Jericho School for the Deaf

The Jericho Hill Grounds has been home to many institutions since the early 20th century, including the Boy's Industrial School, the Jericho Hill School for the Deaf, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Justice Institute. Today, West Point Grey Academy and the West Point Grey Community Centre sit on the Jericho grounds, recently bought by Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, whose ancestors lived on the land for thousands of years.


Jericho Boy’s Industrial School and Military Use

From the beginnings of settlement in Vancouver, the Jericho Lands were part of a government reserve, and in 1897, military posts were opened in the area. Lands between 4th and 8th Avenues, and Discovery and Camosun Streets, were a provincial government reserve (District Lot 176), first occupied by the Jericho Boys Industrial School which opened in 1905 at 4100 West 4th Avenue, in a building designed by Thomas Enner Julian. Known for violent treatment of students, the school left in 1920 and moved to Coquitlam.

Jericho Hill School for the Deaf

Before 1915, most of Vancouver’s children who were deaf and blind were sent out of province to attend school, at institutions like the Manitoba School for the Deaf in Winnipeg. From 1915-1922, Mount Pleasant School (now Kingsgate Mall) offered classes before the new Vancouver facility opened.

Soon after the Industrial School moved out, the Jericho Hill School moved in, and opened in 1922 (called the British Columbia School for the Deaf and Blind until 1955). During the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Airforce took over the property, and students were sent to Burnaby, as well as other schools in Vancouver. In December 1945, the school regained their property, and were also given two former air force buildings, once used as mess hall and barracks, as well as 18 acres of adjacent land.

In the 1960s two new buildings, Macdonald Hall and Tyler Hall Dormitory, designed by Clive Campbell, were constructed up the hill from the original school buildings. From 1922-1934 the school was led by Samuel Lawrence and from 1934-1967 by Charles MacDonald, and was generally thought to have a good reputation. Starting in 1949, the school offered summer courses to teachers and parents of deaf students, the first summer program of its kind in Canada. In the 1970s and 80s, however, stories emerged about abuse at the school. Despite reforms done at this time, the 1990s saw further negative publicity, and provincial school board closed the school in 1992.

Since 1979, children who are blind and have vision impairment are integrated in the school system, while programs for deaf students were amalgamated into School District No. 41 in Burnaby in 1992.

For archival photos of the Jericho Hill School please visit the BC Archives website.

Lawsuit and Settlement

A class-action lawsuit, started by two students in 1997 who attended the Jericho School for the Deaf in the 1980s and 90s, grew to 350 people who were sexually abused while attending the school. The suit ended in 2004 with a $12.5 million settlement from the provincial government. The settlement included a $2 million trust, now called the BC Deaf Scholarship Trust, which provides annual scholarships to B.C. high school students who are deaf, to enhance opportunities in education and vocational training.

More information on the lawsuit and settlement can be found on the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians website:

The Jericho Hill School for the Deaf was just one of several schools and institutions across Canada that educated children who are deaf and blind to have had stories of abuse come to light in later years. A number of class action lawsuits alleging abuse in the 1900s have been started across Canada since 2015 against schools such as L’institut des Sourdes de Montreal, two schools in Nova Scotia, and four schools in Ontario.

Justice Institute and West Point Grey Academy

Buildings transferred to the Jericho Hill School from the Royal Canadian Air Force later became the Justice Institute’s first campus from 1978-1995, called Lawrence Hall and Blake Hall. The Justice Institute shared the campus with Jericho Hill School until it was closed in 1992, and at that time the Justice Institute took over MacDonald Hall, while Lawrence Hall was demolished, as well as the original Industrial School building.

MacDonald Hall and Tyler Hall were renovated and reopened as the West Point Grey Academy, a co-ed private school, in 1996. The Junior School now occupies MacDonald Hall, and the Senior School is in the Tyler Hall Dormitory building. Some minor renovations were done to the buildings, including opening up the dormitory rooms to make classrooms.

Jericho and Point Grey

Called ʔəlqsən (Musqueam), Point Grey is traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. The areas of Point Grey and Jericho were some of the first in the region to be explored by Europeans. In 1792, Captain George Vancouver arrived on the coast, and named Point Grey after his friend Captain George Grey. In the 1860s, Jericho Beach became the site of a logging operation owned by Jeremiah Rogers. The word Jericho is thought to be derived from his company’s name (Jerry & Co.), or perhaps from Jerry’s Cove.

Much of the land around Jericho was government reserve land, including the future site of the Jericho Hill School for the Deaf. While some of Vancouver’s wealthy had begun to build large rural estates in the area in the preceding years, it was not until the streetcar service was extended that housing development really began. A streetcar that ran along 10th Avenue from Alma to Sasamat, and down Sasamat to 4th, was the only transportation in the area started in 1912.

In 2014, the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, in partnership with Canada Lands Company, bought the eastern portion of the Jericho Lands, currently the site of the Jericho Garrison. In 2016, the three nations (MST) bought the adjacent western portion of the Jericho Lands, where the school now stands, from the provincial government. They plan on developing both sections of the land as a cohesive whole. The current lease of the school is up in 2020 and the school is working with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations on an agreement to remain on the lands in the future.

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