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Never Forget: The Journey To Community

The institutionalization of British Columbians with disabilities lasted nearly 100 years

From: Inclusion BC

BC Disability

December 1st, 2021

For nearly a century, British Columbians with disabilities were forced out of their communities and into oppressive institutions.

Inclusion: The Journey to Community is an interactive exhibition capturing this period in BC's history. The exhibition opened on December 1st in Port Moody, and everyone is welcomed to attend its virtual launch.

When: December 3, 11:00 AM to 11:45 AM

Where: Online


The institutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities in B.C. began more than 100 years ago with the creation of Woodlands institution in New Westminster.

It ended on October 21, 1996, when Woodlands’ last two residents moved to their new homes in the community. With their departure, B.C. became the first province in Canada to close all of its large institutions for people with intellectual disabilities.

Inside Woodlands

Inclusion: The Journey to Community captures Woodlands' history through a series of newspaper clippings, interactive elements, and borrowed pieces of From the inside/out! exhibition.

Former residents of Woodlands will also provided guided tours, sharing their stories of the institution and of how they're now thriving in the community.


The era of abuse and neglect of people with disabilities who lived in institutions is largely unknow or misunderstood by most people in our province.

Too often, it is only through the recollection of former residents, their families, and the community organizations that supported their journey to community that this story is told and kept live.

Former residents of Woodlands watch the institution being torn down (Photo: Rafal Gerszak)


As time passes and storytellers age there is great concern this history will be lost. This is why furth education is an absolute must.

Inclusion BC and BC Disability call on our provincial government to embed the course Truths of Institutionalization: Past and Present into the curriculum of our public education system and ensure the history of people with disabilities is never forgotten.

The virtual launch of Inclusion: Journey to Community will be presented by the BC Self Advocacy Foundation, Community Ventures Society, Inclusion BC, and the Port Moody Heritage Society. For more info, visit and


Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to!


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