Great expectations for Pearson Dogwood expansion plans

Patricia McClarty has lived in Marpole's Pearson Centre since two years.

Patricia McClarty has lived in Marpole’s Pearson Centre since two years.

Patricia McClarty’s left hand carefully manoeuvred her wheelchair through the crowd, as she distributed information cards to other visitors of the Pearson Dogwood open house in Marpole on Saturday.

McClarty is one of dozens of residents and neighbours who showed up on Saturday, Feb. 2 to have a closer look at the proposals and to have their voices heard. The City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health started the public hearing process this week. The George Pearson Centre is a home for adults with a range of disabilities, and the neighbouring Dogwood Lodge houses seniors who require complex care. The plan is to demolish the existing buildings and create an entirely new complex on the block between Cambie and Heather streets and West 57th till 59th Ave.

The George Pearson centre in Marpole, built in 1952, is slated for destruction within the next few years.

The George Pearson centre in Marpole, built in 1952, is slated for destruction within the next few years.

“We’re mixing normal residential and community development with clinical development and that’s unprecedented in the scale we’re talking about,” said Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman Brad Foster. According to Foster, a mixture of condos, rental places, retail, social housing and the care facility will ensure financing the project as well as create a real community rather than a clinical environment.

Residents want to be heard

Patricia McClarty, 63, moved to the George Pearson Centre from Fort St. John two years ago after an infection of her spine left her partly paralyzed. She is actively involved in the Pearson residents redevelopment group, which strives to include residents’ wishes into the development.

The Stan Stronge Pool at Pearson centre is equipped to accomodate people with a wide range of disabilities.

The Stan Stronge Pool at Pearson centre is equipped to accomodate people with a wide range of disabilities.

“We don’t want to be an institution type place, more like a residential place, where we could have a little bit more privacy,” she said. “Our rooms could be a bit bigger and we’d like to be involved in the whole neighbourhood. We’d like people to come into the courtyard and have bistros and coffee.”

McClarty said, she’s optimistic about the changes. “We know that we have to, you know, keep up with the times. We can’t sit in the dark with our head like an ostrich, you know. We have to realize it’s got to be developed,” she said.

The resident group’s social liaison Sarah Wenman said some residents are skeptical. “One of the things we hope it’ll do is eliminate the isolation that residents are experiencing. . . . Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you have to live in a hospital environment. It’s not good for humans to live in that situation,” she said. The residents have started a blog reflecting their expectations of the redevelopment.

According to Foster, the renewal plan would support more independent living, keep wheelchair users in ground floor units and make the area generally more accessible for wheelchairs and pedestrians.

Three meals a day, a shelter on your head and that’s it

Paul Caune is skeptical that the developers and Vancouver Coastal Health have the interest of residents in mind. Caune, 44, who was born with muscular dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since the age of 26, does not have warm memories of his two-year stay at Pearson.

Paul Caune (middle), a former resident of the George Pearson Centre, is skeptical of the proposed changes.

Paul Caune (middle), a former resident of the George Pearson Centre, is skeptical of the proposed changes.

“George Pearson Centre is essentially a prison for people with disabilities, because you have no freedom here. You have no privacy. You only get a shower once a week,” he said.

He is also skeptical of the developers’ proposal to facilitate transitions from hospital care to independent living. “It may be on paper a place to transition. In practice, what it’ll be is a dumping ground for people from all across the province with disabilities,” he said.

Caune, who lived in the centre from 2005 till 2007, has since moved on, and is an active blogger and film producer focused on human rights of people with disabilities.

 New Canada Line station at West 57th and Cambie

Stef Schiedon, project director at Fraser Health, said the development would integrate staff housing in the planning. While the time line may take 15 years to completion, a huge benefit for the entire neighbourhood would be an additional Canada Line station at Cambie and West 57th Ave., if enough funding can be found.

The idea of a new Canada Line station is music to the ears of Jeannie Bates, who lives three blocks from the centre. Bates walks 15 minutes to the Langara / 49th station and would appreciate a new station at West 57th.

Bates said she is excited about the plans. “It would be huge for the area. I would love to be able to walk to the grocer. I miss that,” said Bates, who added the only disadvantage of the quiet residential Marpole area is she has to drive for shopping.

Reported by Katja De Bock

In this video, directed by Angelina Cantada, residents of Pearson speak frankly about their hopes for the future.

12 thoughts on “Great expectations for Pearson Dogwood expansion plans

  1. In 2010, a few days before the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons of Disabilities. The Government of Canada would not have ratified this treaty without the consent of the provinces. Therefore crown corporations of BC, such as VCH and Fraser Health, are obliged under international law to comply with the Convention.

    The Convention states:

    “Article 4 – General obligations

    1. States Parties undertake to ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability. To this end, States Parties undertake:
    1.To adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention;
    2.To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities;
    3.To take into account the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities in all policies and programmes;
    4.To refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the present Convention and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the present Convention…”

    I think Article 19 is very relevant to this project:

    “Article 19 – Living independently and being included in the community

    States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:
    1.Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;
    2.Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;
    3.Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.”

    Compare above with this description of GPC in 2008:

    “Residents under­stood the need for a routine within GPC but many criticized the inflexibility of it. Residents consistently gave three examples in which the routine challenged the reality of GPC as home: being able to have a bath or shower more than once a week; being able to go back to bed for a rest and then get up again during the day; and having to remain in bed on days when they were to have a bowel routine.

    Residents wanted a greater degree of control over these aspects of their lives. They described these three things as being pretty basic and that they were really about having some control over your own life. They believed that it was not unreasonable to want to have a shower more than once a week, or if they were feeling like it, to go back to bed for a rest and to then get up again…Some residents did not feel able, physically or emotionally, to challenge staff to try and change things. They did not want to upset the status quo. A number of residents commented it was the ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’–it was the most vocal residents who had their needs or issues ad­dressed. Residents also discussed their fear of negative conse­quences if they complained too much or made a fuss.”[My bold] The Envisioning Home

    In 2012 the B.C. Ombudsperson concluded after a four year investigation into the province’s health care for seniors (this includes GPC):
    •The Ministry of Health does not require care staff to report information indicating seniors receiving…residential care services are being abused or neglected.
    •The Ministry of Health does not require operators of facilities governed under the Hospital Act to report incidents of abuse and neglect of residents.
    •The health authorities do not track the number of reports of abuse and neglect they have investigated or the number of support and assistance plans they have implemented in response to investigations of abuse and neglect.
    •The Ministry of Health does not require service providers to notify the police of an incident of abuse or neglect that may constitute a criminal offence.
    •The Ministry of Health does not require the health authorities to ensure that seniors who believe a placement they’ve been offered is inappropriate to have the opportunity to raise their concerns and have them considered.
    •The Ministry of Health and health authorities’ residential care placement policies and practices do not incorporate seniors’ choices and preferences.

    Click to access Seniors_Report_Volume_1.pdf

    Click to access Seniors_Report_Volume_2.pdf

    VCH stated in the May 17/2012 Vancouver Courier (our comments: “Anna Marie D’Angelo, senior media relations officer at Vancouver Coastal Health, said the health authority recognizes the facility [George Pearson Centre] is not meeting the needs of patients…”

    It would appear that at least in regards to people with disabilities and seniors VCH/FH are international outlaws. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the post about the Pearson-Dogwood Redevelopment, Katja!

    Pat’s part of the Pearson Residents Redevelopment Group, and we have a website and two reports available.

    We believe innovative housing and health care options are possible. This redevelopment is an opportunity to support residents to live full, integrated lives in the community.

    Here’s a link for more information. You can scroll down to see illustrations PRRG has created of our vision:

  3. A very enlightening article. Thanks… I too believe the George Pearson Hospital is much needed and we need to see it upgraded. I can see a noticeable improvement in Pat’s physical and mental capabilities since transferring there,,,, I can only dream how much more she may attain in the “PERFECT” living facility.

  4. Thank you for much needed attention to a very important social issue.. Pat has come long past any expectations in a very outdated facility. I cannot imagine living in a little cramped room and only allowed one shower a week. These people deserve to have George Pearson Hospital brought up to and beyond modern standards-miracles happen there.!

  5. The Gov of Alberta has decided to shut down one of the last remaining institutions in Canada and not replace it with an institution-by-another-name but to return the “inmates” to the community.

    In a recent op-ed essay on that matter I found this:

    “Institutionalization is opposed by every provincial, state, national and international organization of families who have sons and daughters with developmental disabilities, people with disabilities, including developmental disabilities, and by professionals, researchers and practitioners…

    The benefits of returning individuals to community, even when they lived in institutions for decades and irrespective of age, severity or complexity of disabilities or health, is well established by decades of published studies and meta-analytical research in peer-reviewed journals…

    Some provinces have been institution-free for more than 20 years and almost all are closing their remaining institutions. Further, almost every government review of disability services in Alberta, along with the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, has called for the closure of institutions…

    It is a fallacy to assume the individuals remaining in the institution have needs different than all who successfully live in community. In fact, there are many more individuals with greater complexity of needs and challenges living in community than those living in Michener. There is no one living in Michener who could not live in the community — the evidence is irrefutable.”

    I urge everybody to contemplate those words and apply them in any arguments they make as to what the Dogwood Pearson Redevelopment should be.

    And I urge you to read the entire op-ed:

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