02/04/2013 04:18 EST | Updated 04/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Dix promises compensation for all Woodlands abuse survivors

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix kicked off his election campaign on Monday with a promise to extend compensation to all victims of abuse at the former Woodlands School if he wins the upcoming May election.

Currently the government is only accepting claims from those who attended Woodlands after Aug. 1, 1974, but Dix has said for years that that's unfair, and is now promising an NDP government would change the rules within a week of taking office.

Dix says it's important to compensate all abuse victims.

"Bill McArthur, who left Woodlands only days before August 1, 1974, who suffered from significant abuse at Woodlands — the idea that he wouldn't be eligible because of a technicality, compensation that the government has agreed to give, doesn't make any sense and is profoundly unjust."

Dix says the province has already set aside more than enough money to compensate all of those who suffered at the school.

Asylum opened in 1878

Hundreds of students endured sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of staff while in care at the Woodlands school in New Westminster, which closed in 1996.

The facility first opened in 1878 as the Provincial Asylum for the Insane. In 1950 it was renamed Woodlands School and repurposed as a residential facility to house children with developmental disorders, and runaways and wards of the state.

About 900 former Woodlands residents are eligible for compensation, ranging from $3,000 to $150,000, depending on the abuse they suffered.

But the province isn't legally obligated to compensate about 300 people who were harmed at Woodlands before 1974 because the government hadn't yet enacted a law that required it to compensate those under its care.