The Chilliwack Society for Community Living has been serving the Chilliwack community and the surrounding areas since 1954.
Since its inception, the Society has endeavored to promote the inclusion of the citizens of Chilliwack who have a developmental disability into the fabric of community life. The Society began because a number of parents had a strong desire to develop resources in the community for their children with special needs. As a result, the Society was formed and registered under the Societies Act of British Columbia in January, 1954 making it one of the first agencies in the province formed for this purpose.
In its formative years, the primary focus was a school for children since the provincial government had no mandate to provide an education for children with special needs. As the first children attending the school became adults, the Society increased its services to include the Occupational Center. In 1962 our Society, in a Federal Pilot Project, opened the Sunshine Drive Hostel. This was the first respite care option to be offered in the province of BC outside of the institutions (Glendale, Woodlands and Tranquille) and was seen as extremely innovative.
Over the years the Society’s programs and services have expanded and now include a wide variety of supports to individuals of all ages who have developmental disabilities.
Children considered “handicapped” are routinely institutionalized. Government takes no responsibility for the education of children with developmental disabilities and advise families to send children to residential institutions. The creation of a large institution in New Westminster, first called the Provincial Asylum for the Insane and later known as Woodlands School (pictured), or just Woodlands are among other large institutions – Tranquille, Glendale, and the Endicott Centre – built around the province.
Parents who wanted to educate their children came together to form parent associations. They held classes in church basements because children with special needs were not educated in the regular school system. In the 1950’s, parents pressured local school boards to provide funds for separate education programs and some funds were forthcoming from the Ministry of Education. At this time, a few school boards delivered their own programs for children with special needs, but there was little consistency and classes were not part of a regular school. Eventually the Ministry approached some associations supporting persons with disabilities to run pilot projects, supplying them with funds to develop educational programs.
January 1954: Parents who were frustrated and unwilling to institutionalize their children organize non-profit societies in their communities. Families in Chilliwack create an organization under the name “Upper Fraser Valley Society for Handicapped Children” known today as the Chilliwack Society for Community Living (CSCL).
January 1955: CSCL and 6 other local parent associations joined together to create the B.C. Association for Retarded Children which later becomes, Inclusion BC, a provincial federation working to enhance the lives of children, youth, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
November 1958: Provincial associations formed the Canadian Association for Retarded Children (CARC) to bring a national voice to their concerns. Now known as Inclusion Canada, a national federation of 13 Provincial/Territorial associations and over 300 local associations working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families.
September 1959: The BC government amended the School Act, which enabled public school boards to take over full responsibility for the education and training of “moderately retarded” children. This was the first time in Canada that educating children with special needs was recognized as a public responsibility. Legislation also increased children attending chapter schools by 50%, and permitted boards to provide accommodation for the children. Also in 1959, through parental pressure, the University of B.C. became the first Canadian university to appoint a Professor of Special Education to train teachers of children with disabilities.
March 1962: CSCL, in a Federal Pilot Project, opened the Sunshine Drive Hostel. This was the first respite care option to be offered in the province of BC outside of the institutions (Glendale, Woodlands and Tranquille) and was seen as extremely innovative.
April 1974: The first People First Chapter in Canada was up and running in British Columbia. This first group was made up of men and women who lived in an institution and wanted to get out. Today, the Chilliwack Chapter of People First is the longest serving chapter in our province. Pictured is the Chilliwack Chapter of People First from 2017.
March 1976: CSCL was offered the Knights of Columbus Bingo at the Forrester’s Hall on Vedder Road. Each week 12 volunteers (families, board members, staff) operated the Bingo. The significance of this weekly Bingo was the all-volunteer team that provided the means to extend our reach, increasing service to about 32 people at the Occupational Centre (now REV) and the Woodshop (now OASIS).
May 2005: CSCL is awarded its’ first 3-Year Accreditation Award. Achieving CARF accreditation means that CSCL satisfies each of the CARF Accreditation conditions, demonstrates substantial conformance to the standards, and uses continuous quality improvement practices.
April 2012: The Sunshine Community Garden was officially launched on Earth Day in 2012. The Garden is designed to be an inclusive social space to promote health and well-being, and to foster relationships between diverse community members. For more information about the Sunshine Community Garden click the image above and then click HERE again.
January 2016: CSCL’s first Executive Director, Brenda Gillette (pictured with Bruce Hayens), retires after 40 years of service to the Society and a new era begins with long-time employee, Julie Unger, taking on the role of Executive Director. For more information on Brenda’s retirement click on the image and then click HERE again!