BCSS Position on the Riverview Lands

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The Riverview lands were originally cleared by Riverview patients, and were meant to be preserved for the mentally ill in perpetuity.

No one would advocate a return to the bad old days of large, dark institutions.

But the Riverview Lands themselves offer a unique opportunity to provide decent home and care facilities within a beautiful, park-like setting.

Surely this is better than expecting extremely ill people to cope with the confusion and confinements of the city. Even with extensive urban support services, an ever-increasing number of people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses end up homeless. This is what has happened in Vancouver. In fact, the ultimate decision regarding the fate of the Riverview
Lands directly affects health care and social planning in all urban areas of the Lower Mainland.

Every effort must be made to ensure that those who cannot care for themselves are treated in the most humane and thoughtful manner, and in the most therapeutic setting possible.

To this end, The BC Schizophrenia Society recommends the following three
initiatives for the use of the Riverview Lands.
1. Build Congregate Housing
Congregate housing provides a home-like atmosphere (6–8 residents per house.) Each person has his or her own bedroom and bathroom. Meals are prepared in a common kitchen. Other common areas include the dining room and a spacious living room.
Cottage-style houses could be built for this purpose, within a village setting at Riverview. Housing development should be contracted to non-profit organizations with a proven track record for developing and operating good housing for people with mental illness (i.e., Coast Foundation, New View, etc.)
2. Establishment of a Campus Community
Universities and colleges could establish programs at Riverview affiliated with faculties of social work, occupational therapy, community care nursing, horticulture, landscape architecture, etc. Such an arrangement would be mutually beneficial to faculty and students (who would be working in an environment directly related to their studies) and to residents (who could directly benefit from on-site occupational therapy and employment-training opportunities.)
3. Stop Shifting Ill People to Urban Core, Justice System
Many people suffering from mental illness who are discharged from hospital end up on Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Filthy, inadequate accommodation; noisy, dangerous streets; alcohol and drug abuse; a high crime rate—all of these combine to ensure that many severely ill people become the innocent victims of neglect and violence. Growing numbers of ill people are wrongfully caught up in the criminal justice system. Decent housing in a safe and attractive park-like setting such as Riverview plus an opportunity to participate in meaningful educational and employment activities could help many people regain their health and sense of self-worth.
“If good sense and compassion prevail the Riverview Lands dedicated at their inception to people with mental illness?will be maintained for that purpose.”
Lucy Waters, President – British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (1996)
Maintaining the Riverview Lands for people with severe mental illness is supported by thousands of people2 and a number of organizations, including:

  • The City of West Vancouver
  • The City of Coquitlam
  • The City of Port Coquitlam
  • The City of Surrey
  • The District of Maple Ridge
  • The Cariboo Regional Health Board
  • The David Suzuki Foundation
  • Numerous horticultural societies. For historical information, there an excellent small book called
  • The Riverview Lands: Western Canada’s First Botanical Garden. It is produced by the Riverview
  • Horticultural Society and edited by Val Adolph and Brenda Guild Gillespie.

Numerous horticultural societies. For historical information, see the excellent small book called The Riverview Lands: Western Canada’s First Botanical Garden. Riverview Horticultural Society (1996) Edited by Val Adolph and Brenda Guild Gillespie ISBN:
1. In June 2006, Corrections Canada officials reported that the number of people with serious mental illness in Canada’s prison system has increased by over 80% in the last 7 years. Between 35-40 individuals suffering from mental illness appear in Vancouver Provincial Court each day (2005 Task Force Report on Street Crime in Vancouver to BC Attorney General)
2. Following a small newspaper ad to “Save the Riverview Lands”, the BC Schizophrenia Society received over 19,000 signed petitions from individuals around the province in favour of keeping the lands to help people with mental illness.