack of partnership. The disabled citizens themselves, says Masters, is the "Blue Ribbon Panel" vaguely alluded to in the Policy Statement.

(This gap, by the way, is present throughout city politics; not just confined to Marpole.)

Oh, and it's also about the real estate

Tracy Moir, who sat on a community advisory group leading up the Policy Statement, noted that "reality set in and the challenges became apparent." Moir supports the idea of leveraging land value to pay for health care projects, but points out that there must be a binding commitment for the money to stay in Vancouver.

Marpole resident Enrico Diano asked "Is the land going to be sold, or is it going to be leased?" This, he says, is a fundamental question. If sold, it's gone forever. It's provincial land, donated for the purpose of providing health care. Attach a specific clause to the Policy Statement, he says, that the land must be leased, and not sold.


Overall, brains were beginning to melt after several hours of discussion: Council may not have been anticipating such a wide range of issues to be explored in such depth.

Clr. Geoff Meggs moved for this item to be referred to a future council meeting, pending. Or, in Council-ese, "That Council refer the Pearson Dogwood Policy Statement back to staff to give time for consultation referenced by the City Manager, including the provincial government and the Vancouver Coastal Heath Authority."

So, more debate to come.

VCH has cause for concern that the Pearson Dogwood Statement won't be rubber stamped: adjectives thrown around for the document ranged from "vague" and "fuzzy" to "goofy" and "silly". Overall, the vast amounts of wiggle room pointed out by speakers and Councilors alike should have VCH anticipating a rewrite.

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