UBC hospice delayed over fear of ‘ghosts’

Condo residents say project lacks ‘cultural sensitivity’


Concerns over “cultural sensitivity” has led the University of British Columbia to postpone plans to build a hospice on campus.

“There are a variety of claims against the project and we want to systematically go through them,” campus and community planning director Joe Stott said. Janet Fan, who owns a condo in a building located on the campus says erecting a hospice next door lacks “cultural sensitivity” towards the Chinese community. “Eighty per cent of the residents in this building are Asian, and 100 per cent of them are very upset,” she said.

Fan told CTV news that the objection stems from a taboo about having living people mixing close to the dying. “Our parents would say things like that ghosts are associated with death and we were just very afraid of the whole death thing,” she said. The project came to the attention of the building’s residents this week at an open house. “We went to the open house and we found out it’s just in our backyard,” Fan said.

The hospice, originally scheduled to be approved in February, but now delayed, was to be run by the Order of St. John Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, with access for faculty at UBC. (Editor’s note: the hospice was proposed by the Order of St. John, apologies)

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UBC hospice delayed over fear of ‘ghosts’

  1. Cananda is not a theocracy.

    Build the hospice!

  2. Oops! I mean ‘Canada.’

  3. People living in luxury condos are already pretty lucky if you ask me. How much more luck does a person need? (Too bad luck there is no way to quantify luck!)

    More importantly, where do they expect the hospice be relocated? On an ice floe, far from any human habitation? I understand that this condo is located very close to a hospital. Are the residents unaware that people often die at hospitals? Do they expect that no one will ever pass away inside the walls of their condominium?

    Death is one of the only human experiences we can be completely certain we will all share. Hiding the dying out of sight will not change that fact.

    While it is important to respect cultural differences, we must be careful that we are not overlooking moral or ethical concerns related to human rights and human dignity. For example, must we also accommodate cultural beliefs around slavery, or the proper place of women in society? If racial segregation is part of my cultural beliefs, must I be accommodated also? This is why decisions based on cultural relativism is problematic.

    Urban and community planning must be based on reason, evidence, and the needs of the wider community. I hope UBC chooses to do the right thing, and supports the hospice.

  4. When a person immigrates to a country, they adopt the culture and values of that country. I am of Asian decent and am ashamed at the disrespect that these Asian condo owners are showing towards the sick and dying. We in Canada hold within our cultural values, the highest level of respect for our sick and dying and do not shun them to spend their last days in a location deemed to not affect our personal net worth. I would like to think we’ve moved beyond childish taboos to honour our dying souls, not cower in fear of attack from a ghost. A good person need not fear ghosts attacking them and those who do should question their morals. This has put great shame on the Asian community.

  5. Selfish is never a Chinese culture, Ms Fan, it’s your own culture. I am Chinese, please do not abuse our culture. We Chinese have same culture with Canadian and all other different cultures in respecting human beings!!!

  6. Unacceptable accommodation.

  7. Good to see that other Chinese are separating themselves from the comments that Janet Fan and the other condo owners have made.

    Here are two important things to remember about UBC’s behaviour for a number of years :

    (1) UBC is supposed to be focused on education. However, it has been involved in disgraceful real estate deals with developers to market high end housing on endowment land which was supposed to be used for higher ed. Like the whole of the Lower Mainland, UBC is well on the way to becoming an environmentsl disaster. The province should have investigated UBC’s real estate activities long ago.

    (2) UBC’s primary purpose has been to provide university education for B.C. students. Yet, like many in Canada’s politically correct herd of independent thinkers, its current President Stephen Toope has recently stated that “Diversity is a key to (students’) future well-being.” In November, Toope went on a trip to India with 14 other university presidents to recruit foreign students. Supposedly, one of the purposes of this visit was to bring additional revenue to UBC and other universities. However, the former President of the Council of Ontario Universities and former head of Trent University has stated that foreign student tuition fees “are not money-makers”.

    The result of Toope’s (and predecessors’ activities) is that UBC now has a student body that is well over 50% Asian and well on the way to becoming a mono-culture. How much “diversity” is in a mono-culture? No one objects to people of Asian background who were born here becoming students at UBC. But most would object to importing students from Asia for highly questionable economic reasons. Most would like to know what percentage of UBC’s students are foreign students who have been brought here with the intent of profiting from their presence.

    Most would also like to know what effects Toope’s (and other university presidents’) moves are having on Canadian students of both mainstream and Asian background. Toope and his colleagues should know that many students could not find summer jobs in 2010 to support themselves this year. Many have had to take on debt. When these students graduate, many will have to compete with foreign students for employment—thanks to an immigration policy of encouraging foreign students to stay in Canada.

    Furthermore, many B.C. students are already competing with both foreign students and recently-arived immigrants for a limited number of places in UBC faculties. Toope and his colloeagues should know, but probably don’t know, that most of this immigration of over 5 million people since 1990 was completely unnecessary. In fact, it was outright political fraud. But Toope and others have cheerled it. B.C. and the rest of Canada needs a thorough investigation of this entire topic. (See http://www.ImmigrationWatchCanada.org for details.)

    As for delaying the building of a hospice to accommodate Chinese sensitivities, UBC should be telling Janet Fan and her fellow condo owners that this is Canada. It is not a colony. If they don’t want to adapt to the culture here, they have a place they can return to.

    Toope and UBC should develop the backbone to get off their knees and say this and much more publicly.

  8. There are some areas that immigrants will have to accept as part of living in Canada. If they want to maintain their sensitivities, they should not have moved to a country that honours death by providing a dignified way to do it.

  9. As an senior citizen in the last stages of a desease, I only hope to be close to the living until the end. There is no livier and uplifting group than students. Build the hospice.

  10. Pardon my ignorance, but which religion supports the belief that dying humans constitute a threat to the balance of living people? Any religious scholars care to enlighten us?

  11. Ms. Fan disgusts me. If she doesn’t want a hospice near herself, then she should go back to her original country. Hospices provide a dignified place for the dying and their families to go. SHAME ON YOU!!!!! SUCH A DISGRACE for all the other Asian who want to live in harmony in Canada.

  12. There are pro and cons to build a hospice at Hawthorn Place,UBC. All the humongous comments made will have no definite answers.In order to respect the very Canadian value and sort out the problem, the best way to to hold a referendum to decide the destiny. Each and every strata holder of the Hawthorn Place is entitled to vote.

  13. How are they entitled to a vote? Where do you get your information? Is my nephew, a UBC student and resident of Gage Tower then entitled to vote on the basis of his proximity to the proposed Hospice? Please enlighten us as to the criteria one must meet to become “entitled”.

  14. Only the home owners of the Hawthorn Place are entitled to vote.

  15. I agree!

  16. As an Asian observer, this is obviously a reprehensible display, by this group of peoples. It is as reprehensible as the petition and protest instigated by the 99% of European-descent condo owners who were decrying the “evils” of a semi-independent living seniors home, about to be built in the vicinity. Their best argument against?

    The concern for the safety of the seniors.

    Unfortunately, “NIMB” happens EVERYWHERE, across the board.

  17. FAN disgusts me. Everything about her disgusts me and I think she should go back to China.

  18. Seriously though, this has nothing to do with ‘cultural’, or ‘belief’, or any other excuses Fan was trying to tell us. The real reason is she and her neighbour think the hospice will lower their property value………..

  19. Jack, once again, WHY are they entitled to a vote? Who has told you the residents of either Hawthorne Place or Promontory will be asked to vote on something that is not on their property, which is still owned by UBC under a 99 year lease.

  20. Glen: the superstitious belief Ms. Fan is concerned about is the Yin and Yang of life and death mixing, which comes from Taoism.

  21. Canada respects the feelings of the immigrants. Immigrants should also reciprocate the same way to Canada and its citizens.

    It is recommended that these Asians who doubt the establishment of a Hospice should understand what exactly is it. “Hospice is a place where the terminally ill are served.” Should they believe in the ghost stories, its best that they return to their native place and continue with their belief.

    University of British Columbia should not have postponed its plans to build a hospice on campus. All the delay would reflect on the “weakness of the Canadian systems and belief” and not highlight the concerns for “Cultural Sensitivity”

  22. Well, I am glad there are so many upright persons in our society. However, I don’t think it is so much a “culture difference” in this case. That notion is a bit too “heavy” too generalized once again when issues that involve Chinese. I think it is most likely owing to superstition and “good, but not in my back yard” syndrone. Talking about “rich people”: Don’t we all want to get rich(maybe, not you)? Nothing wrong with being rich! Rich or not, people spend money to make other people earn money, i.e. developers and real esate agents, etc. in UBC’s residential building case, and in turn, the developers and real estate agents can spend money to buy cars, clothes, or go to moives and restaurants, travel etc. etc. And, in turn, people like you and I can have the precious time surf internet and participate in this….

  23. A shameful travesty against Canadian principles of democracy will be committed if a small group of close minded people are allowed to stop the building of this very necessary habitat.

  24. You come to Canada you accept our cultural norms and leave yours where you came from. End of story.

  25. The good people of Hawthorne place are planning a March and Protest against the Hospice. I suggest that all in favour of the hospice should plan a march of our own if UBC decides to back off on building the Hospice on that site.

    They say it’s about respecting thier cultural beliefs. What about our cultural beliefs? Western culture is being eroded at an alarming rate in Vancouver. People are upset and are finally starting to speak up. Immigrants are welcome here but please try harder to assimilate. We are starting to feel like second class citizens and you know what, we don’t like it.

  26. A classic case of “Not in my backyard” … disguised as a cultural issue. This has less to do with spirits and ghosts and more to do with feared property value degradation.

    Even if there were anything to the superstition, we live in Canada and it behooves immigrants to adopt to our customs and not the other way around.

    Move somewhere else if you don’t like your neighbors.

  27. Ms. Fan and her associates should bear in mind that Canadian residents of Chinese origin may well be in need of a hospice themselves. It had been my experience in hospice that dying Chinese residents are often admitted to hospice by their families because the families do not want to be around them when they are dying, or to have them die in their home.

  28. As a Chinese Canadian born in Canada, I’m bloody ashamed that these people even have the nerve to protest against the hospice. It’s very sad to see that these unfortunate few are giving Asian Canadians a bad name. Many Asian Canadians who are perfectly comfortable dealing with death. Build the hospice as planned, and these greedy people should learn to appreciate that we live in a society that embraces FREEDOM and CHOICE, not real estate values.

  29. “Cultures” do not change overnight! Many years ago, when a colored person moved into a white only neighborhood, people would petition for reasons of “the market value of the properties would fall” and kind. Shameful? Wrong? At that time, it was believed by most people to be fine. My point is: We all make, will make, or have made mistakes. Don’t just blame! Try to understand and educate people, working together and things can be changed for better and for good!

  30. I have a lot of trouble with believing this, UBC hospital is within block of this condo tower, It has been full of dying folks for years ( even has had a palliative care unit), these folks bought near the hospital, so how is this different? I live within a few houses of a hospice, it has, if anything increased property values in our neighborhood. I think if we allow embarrasing and silly cultural traditions to dictate public policy, we will get no where. In my neighborhood ( hasting sunrise) some parts of the chinese community mounted a big protest to Vancouver Coastal Health building an office in our neighborhood serving the mentaly ill. It was fueled by some aspects of asian culture that has very negative views of folks with mental illness. Of course, this building has actually improved the neighborhood. I say offer these residents some assistance with their irrational fears and build the hospice.

  31. The sole owner of Promotory & Hawthorne Place ( the apartments ) is the University of British Columbia, and its tenants (these people) are 99-year leasees. The university holds the property rights and the sole right to do so as. (University Act
    [RSBC 1996] CHAPTER 468)…The property around them is also University owned. Read your purchase agreement idiots…you signed it.

  32. Dear Janet Fan,

    Our Canadian culture and beliefs are shared with many countries in the world and is highly regarded. All the benefits we have to offer, Health care education, freedom of speech and caring for our sick and elderly…just to name a few, that is why you are here…

    This message comes to mind…

    A Message from the Hon.John Howard, Prime Minister(Australia)2008

    This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom’

    ‘We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!’

    ‘Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.’

    ‘We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.’

    ‘This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom,


    ‘If you aren’t happy here then LEAVE. We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.’

    ….its your choice.

  33. This case make me so angery. I wonder if there are any seniors in that building? how many residents of that building will die in that building in the next decade, as most people die at home. I think the only safe thing to do is for chinese to go back home (china) and live in a building full of young people!.

    Ghosts? .. could you imagine a “white” nabourhood condeming a temple or mosk project going up next to their house because it would interfere with the majority of the nabourhood’s beliefs????? theyd be called narrow minded rascests…
    the asains want to beleive the whole ghost thing ,,,thats fine theres a place for that,,,,but it’s not here, not in canada, live and let,,,well,,, die.

  34. WELL SAID!..Hit the nail right on th ehead…Briliant!

  35. The real and relatable issue has been hijacked by the inflammatory and divisive ‘culture’ issue. So, what are some common denominators that we can all likely relate too?
    1- Death will happen to us all, and most of us would like it to be as private and as peaceful as reasonably possible for us and our loved ones.
    2- The cost of living is extremely high in our desirable city, therefore anything of potentially serious impact to the value of one’s home merits consideration.
    3- If one had a choice, one would very likely not want to have a revolving selection of people spending their final days in a very visible building within 200metres of the entrance to their home.
    4- If one had a choice, one would very likely not want to spend their final days in a very visible building within 200metres of the entrance of approx. 130 homes. I probably won’t care myself at this point, but I’d rather my dying place not be controversial to a large number of homes overlooking it…. Plus, I might be more concerned re the football games and concerts across the street at T-Bird Stadium.
    5- If one had a choice, one would definitely think quite seriously before buying a home in such an expensive city that is in such a location.
    I live in this building, and along with over half the other owners, will look directly over this building. This is ok with me from an enjoyment of day to day life perspective. Something was going to built in this location eventually, this will be an attractive building, and it will not disrupt views. Also, the residents of and visitors to this facility will be non-intrusive, respectful, and appreciative of this beautiful neighborhood.
    From a ‘will everyone feel the way I do perspective’, though? Obviously, if you’ve read this far, it’s clear this is not the case! And this fact will impact, likely to a significant degree, the values of these 130 homes. A significant percentage of potential purchasers will not buy here if this is the nature of the neighboring building. Homeowners forming opinions on this issue need to consider this. In Vancouver, a significant value drop typically means a sum more often than not equal to at least a few years salary. UBC is a beautiful area with a large, large amount of land. This is a very small facility. UBC states it had 12 choices for location, and I’d suggest there could, with minimal investigation, be even more (all within quite reasonable distance to related facilities and services). We all choose where to buy our typically biggest investment based at least somewhat on location. So, if this were being built right beside you, with there very clearly being many other private, more tranquil (Thunderbird Stadium is 150m from the site), locations within less than 2km, would you consider yourself unreasonable for having an issue?

  36. My cultural values make me unable to tolerate superstitious twaddle. Oughtn’t I to have the right to have my beliefs accommodated?

  37. TC…Did you read your purchase agreement BEFORE you bought this ? Do you know this is a lease agreement, that you are on RESEARCH PROPERTY that you have very limited voice in this matter…if any. The University holds the right to do so…exempt from any legal challenge. Did you know they had an open public forum on this back in 2009, on the location of the hospice and this is the BEST location for this. Where were you and Ms.Fan ?

    I think the real issue is you people did not research this fully before you bought…

  38. lllhhh says:

    “Selfish is never a Chinese culture, Ms Fan, it’s your own culture. I am Chinese, please do not abuse our culture. We Chinese have same culture with Canadian and all other different cultures in respecting human beings!!!”

    This person respects human beings as long as they do not try to be old around those of the Chinese culture. Isn’t that racist or something? I mean, can you imagine letting someone say that to your mother? “You old person go away!”

    Change ‘old person’ with the N-word and that IS what we are dealing with here, lllhhh. We need to rethink to whom we would want introduce our mothers. Our mothers deserve the respect.

  39. Here in Canada we live and let and let live till the very last breath, under the laws of our country.

  40. I feel compelled to put the record straight on this one. All the reasons mentioned by the property owners are nothing but red herrings. The real issue here is about property value or the potential decline in property value perceived by the group in question. The “cultural” factor was simply a convenient excuse but the collateral damage done to the Chinese community cannot be undersestimated.

    To those folks who are worried about “bad luck” that may be brought about by the new hospice, there’s a simple solution to your problem. MOVE! Then again one cannot be sure that someone just as rich as you’re may want to buy a unit right next to yours for his/her elderly parents. Who knows what can happen then. By the way, you may not want to stay far away from the Chinese shopping district in Richmond for most of the malls are located right around the funeral home on Cambie Road. The area appears to be doing quite well notwithstanding the proximity to such a premise.

    Please don’t abuse the “cultural” value/factor just for your own selfish gains. If you are going to bring over “your” Chinese value from the mainland, then you should also bring over the ways things are done back there. I can assure you that no government agencies in China, Municipal or otherwise, will bother with a public hearing before anything is built. Am I right?

    P.S. I’m Chinese and I’m both ashamed and angry by your action.

  41. I think its time we put our voices into action in support of the UBC Hospice to be built where it should be. There is a petition being sent to the UBC governors. At the last count we were at 221 names…there is no money being exchanged here…just a petition to the governors of UBC. Here is the link…


  42. We all recognize that the views of Ms. Fan and her fellow petitioners are reprehensilbe and unacceptable.

    Simple Solution:

    Ms. Fan and her fellow petitioners should apologize to UBC, its students, Vancouverites, British Columbians, Canadians for their shameful remarks and intentions and to the Chinese community for misrepresenting Chinese culture in the name of greed. They should then each create an endowment for the Hospice and each donate $1000 to it

  43. Australia wasn’t founded on Christianity, it was founded on LARCENY.

    It was a prison.

    The last thing Canada needs is a culture war over differing superstitions. Its time people stepped out of their childrens shoes and step into their big boy shoes, and put their childish superstitious nonsensical ideas away.

    That means ghosts don’t exist and neither does a mythical super powerful creature that live in the sky and grants wishes to people who ask.

    This is supposed to be an educated first world country with a reasoning, thinking population.

  44. I am an immigrant from Hong Kong, and I can’t disagree with Ms. Fan more. Hospice is a wonderful idea and it provides great comfort to those who are at the final stage of their earthly journey and to their families.

    I have no idea where Ms. Fan is originally from, but surely she DOES NOT represent the majority of Chinese Canadians!

  45. The reverse should be true for the Chinese,i.e .Ms Fan generally represents the majority.

  46. This is a class issue, not a cultural issue. I live in Kits, where many residents have opposed the building of a Skytrain line to UBC due to the amount of undesirables it would attract. The ignorant superstitions these morons have are less important than the fact that they are well heeled enough to have a voice in how other people die.

    The Chinese have a long history here, and were treated horribly. Many of you are clearly racists and ought to be ashamed.

    The rich idiots living at UBC should be told to move elsewhere, but they won’t be.

    Don’t make this a race issue.

  47. Glen & Les, don’t pretend to be experts.

  48. Xue says:
    January 20, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Shame on you, Xue, for making another uneducated and baseless comment.
    You and your Ms FanG cannot speak on behalf of the majority of Chinese.

    Check out this poll participated by immigrants originating from China

    53.8% agreed that the construction of St Johns Hospital on the proposed site should go ahead.

    Only 31.1% opposed, citing mostly racial unity.

  49. Ideally if you’re specializing in campus reporting at UBC – you’d already know there are hospitals – where people are “dying” – near the condos.

    Strangely – Maclean’s didn’t answer the question…why did you move there in the first place?

    Once again Maclean’s is showing itself to be very gullible and feeble when attempting to cover “Too Asian” stories.