Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 11 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Monday, March 7, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4:10 p.m. to
monitor issues relating to human rights and, inter alia, to review the machinery
of government dealing with Canada's international and national human rights
obligations (topic: federal programs supporting sports and recreational
activities for children and youth with disabilities).
Senator Nancy Ruth (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to you all. This meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Human Rights will start with the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Mr.
David Legg is with us via video conference.
David Legg, President, Canadian Paralympic Committee: First, I
apologize for not being with you in person today. I was in Belgium for the last
three weeks teaching a master's course. I only just arrived on Friday. I thought
it was important that I actually talked to my students in person today.
Therefore, I am unable to be there with you.
It is a privilege for me to speak with you today on behalf of the Canadian
Paralympic Committee. Offering opportunities for children and youth with
disabilities to participate in sport recreational activities is an issue that I
believe in strongly, both as the President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee
as well as in my professional career as a professor of physical education and
recreational studies here at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
Madam Chair, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to speak to you on
behalf of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Sport has a magical ability to transform lives for all Canadians, and the
potential impact of sport can be even more pronounced for Canadians with a
disability. Health Canada stresses that physical activity brings about physical,
social and personal benefits for persons with a disability. Persons with a
disability participating in sport and physical activity also overcome social
isolation and become more self-reliant. Unfortunately, only 3 per cent of
Canadians with a disability are currently obtaining these benefits through
regular participation in sport.
I see the power of sport every day in my volunteer capacity with the Canadian
Paralympic Committee. Champions such as Chantal Petitclerc emulate the drive and
determination of high-performance athletes who surpass all barriers society
expects will hold them back, while also serving as powerful role models for
children both with and without a disability across the country. These athletes
prove how sport empowers those with a physical disability to reach their full
The successful hosting of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and
Whistler perhaps best demonstrated the critical role Paralympic sports can play
in motivating and inspiring Canadians with disabilities to become more active in
sports. New Canadian heroes were created during those 10 days in March. They
were led by the "Golden Girl" Lauren Woolstencroft, who earned an incredible
five gold medals in five alpine skiing events. There was also Brian McKeever,
who added to his impressive career totals by winning another three gold medals
in cross-country skiing, with his brother Robin as his guide, after also making
history by qualifying for the 2010 Olympic Games.
Just as importantly, sold-out crowds and the best-ever television coverage
ensured more Canadians than ever before were aware of the accomplishments and
capabilities of athletes with disabilities. Youth with disabilities across
Canada were inspired to get involved with Paralympic sports.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee identified the unique opportunity to
capture the excitement of the 2010 Games and developed a comprehensive,
long-term strategy to significantly increase the number of Canadians with
disabilities who participate in sports. The implementation of the strategy is
now underway and would not have been possible without the enhancement of the
long-standing partnership between the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the
Government of Canada.
In the 2010 federal budget, the Government of Canada allocated an exciting
new level of long-term funding to the Canadian Paralympic Committee of $5
million per year for the next five years. We hope this will significantly
increase the number of Canadians with a physical disability who are active in
sports and will enhance the long-term Paralympic development system to deliver
the required support to athletes and coaches as they advance from their
introductory sport experience all the way to potentially representing their
country at the Paralympic Games.
Thank you, and I would certainly be happy to respond to any questions.
The Chair: Mr. Legg, we will first hear from all witnesses and then
come back with senators' questions.
Next, from the Canada Paraplegic Association, we have Mr. White. Please
Robert White, Executive Director, Canadian Paraplegic Association:
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.
Unfortunately, my colleague Mr. John Shepherd was flying in from Toronto
today. They sat him on the plane and then they tried to find a place for his
chair in cargo, but there was no place in cargo. Therefore, they ended up taking
him off the plane and so he cannot attend today. He sends his regrets. He would
have appreciated being here but, unfortunately, I guess these things happen.
Senator Munson: That is part of the problem.
Mr. White: The Canada Paraplegic Association is grateful for the
opportunity to address the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Human
Rights pertaining to the federal government's policies and programs regarding
persons with disabilities in sports and recreational activities, and on Canada's
obligations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
We are pleased to see that the Senate is devoting time and energy to examine
this important issue. We are also pleased that sports and recreation was viewed
as a priority in the convention and, as such, was deserving of its own article.
Research has indicated that physical activity is the key to health and
wellness for those living with a disability. We believe that if the goals of the
articles in the UN convention are achieved, a more level playing field in our
society will be created for citizens with disabilities. The convention strives
for equality and we believe that many Canadians with a disability do not
presently have equality on a day-to-day basis.
CPA has the necessary background to speak to you today about sports and
recreation, given our proven track record of over 66 years in providing services
to Canadians with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities. CPA has
40 offices and more than 300 employees from coast to coast. Our collective
annual investment in service delivery in Canada is more than $23 million.
CPA is dedicated to the well-being of our clients and our members through our
service delivery model that includes peer support. Peer support is a program
dedicated to active living and leisure. CPA is most often the first point of
contact for individuals with a spinal cord injury, SCI, looking to transition
from rehabilitation to community, following an accident.
The role of the peer support program is to encourage individuals living with
an SCI to actively pursue physical activity and leisure in order to maintain a
healthy lifestyle. Our program encompasses education, peer to peer events,
activities and training for volunteers and staff. We also work collaboratively
with other organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Spina
Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada, disability sports federations,
National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada rehab, rehab centres across Canada, et
cetera, to ensure that people affected by a spinal cord injury and other
physical disabilities are well informed of all possibilities.
A recent study states that there are more than 86,000 individuals living with
a SCI in Canada today. The study also suggests that another 4,300 individuals
will be affected by a spinal cord injury every year moving forward. The
estimated annual cost of traumatic SCIs in Canada is $3.6 billion, $1.8 billion
of which is a direct health care cost. Having said this, it is imperative that
the federal government look into investing into a pan-Canadian collaboration to
ensure active living and leisure while decreasing the costs to the health care
Another study on the availability of desired physical activity following
spinal cord injury suggests that the benefits of leisure and physical activity
of people living with SCI are significant. The health benefits associated with
active participation in sports is very beneficial to the person's health,
including a reduced risk of secondary complications, improved fitness and
reduced pain. Over 50 per cent of people with SCI engage in leisure and physical
activity. This study found that sports, swimming and cardio activities are most
common. Unfortunately, only 54 per cent of the respondents found that their
preferred activity was available.
A study examining the universal accessibility of fitness and recreational
facilities for persons living with mobility disabilities in Ontario suggests
that "none of the 44 fitness and recreation facilities" measured for universal
accessibility "were completely accessible." Furthermore, the study states:
Mean accessibility ratings ranged between 31 and 63 out of a possible 100.
Overall, recreational facilities had higher accessibility scores than fitness
centers. . . .
CPA believes that their Peer Support Program is the backbone to building a
successful, long-term paralympic program. Our peer program is supportive of all
leisure and physical activities. We work collaboratively with other
organizations to ensure that all individuals with mobility disabilities have the
opportunity to participate in active living. This is a program for the masses
that directly feeds all elite disability programs.
The federal government has developed great policies and programs through
Sport Canada for the paralympic movement. They have definitely raised the bar to
incredible heights in support of excellence. Programs such as the Canadian Sport
for Life and the Long-Term Athlete Development model have provided Canada with
an effective framework for paralympic success.
Unfortunately, CPA is of the opinion that the federal government is lacking
in support of leisure and physical activity for the physically disabled. Over
the past seven years, the healthy living strategy of the Public Health Agency of
Canada has dwindled to a fraction of its previous size. This has severely
impacted the economy. This is a disappointment to the sector and to persons with
a disability in particular. Research indicates that physical activity is more
important for those with disabilities than for the general population. However,
today, there is little federal investment, leadership and support. CPA
recommends that Canada utilize its endorsement of the UN convention to regain
its status as an international leader for persons living with SCI or other
The Government of Canada should invest comparable leadership and funding in
organizations that promote and encourage persons with SCI and other physical
disabilities to participate in physical activity and recreation. Only a fraction
of persons with a disability reach the podium. Physical activity, sport and
recreation should be coordinated under one federal ministry to ensure a natural
progression from the playground to the podium.
The Chair: We have three people from Special Olympics Canada: Mr.
Glasberg, Ms. Bollenbach and Ms. Judd-Campbell.
Neil Glasberg, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer, Special
Olympics Canada: Madam Chair, I thank you for inviting us to appear before
you today. You can ask your questions in French or English and I will answer in
the language of your choice.
I am here in my capacity as Interim President and CEO of Special Olympics
Canada. On behalf of our movement, I recognize the important work being
undertaken by each of the members of this committee. Thank you for this
opportunity to share some remarks about Special Olympics Canada's efforts to
enrich the lives of people with intellectual disability through sports.
I am joined this afternoon by Ms. Bollenbach, our Vice President of Sport and
Ms. Judd-Campbell, our Special Olympics athlete, who will share her views on the
role that this incredible sport movement has played in her life.
As a chapter within the larger global movement, Special Olympics Canada has
come a long way since it began almost 42 years ago in 1969. Then, one single
competition attracted 1,400 individuals with an intellectual disability. Today,
more than 34,000 children, youth and adults with an intellectual disability are
registered in special Olympics programs which run out of local sports clubs in
hundreds of Canadian communities every day of the week. In particular, there are
currently 12, 639 children and youth enrolled in our programs. From St. John's
to Victoria to Whitehorse, the reach of our grassroots movement is profound and
the benefits to its clients are undeniable.
Special Olympics was founded upon one simple notion: Sport has an incredible
opportunity to make lives better, change attitudes and make communities
stronger. Sport is our movement's raison d'être. Our mission is to enrich the
lives of individuals with an intellectual disability through sport.
In the 1960s, a Canadian researcher, Dr. Frank Hayden demonstrated the
connection between regular activity and levels of physical fitness among
children. His findings questioned the mindset of the day that claimed it was the
disability that prevented people with an intellectual disability from fully
participating in play and recreation. Conversely, Dr. Hayden showed that it was
the lack of opportunity to participate that caused their fitness levels to
suffer. Given the opportunity, these children could become physically fit and
acquire the necessary skills to participate in sport. Today, there are about one
million Canadians living with an intellectual disability. Its frequency is about
2 per cent of the general population and it cuts across all socio-economic
Heredity accounts for a fraction of cases of intellectual disability.
However, in three quarters of the cases, the specific cause is unknown. About 87
per cent of all people with an intellectual disability would be categorized as
mild. In many respects, they are indistinguishable from people who do not have
an intellectual disability.
Seventy-seven per cent of Canadians with an intellectual disability live in
poverty. Through the research arm of Special Olympics North America, we
determined that five in 10 Special Olympics athletes hold jobs. This surpasses
the average of one in 10. They are working people who pay taxes and contribute
to the growth of their communities.
The impact of Special Olympics can be felt off the field of play. In the
category of children and youth, we have made significant strides in several
areas. We are successfully rolling out two key programs — Active Start and
FUNdamentals — across the country for children and youth ages 2 to 12.
I acknowledge the generous support of our national government in this regard.
For this budget year, we received financial support of $500,000 to specifically
assist in the implementation of these programs and to increase their
accessibility to Canadians who would benefit by registering in them.
The first two phases of Sport Canada's Long-term Athlete Development model,
Active Start and FUNdamentals, seek to increase a child's fundamental motor
skills and to build physical literacy. Receiving early instruction in basic
motor skills like walking, running, jumping and balancing and having the
opportunity to experience play will improve the child's physical, social and
cognitive abilities in everyday activities and in the long term.
We emphasize our strong tradition of research by funding studies that examine
the role of sport in the development of those with an intellectual disability. A
current study, by Dr. Meghann Lloyd, examines the impact of sport in children
and youth. Research is critical in the development of our programs. Several
research studies are currently posted on our website.
We have developed a unique coaching program that complements the National
Coaching Certification Program. It aims to sensitize our volunteer coaches to
working with children, youth and adults with an intellectual disability who have
their own unique set of needs. Along with our provincial and territorial
counterparts, we continue to work extensively with various levels of government.
We collaborate with national sport organizations to enhance their understanding
of our movement and how children, youth and adults with an intellectual
disability can be integrated.
Examples of successful partnerships include Athletics Canada, Skate Canada,
Swimming Canada and the Canada Games. With their support, Special Olympics
athletes have enjoyed the opportunity for enhanced training and competition at
this national competition for 11 years.
I note the private sector support of our movement. We are extremely fortunate
to have the long-standing support of many of Canada's leading companies and
their employees. Through them, we raise awareness and funds that enable us to
continue delivering on our mission.
For individuals with an intellectual disability, Special Olympics is often
their only opportunity to participate in their communities and to develop a
strong belief in themselves. For many, Special Olympics is a gateway to
empowerment, competence, acceptance and self-esteem.
Our greatest success lies at the grassroots level. Our sport movement is
there to serve the needs of this disability population, from its very youngest
to its more mature, from the individual who will stay active for life and
regularly participating in sport at his or her local club to the athletes who
will advance and compete at national and international competitions.
I am pleased to introduce Ms. Judd-Campbell, an exceptional athlete from
Ottawa, who joins us to share her story.
Christina Judd-Campbell, Athlete, Special Olympics Canada: I am the
Special Olympics rhythmic gymnastics champion. I have been selected as a member
of Team Canada for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens,
Greece. I represented Canada at the 2007 World Games in Shanghai, China, where I
was the only athlete from another country to defeat the Chinese rhythmic
I have an intellectual disability. I am 23 years old. I read at the Grade 4
level and do math at the Grade 3 level. I came into the Campbell family as a
foster child when I was 7 years old. For many years I really struggled. Outside
my brothers and sisters, I did not really have any friends, and I had not found
anything I liked or was good at. However, my life changed when I joined Special
Olympics rhythmic gymnastics. I was 14 years old. My successes in rhythmic
gymnastics showed me that if I worked hard, I could become very good at
something. I became more confident and proud of myself. I now lead a very busy
and full life.
I train for rhythmic gymnastics almost every day. I have a part-time job at
Staples, which is a few blocks from here. Monday to Friday mornings, I am at
Algonquin College in a special program. About once a month, I give a speech or
demonstration about Special Olympics. I have many friends that I see regularly,
and I also take riding lessons and take care of my three horses.
The Special Olympics help to give children and youth with an intellectual
disability greater opportunity to reach their full potential by starting at a
younger age, just like I did. Thank you so much for your support.
Mr. Glasberg: Thank you very much, Christina; very well said and
We had an opportunity to present to the Standing Senate Committee on National
Finance in late October 2010; we valued the opportunity to speak with that
committee's members. In closing, we ask for your continuing support of Special
Olympics within the new budget, which is two weeks away.
Senator Kochhar: I congratulate Mr. Legg for his election to the
presidency of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Having known Mr. Legg for the
last 10 to 15 years, I feel confident that he will bring a new leadership to the
organization, which has been badly needed for the last three or four years.
I have been in the business of disabilities for over 30 years, and I can say
categorically that I remember no government that has done more for people with
physical disabilities than the present government has done. They have given more
funding and time; listened to more people and instituted more hearings about the
The government recently announced that it will give the CPC $5 million a
year. CPC's budget of $1.5 million has suddenly become $6.5 million. That is a
lot of money. I am a little concerned, Mr. Legg. We did very well at the games
in Beijing and Vancouver. However, we know the history of the Paralympics and we
know how many athletes are retiring, such as Chantal Petitclerc and Stephanie
Dixon, each of whom was capable of earning five gold medals at the Paralympics.
What are your plans to bring about change? Will you set up a feeder system of
athletes? Will you use some of that money to fund local organizations, such as
ParaSport in the provinces, The Steadward Centre and Variety Village? All of
these organizations are starving. Will you the CPC share some of its new-found
wealth with them to develop this feeder system?
Mr. Legg: Thank you for your vote of confidence. I am building upon
some of the great work done before my time. Certainly, I will do my best. It is
nice to see you again too, by the way.
To your question on how we will utilize our new resources to ensure that we
spend them wisely and benefit our team at the high performance level. Winning
gold medals at the Paralympic Games is only one of our goals. Another of our
goals is to have a better system, period. When the funding changed for us, we
recognized that with new power comes greater responsibility. We have developed
what we think is our most ambitious strategic plan ever. This was not done in
isolation but in partnership with all of our members. Our membership does not
necessarily include Variety Village or The Steadward Centre at the University of
Alberta. Rather, our membership includes the national sport organizations. Many
of them work at the provincial and club levels. We developed the strategic plan
with the goal and thinking that we work with all of the disparate entities to
create a better system overall.
Specific to your question about whether we will write a cheque to Variety
Village or the other two organizations you mentioned, it is not part of our
plans for the next fiscal year to do so directly. However, I would suggest that
many of our initiatives, strategies and plans will work with those types of
organizations to create a better system.
Domestic development is one of our four pillars. We recognize that it is key
to the continuing success that we have garnered the past two games at Beijing
and Vancouver. It could be argued that a couple of athletes, such as Chantal
Petitclerc and Lauren Woolstencroft, have won multiple medals and allowed us to
become successful. You do not necessarily hear that comment in the able-bodied
sport system, such as when Cindy Klassen won multiple medals.
I am optimistic about how Canada will do at the Paralympic Games in London,
England. We are very aware of the need for a more efficient and more effective
system. It is definitely on our radar to become one of our primary pillars for
the next five years.
Senator Kochhar: Mr. Legg, you mentioned that winning medals or
reaching the podium is not the only objective; but that goal is 99 per cent of
what you do at the CPC for games such as the Olympics, Pam-Am or Commonwealth
games. The main objective is how many medals you can win. If you have not done
that, then we have not succeeded. The government has put a great deal of money
into training the elite Paralympians and has put much faith in their potential
to win medals. Let us not forget that the main objective of going to these games
is to bring home medals.
Next, I do not think you have to write cheques to anyone but make use of the
facilities that are available instead of creating new facilities of your own to
train people. There are facilities all over the country, and I would urge you to
use those resources to which corporations, provincial governments and the
federal government have contributed in the past.
Mr. Legg: Let me clarify. I am not saying winning medals is not very,
very important to us. It is the result we are hoping to obtain. As my colleagues
who spoke earlier in the session alluded to also, many tremendous things can
also be garnered from the pursuit, so I am not naïve to the fact that we want to
win medals, and trust me, I certainly do.
As to your second comment about accessing facilities, I agree completely. As
one example, we have and will continue to put a great deal of resources into an
equipment fund so that people can use existing places and be able to purchase,
for example, a new sled for sled hockey or use the existing ice facilities or
buy a sport chair to play wheelchair basketball. We are certainly making
investments in those areas.
Senator Kochhar: White, you have very good facilities all over the
country. I am familiar with what you have in the Toronto area associated with
Lyndhurst Hospital. You do a terrific job, and you do a terrific job in
fundraising with CPA Wheelchair Relay, about $800,000 a year, and they get about
25 per cent of their funding from the provincial government.
Do you get any of the private money? You are spinal cord injury specialists,
and Rick Hansen raises millions and millions of dollars. Does he help you to
organize and to contribute towards the growth of your organization?
Mr. White: Regarding the Canadian Paraplegic Association, you are
referring to CPA Ontario when it comes to funding. They get 50 per cent of their
funding from the provincial government. They raise approximately $800,000 a year
with their sports relay. From a national perspective, we get $200,000. We spend
$23 million collectively across Canada, directly in services. Nationally, we
receive approximately $200,000 from the federal government.
We just completed an operational review, and our focus will be on service
delivery. One of the major components of service delivery is bringing the person
from the rehab centre. Once you are injured, you go to trauma, you end up in a
rehab centre and the question then becomes, how do we bring you back into the
community? One of the most important parts of that effort is peer support. Peer
support also includes sports, recreation, and leisure. We have approximately
86,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in Canada. We serve other
physical disabilities as well, depending on which area or province you are in.
We feel that out of the new 4,300 people injured annually, which is being
forecasted for the next years to come, 51 per cent will have traumatic injuries.
We feel that is a small portion of the obstacles the whole disability population
faces, but we think we play an important role in that faces, if you take, for
example, Paul Tingley who won the gold medal in sailing.
However, at the end of the day, we must look at how to bring all this
together. We have to develop the base to be successful at the top. If you are
talking about winning medals and you are saying Chantal Petitclerc and Paul
Tingley will retire shortly, which is true, then who do we bring up to replace
them? If we do not have the feeder system like the Peer Support Program or these
other programs, we will not be able to do that. We must try to arrive at a means
of how to work together, and, on the other hand, be able to measure the impact
of all the investments that we are making. CPA is trying to do that from our
perspective. We are talking about peer programs, we have objectives in those
programs and we are trying to measure their impact. We will continue with what
is working, we will drop what is not working, and that is the only way we can
Senator Kochhar: Do you have any written material as to what would be
the ideal resources to do 100 per cent of your job?
Mr. White: It is all about data collection and research from our
perspective. We think we have the program from a service delivery standpoint. We
worked with Rick Hansen who had the solutions model. We have adopted that and
implemented it right across Canada. We put our proposal together with the Rick
Hansen Institute. We worked over a year and a half with them. We had a
memorandum of understanding, but they bailed out of that last December and
decided that it was not part of their mission anymore to work on community. That
is fine, and we are moving forward. We brought that proposal to the federal
government and are moving forward on it.
The idea from a CPA perspective is how to finance. We have 300 staff across
Canada. The problem is we do not have the money to do the data collection, the
research, that part. That capability will allow us to tell our stakeholders
where the issues are, where the good things are and how we need to move forward.
There is a lack funding of about $5 million over five years to be able to do
Senator Kochhar: Coming to Special Olympics, Mr. Glasberg, before I
talk to you, I want to pay special tribute to my colleague Jim Munson. No one
has worked as hard for the Special Olympics, and no one has championed them as
he has. He has done an absolutely terrific job. I did have the opportunity of
working with and knowing Sargent Shriver, who started the Special Olympics along
with his wife, Eunice. I believe that out of all the disabilities, you people
have the most well-oiled machinery. What else do you think you need to keep
moving forward to make it better than what you are today?
Mr. Glasberg: For the record, I also echo your comments about Senator
Munson's support of Special Olympics. He has been a fabulous friend of the
organization, with a direct connection, and I have had the fortune of spending
quite a bit of time with Senator Munson, so thank you on behalf of Special
In answer to your question, "well-oiled machine" is probably a good adjective
of what we are.
To mention a statistic, a million people in this country are living with an
intellectual disability, yet we have only 34,000 people participating in our
program. We are clearly at a crossroads relative to trying to grow our programs
with Active Start and FUNdamentals, and, as well-oiled as this machine is, we
are faced with an awareness challenge in terms of trying to make our programs
more available to some of that population of a million people.
As I have mentioned in my comments, we do operate coast-to-coast, and we do
operate in small communities. We are a 365-day-a-year grassroots movement, but
we clearly need to generate more awareness to drive more folks towards our
programs. That would probably be the big "ask." However, that being said, we are
happy with where we are. We are encouraged by the funding support we received
somewhat recently to build our youth programs, back to the pipeline discussion
that you just had with my colleagues, but awareness is clearly the big topic
that we need to get at.
Senator Kochhar: Thank you, Mr. Glasberg.
To you, Ms. Judd-Campbell; all I can say is thank you very much for inspiring
all of us. You have a very inspiring story.
Senator Munson: Thank you all, I appreciate the comments.
I am curious about whether there is a better way. I recognize that the
present government has been extremely generous to all organizations dealing with
the disability movement, which is a good thing. However, we are still scratching
the surface, as you mentioned, with 34,000 athletes. If you look at the numbers
that are not participating in sport or leisure activities, it is mind-boggling,
so we have a long way to go.
To arrive at proper federal funding, I am wondering whether a summit with the
sports minister and all of your organizations, those dealing with disabilities
like Mr. White, to work out a real business plan that you can just keep tapping
into would be of some help, as opposed to having to come to Parliament Hill time
and again and deliver your message in a very positive way of why there should be
federal money involved. It seems that you folks have to go through this once a
year or every two years to try to get a business plan going.
Is there a better, more concrete way where the foundations are built and you
build within that foundation?
Mr. Glasberg: Your idea has plenty of merit. Certainly initiatives are
in place to try to grow support programs for people living with disabilities. We
are clearly at different points in the evolution of our respective
organizations, but certainly from our perspective, scratching the surface is
probably a good descriptor.
With respect to the notion of all of us working together, I am sure we all
share this awareness issue. Despite our best efforts, the availability of
programs is not necessarily as well known as it could be. I think we would be
supportive of a get-together, meeting of the minds, brainstorming session around
the common segment of the population we are talking about.
Mr. White: This is a very important point because, as much as we like
talking to each other, we do not necessarily collaborate. If we want to be
effective and efficient, we have to sit down together. There are not necessarily
silos, but we have to start working closer together. There is a lot of
duplication in what we do, so a mechanism whereby we could all come to the same
table and determine how we can move forward would be great.
Mr. Legg: Certainly I do not disagree with those two comments. What
would make it most effective to me is if it included not just the federal level
but also the provincial-territorial level. From the Canadian Paralympic
Committee's perspective, it is not a stumbling block, but we could use — not
assistance but certainly some collaboration in ensuring the communication levels
go sideways, up and down, back and forth.
In my opening comments, I reflected on persons with a physical disability,
but starting in 2012, athletes with an intellectual disability will also be
competing in the Paralympic Games. It behooves us to work closely with Special
Olympics as well, in addition to the other physical disability organizations,
such as the CPA, that we have worked with in the past. I would certainly welcome
Senator Munson: It also seems to me that transportation in this great
big country of ours is an issue. It takes money just to get that person to where
they need to go. We have been talking here about the big games and the big
cities, but there are smaller games going on all the time. The awareness issue
and transportation and trying just to get a person to that venue is impossible
if you live, for example, where I am originally from in Northern New Brunswick;
a hundred miles is a long way to get to a Special Olympics afternoon of just
having a good time. I sometimes think that once you have that person in the room
or at the venue, then you have a person who will be there forever.
Also, from my perspective, we are losing sight of the participation aspect.
For Special Olympics, the thought is, "Let me win, and if I cannot win, let me
be brave in the attempt." It is not always about winning; it is about
participating. This committee has to address the issues of making sure there is
awareness and a playing field, not only for children but for adults as well. I
know our topic here is for children and youth with disabilities, but in Special
Olympics and Paralympics and, Mr. White, in your program, adults participate,
and there are many more who want to participate but do not know how.
There is also the other awareness issue that deals with people who say,
"Congratulations on the work you did in Whistler, Senator Munson." No, I am the
Special Olympics intellectual disabilities guy. Senator Kochhar is the
Paralympics guy. He and I have been working closely because we want a level
playing field. People are still confused about what these Olympic movements
Mr. White, you said in your dissertation that you are falling behind and you
have to catch up, right?
Mr. White: Definitely.
Senator Munson: You need federal money, right?
Mr. White: Yes, sir.
Senator Munson: How much federal money do you need?
Mr. White: The proposal we are putting forward for service delivery as
a whole is $5 million over five years.
Senator Munson: It sounds like there should be a real separate sports
ministry, one also dealing with leisure.
I want to ask Ms. Judd-Campbell a question. You have been a success story,
and I have seen you at work, at play and absolutely enjoyed you participating in
Shanghai and smaller venues in and around Ottawa. Could you speak briefly about
other Special Olympians who have a difficult time getting to the podium? Have
you talked to friends and have they told you their stories and how difficult it
might be? You are leading by example.
Ms. Judd-Campbell: For Team Canada, all the girls are from Oakville,
and I am here in Ottawa.
Senator Munson: I learned from travelling with the Special Olympics
teams that while Ms. Judd-Campbell has tremendous family support and she is a
great athlete, in other parts of the country, some of the athletes in Special
Olympics and Paralympics do not get that support. Families have difficulties and
so on, but what I have seen is this generosity of spirit that has taken place,
such as with the Special Olympics soccer team. When they get together, they are
just like the rest of us; they want to have a good time. If you win, so be it;
that is a pretty good thing, but just to be there is what is important.
I might be rambling, but it is about getting thousands more on that stage to
be a Special Olympian or a Paralympian and to step out of those shadows.
Mr. Glasberg: I was fortunate enough to have participated in Halifax
at the Canada Games about two weeks ago, where there were two categories of
Special Olympics athletes participating in figure skating. I can tell you,
having spent time with the able-bodied or generic athletes, as well as our
Special Olympics athletes, the integration at the provincial team level was
absolutely over the top and worked both ways. Our Special Olympics athletes had
accessibility to able-bodied athletes who could support them and almost serve as
surrogate coaches to them, which was of tremendous value to the Special Olympics
athletes generally and when skating to have the support of the team. For the
able-bodied athletes, the opportunity to work with athletes with an intellectual
disability was powerful from a team perspective. The Canada Games were a winning
experience for both able-bodied and athletes with an intellectual disability.
The second point I wanted to mention is we have an initiative called "Draft
an Athlete," which relates to Senator Munson's point. When we have athletes that
have made it to the next level who cannot afford figure skates or to participate
in training, we try to seek private funding to help them participate. We are not
only yelling at governments and asking for their support, but we are trying to
generate a following at the private level as well.
Mr. White: You are right; however, we also need to look at the issue
of rural versus urban, which relates to the point about transportation.
Transportation is a huge factor for helping people to participate, not only
in sports and recreation, but also in education or being able to get to the
hospital or see the doctor. That pertains to everything in rural Canada.
For example, for John Shepherd to come to the Hill today, he had to take a
special bus with a special permit. He has a big electric chair and he does not
transfer easily. We in rural Nova Scotia do not have the capacity to do that,
and that is an important element.
Senator Munson: I worked in the television business for a few years. I
have only positive things to say about TSN and what they have done with Special
Olympics. They have put together a program that happens after big events and
world games. That is admirable, but it is not enough.
When you turn on the television in this so-called "500-channel universe," you
look at the first 60 channels and say, "What is that?" There is TSN2, and
perhaps there will be a TSN3 or another sports network. I am talking off the top
of my head. However, we have to get to the point where we have a network
dedicated to sport, leisure, children, adults, and that also televises in real
time the games they are involved in.
Considering the percentage of our population with disabilities, we have the
obligation to be respectful of those who participate in these sports. You would
be amazed at how many people involved in generic sports would enjoy watching
these games. I know that we do not live in a state where you can force
television networks to do this, but it seems to me they have money in their
pockets and there is a new channel every day.
I put my pitch on the awareness aspect. We must have more television, radio
and newspaper articles, and a reality check on what is happening in our country
and with our families.
Senator Zimmer: What are Canada's strengths and weaknesses in
including persons with disabilities in sport and recreational activities? How do
we compare with other countries?
Mr. Legg: From an international perspective, I will use wheelchair
basketball from a spinal cord injury perspective.
We are the only country that I am aware of that allows able-bodied
participants to play where the wheelchair is not seen so much as an implement
for a person with a disability but as a piece of sporting equipment. That is one
of the arguments.
The opportunity for able-bodied people to participate in a "traditional
disability sport" is something that Canada should be proud of. It addresses some
of the comments made earlier about transportation, distance, isolation, rural,
urban, et cetera. That is the strength of the Canadian system.
In the early 1990s, we were one of the first to encourage inclusion at the
national level with Swim Canada and the Federation of Canadian Archers becoming
fully inclusive with regard to providing programs and services for a person with
a disability. That is something we should be proud of.
Our example from the Canada Games where athletes with both intellectual and
physical disabilities participated side by side and were considered as full
athletes with all the rights and responsibilities associated with that is
something we should also be proud of.
When the inclusion happened at the federal level with the national sport
organizations, it did not necessarily happen at the provincial or local
community levels. There is still a disconnect that does not allow us to fully
capitalize on some of these other benefits that I alluded to.
Senator Zimmer: What are some of the barriers and challenges
encountered by persons with a disability who want to participate in recreational
and sporting activities and cannot? What are the potential solutions?
Mr. Legg: Some of the barriers are ones that we have already talked
about. Transportation is certainly one. Keep in mind that we are a
multidisability organization. One of our challenges is finding people with
similar disabilities to participate in a team sport.
The transportation issues we talked about are not always easy, the mobility
of a power wheelchair is not always easy, to which our colleague who had to
remain in Toronto will attest.
The cost to purchase prosthetics for an amputee sprinter is formidable. If
you are a blind athlete who wants to go running, to find a colleague who can be
your guide runner is often a barrier.
The barriers are multiple, convoluted and complicated. It is not an easy task
to identify. Some of them are attitudinal. People may be able to access a
facility and have the socio-economic wherewithal to purchase a sport wheelchair;
however, the first time they go to a gym, the recreation manager or physical
education teacher in the classroom, may not be welcoming, well-trained or
interested in working with a person with a disability. That is a barrier.
What was the second part of your question?
Senator Zimmer: What are some of the potential solutions?
Mr. Legg: I teach adaptive physical activity at Mount Royal
University. We address these challenges all the time. I do not think there is a
magic panacea to answer them all. I think we are working toward some of them.
For example, the fitness tax credit that the federal government instituted a
number of years ago: They recognized that the potential costs for a person with
a disability could be additional and made allowances for that. That is a great
step. Another one is encouraging accessibility. Promoting and hosting games is a
big help, whether it is the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games or the
2015 Pan and Parapan American games in Toronto. The federal government should be
insisting that the games be recognized as inclusive and that everyone be treated
equitably. Those are steps that would encourage better participation in sport at
any level across the country.
Senator Zimmer: Thank you for presenting today, Ms. Judd-Campbell.
Your remarks and beautiful smile were inspiring.
Mr. Glasberg: Ms. Bollenbach and I were in Washington last week.
Special Olympics North America conducted their Capitol Hill Day. Tim Shriver,
son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is the CEO of our organization. He made a
presentation on Wednesday night and took it upon himself to mention to a 99 per
cent U.S. audience that the Canadian Special Olympics program is one of the best
Special Olympics programs in the world.
Senator Kochhar: Hear, hear!
Mr. Glasberg: Needless to say, Ms. Bollenbach and I were happy to hear
that. However, that comment was made regarding a bunch of different dynamics as
opposed to one.
We are not riding on our laurels. Yes, we do have a well-oiled machine but I
come back to the comment that we are trying to grow from 34,000 committed and
interested individuals to somewhere closer to a million. Again, we do not live
in Utopia, but 34,000 out of a million is not a large percentage. Therefore, we
fall back on the awareness factor.
We have a very nice program but we have plenty of runway to continue to grow
I have one last point. I want to go on the record mentioning that one of our
Special Olympics athletes represents the other athletes at our national board
table. He is a gentleman by the name of Marc Thériault, who is from Northern
Ontario and now lives in Vancouver. He would be considered the best Special
Olympics figure skater in the world.
We have done a good job. There are more in the pipeline, such as Ms.
Judd-Campbell, who is competing at the international games in Greece. However,
we need to make more people t aware of the fact that we exist for everyone.
Senator Hubley: I will ask Ms. Judd-Campbell a couple of questions
because she is probably the closest we have to a special Olympian today. You
were 14 years old when you started your program of gymnastics.
Ms. Judd-Campbell: Yes.
Senator Hubley: Did you decide to join before that time? What made you
decide to take up rhythmic gymnastics program?
Ms. Judd-Campbell: I went to a club because I wanted to start
something in Special Olympics. I wanted to start with an equestrian program but
it does not exist in the Special Olympics in Canada, so I found a club and it
was for rhythmic gymnastics. I went to this club at the age of about 12. All the
athletes in this club were older, in their 20s and 30s. I thought, "I will think
about it." I then decided not to join until I was older, at the age of 14.
Senator Hubley: You made a lot of those decisions.
Ms. Judd-Campbell: Yes.
Senator Hubley: What choices did you have? You said you wanted an
equestrian program and that was not available. They did have rhythmic
gymnastics. What other programs might have been open to you at that time, at
that club? I am trying to get an idea of what a club might look like.
Ms. Judd-Campbell: It was a rhythmic gymnastics club.
Senator Hubley: Do you participate in other sports besides rhythmic
Ms. Judd-Campbell: I do snow-shoeing in the winter.
Senator Hubley: Good for you. Would that be part of your training, as
Ms. Judd-Campbell: Yes, I started snow shoeing last year to cross
train for rhythmic gymnastics.
Senator Hubley: Athletes beginning at 14 years of age is probably a
little older than for those in other sports. I am thinking about when our kids
go into hockey. Not having had an early start has obviously not stopped you. Do
you attribute your progress and ability to your motivation and hard work?
Ms. Judd-Campbell: Yes.
Senator Hubley: My second question is a general one. I had the
opportunity at one time to look at a sporting program in Russia. The first hour
of the day for the children in this community was spent in a sports-related
activity. It was not just any sports-related activity. The children would have
been five or six; their grandmothers would have had their hair braided and fed
them prior. They had pools and gymnastics, including rhythmic gymnastics.
However, every child's body, shape, content and length was assessed to determine
what sport they would likely have the most success in as they developed.
It was the only time I really felt that culture of sport had absolutely true
meaning because it was so different for me. We put our kids into sports because
it is good for them, they love it and it must be fun. In some countries, it is a
bit more than that. I think the achievement is accentuated more.
Is that something you have run into in competitions? I am trying to find out
what Canada's attitude toward sports would be in general.
Mr. Legg: As far as I am aware, you do not see much in terms of the
example you alluded to in disability sports.
I do not think there is anything wrong necessarily with fundamental motor
skill training and development occurring at an early age, such as you described.
Personally, I am not a huge proponent or supporter of trying to identify and
articulate at such a young age of five or six what a child's development
indicates in terms of the sport they should be focusing on.
I also do some work with the Canadian Sports for Life and the Long-term
Athlete Development model. That is a personal perspective. I would not support
the Canadian Paralympic Committee going into preschools to find children with
disabilities and assessing them to determine what sports they should be
participating in. I do not know of a place that does anything similar to that.
Sharon Bollenbach, Vice-President, Sport, Special Olympics Canada: I
would like to make a few comments. I will go back to one of the comments and
questions you had for Ms. Judd-Campbell, Special Olympics Canada currently
officially offers 18 sports. There is a wide variety of winter and summer sports
that athletes have access to across the country. We are continuing to add and
develop our sport repertoire across the country.
Like the members of our broader sports community in Canada and the other
national sport organizations, Special Olympics Canada has developed a Long-term
Athlete Development model. From that model and some research that we had done,
we have found that a lot of athletes come to our programs at an older age. One
of our areas of focus, as Mr. Glasberg mentioned, is on young athlete
development. Any athlete who can start working on motor development and
fundamental movement skills at an earlier age has a better chance of
strengthening their skill development as they move through an athlete model.
Hopefully that will encourage an "active for life" philosophy within that
athlete and within their families.
We are focusing right now on the Active Start and FUNdamentals Programs
across the country. We engage families at that age level to create healthy
lifestyles both within a Special Olympics program and within families at home.
That is part of our direction. It might not be sport-specific at that level, but
it is about introducing kids to movement and the development of fundamental
motor skills to help them become better athletes as they age and make their own
decisions about the sports in which they would like to participate.
Senator Brazeau: Ms. Judd-Campbell, I want to congratulate you on your
achievements and those yet to come. You are an inspiration to all of us. Being
the kind of role model you are is probably the best way to try to get other kids
into the program. Thanks to your participation and success, the message you are
sending is telling kids that if you can do it, perhaps they can as well, if they
participate. Congratulations to you.
Ms. Judd-Campbell: Thank you.
Senator Brazeau: You talked about the amount of time that you have to
train. What does a training day look like for you, from the time you get up to
the time you go to bed?
Ms. Judd-Campbell: I train every day. On Tuesdays, after school, I go
to my ballet teacher for an hour; then, I go to my personal trainer and do
cardio for an hour. At night time, I go to do rhythmic training for two or three
hours. I do rhythmic training four times a week, I see my personal trainer two
times a week, and I do ballet. When I am not training with my coach, I am at my
mom's work. She is a teacher. I train with my mom every night that I have free.
Senator Brazeau: Kudos to you.
You work for your respective organizations; other countries have similar
organizations. How does Canada fare with respect to the funding it provides as
compared with similar organizations in other countries?
Mr. White: CPA is at the bottom of the totem pole. I do not have the
exact statistics; however, I can find them and get them to you. Out of $23
million a year, we receive $200,000 from the federal government to go towards
our national program. We are right at the bottom.
Senator Brazeau: How would Canada fare with respect to the funding it
provides you vis-à-vis the funding that a similar organization in the U.S. might
Mr. White: For the service that we provide, we do well. We are a
humanitarian organization based on volunteerism. That is how we get by.
Sometimes, that is the Canadian culture. Our getting by without money for
certain programs is okay. We still have the programs. For example, we worked for
a year and a half with the Rick Hansen Institute for our new service delivery
model. In December, they changed their vision and mission and we no longer fit
into it, so we had to move on. We decided not to drop the program because we
would be dropping the clients and individuals. We are now turning to
volunteerism. We will train, focus and get volunteers to help us do some of this
work. We are still doing the program; however, the program will take us longer
than it would if we were in this situation in another country.
Mr. Glasberg: In regard to the participation rate of 34,000 out of a
potential population of one million, we should be closer to 10 per cent. Not
every one of our athletes will go on and win a medal. However, there are
important social benefits.
On a comparative scale, we are held in high regard or as the exemplar in
relation to any special Olympics program around the world, and it is because of
a combination of things. Over the last couple of years, we have been successful
with federal government support. The support has been there; however, not always
at the level of the last two years. We have done a good job in terms of private
fundraising. That is where we are held in higher regard by some of the other
Our organization functions on volunteerism. That is not the case in other
countries. We are fortunate that Canadians understand and give back. However,
there are many other sports that take place within Special Olympics around the
world. Eighteen is a good number; however, we need to fill that pipeline with
people interested in those 18 sports.
Mr. White: It is difficult for us to get corporate sponsors because we
do not have the event or the exposure that we could provide to a corporation. We
have many corporate donations; however, we do not have the profile that the
Paralympics or Special Olympics have. It is not necessarily appealing to certain
organizations in terms of boosting their image.
Mr. Legg: In many instances, Canadians have pushed the paralympic
movement and have been the leaders behind it. Internationally, we are recognized
as one of the leading paralympic nations in the world. Our vision is to be the
best in every element of our organizational strategy. That is our goal and it is
part of our strategic plan.
Senator Kochhar: We have separate names for games. It is the Olympics
and the paralympics, and that also applies to the Commonwealth Games and the Pan
American Games. A medal in any of these games is not equal to an Olympic medal.
It is not because the paralympic medal is not as good or does not take as much
effort, but because of media and public perception, the paralympic gold medal is
far inferior to an Olympic gold medal.
What would be your opinion with regard to combining those games to bring
about inclusiveness? With the Pan American Games, we would save about $250,000
to $300 million if we were to combine those games. There would be only one
opening and one closing ceremony; the streets would not be disrupted for six
weeks; we could do the whole thing in three weeks.
A wheel chair is no longer a symbol of disability. It is a symbol of freedom
for people who cannot walk. The able-bodied people can sit in a wheel chair and
race as much as the people who are disabled. Yet, no one can compete because
those who are disabled are far superior and more focused.
What is your opinion in terms of combining those games together to bring
about a change in inclusiveness, to save money and to put those resources into
the growth of the sport?
Mr. Legg: I am on the board of directors for Toronto 2015. To be
clear, I am not answering this question as a board member.
There are some good models such as the Canada Games and the Commonwealth
Games. I think it works. However, they do not have a full schedule. If there
were a merger of the Pan American and the Parapan American Games, I would not
want to lose any sports, spots or opportunities for athletes with a disability
to participate and compete.
The Pan American games in the specific question that you asked are decided by
I am Scottish. If I can save some money, I approve. There could be financial
incentives to merging the games. However, what are the costs? There could be a
day where a paralympic medal is valued more highly than an Olympic medal.
Senator Kochhar, this is a long debate and not something to be asked with only
three minutes left in our session.
The Chair: Mr. Legg, if you have additional ideas on this issue, could
you email your comments to Mr. Adam Thompson, Clerk of the Committee? We would
be happy to look seriously at your arguments.
Senator Munson: At the end of the day, we have focused a lot on
winning medals at the Special Olympics. This is also about winning at life. We
should take the advice of Ms. Judd-Campbell and apply her exercise programs to
Senator Ataullahjan: My question is to David Legg. Canadian
Paralympians do well on the international scene. Do we have the infrastructure
to maintain our international success? If not, what should be done?
Mr. Legg: That is difficult to answer in part because the Paralympic
movement is multi-disability and multi-sport. I might be able to argue that our
facilities are sufficient, but in other disability groups or other sports, they
might not be sufficient. Overall, it is not perfect but if I were a disabled
athlete and had concerns about accessible facilities, there are not many other
countries I would rather be in than Canada. We are good, although there is room
for improvement. I hope that answers your question. Certainly, feel free to ask
Senator Ataullahjan: I was on the flight where one of the witnesses
had to be taken off, and that is why my flight was late. I did not know he was
to appear as a witness before this committee. The expression on his face really
bothered and hurt me. I thought to myself that in this day and age, this kind of
thing should not happen. When they were wheeling him off, you could see the
irritation of some of the other passengers as well.
The Chair: Thank you for coming and participating today. It has been
great to hear what you have to say. If you have any further information for the
committee, please let the clerk know.
We welcome Colette Bourgonje, and we thank you for waiting for us.
Colette Bourgonje, as an individual: Thank you very much for this
opportunity to speak to the Senate on issues very near and dear to my heart. I
will give you a quick background. I am from Saskatchewan, I have a physical
education degree and an education degree. I have been an elementary
schoolteacher for 15 years, and I was a wheelchair racer and cross-country skier
in the last 2010 Paralympics. I have been involved in sports for a long time,
and it is definitely my life.
I will give you a quick Paralympic moment. My last Paralympics was in
Vancouver, and I am still on the national team. My Paralympic moment was coming
into the stadium with 60,000 people cheering, and we were at the very end of the
stadium. As a teacher, I saw all these children lined up, so I went to give them
high-fives along the line. To my surprise, there were disabled children among
them. A little girl with an amputated arm looked at me and I looked at her, and
I was like, "Wow, this is so cool. We have included all ability levels along
that line." There was a little guy in a chair. There were differing ability
levels along the line, and another a little girl gave me a quick hug. All those
children were excited about being part of the Paralympic Games. That, to me, was
my Paralympic moment because that is the legacy of 2010. We have enabled all
children to feel they can compete at sports. Every single one of them has that
One year after the games, I look to see whether we have used our Paralympic
moment to its utmost to ensure continually that all children get this
opportunity to know what sports are available to them. I feel we could do more.
CTV did a review of the Olympic Games not of the Paralympic Games, and that is
sad. CTV's coverage of the Paralympics was much more than it had been in
previous games, but it was not enough. Eurosport picked up all the sports, and
an Olympian that went to Europe after the Olympics said it was awesome. He got
to see all the games, and what I am heard was that Canada did not show very
much. They hardly showed anything.
I have also seen that allowing children to see the ability levels in the
Paralympics can excite children of all levels of ability. We could be doing more
from a media perspective to show kids what is possible, and one of the countries
that does that very well is Russia. To my surprise, Russia does a good job of
treating their Olympians and Paralympians on an equal level. When the Paralympic
athlete from Russia gets a gold medal, he or she gets 100,000 euros, then it is
60,000 euros and 40,000 euros for the silver and bronze. That surprised me. They
also get a certain type of car, an Audi.
I feel that we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go in
improving equality throughout the sporting environment.
In the one year post-Paralympics, our funding was cut 53 per cent. The
able-bodied funding was cut 3 per cent. We had no training camps this year, and
we have to pay $10,000 to compete in the World Cup, but we are funded to go to
the World Championships. I do think that we could do more for our athletes even
at the elite level.
For sports and recreation, I decided to move to a new community, Prince
Albert. I did one talk for CAAWS, the Canadian Association for the Advancement
of Women and Sport, and it was to be an Aboriginal facilitator. I did one talk
to a group of women, one of whom said she knew a 21 year old who would like to
try skiing. I borrowed a sit-ski from Saskatoon. Another woman in her 40s also
wanted to try skiing. Both women cannot believe how great it is to have this
opportunity. Solutions magazine did an article on Rick Hansen, and it
gave the costs of a spinal cord injury, which are huge. It costs $1.6 million
for a paraplegic, $3 million for a quadriplegic. These two people are both 20
pounds overweight, but they are excited about having an opportunity to try a
sport. They do not know anything about it. They do not know how to sit in it.
One of them has a bike, but she cannot use it because she does not know how to
make it work for her ability level. I am excited about moving here. I have not
advertised anything about cross-country skiing, but I see a huge need in the
whole population to increase opportunities to access sport equipment and to try
different sports. If these people are in better shape, they can get into their
vehicles easier, and they will not be visiting the hospital as much. Statistics
say that paraplegics and quadriplegics are hospitalized 2.6 times more often. I
have been in a wheelchair now for about 31 years, and I have not had an
overnight stay in a hospital. I believe that is due to being physically active
and in good shape. I think the better shape you are in, the better you can
handle your body and the quality of life is increased tremendously.
I see it in the faces of these two women. Interestingly enough, the
40-year-old is in better shape than the 21-year-old who had an accident at 13.
She has been eight years in a chair. She is great, and I think I can get her
into better shape. I believe that we can empower these people not only out on
the field but also in their lives so they can have a better quality of life.
I would like to see more equipment and more access to people who understand
how to use the bikes, the sit-skis, the racing chairs and the tennis equipment
to help these people become more active and hopefully get into better shape than
they are in right now.
That is my point of view. I look forward to hearing your questions.
Senator Kochhar: You outlined the inequalities that exist between the
Olympic Gold and the Paralympic Gold. In Canada, as you know, the Olympic
Committee gives the gold Olympian $20,000, but there is not a nickel given by
the Paralympic Committee to the disabled athlete or Paralympian. I had the
privilege of instituting the podium fund, and you were a recipient of some of
What do you think we as a society can do to pressure the government to bring
equality and inclusiveness? How can we motivate the media to recognize the
abilities of physically disabled athletes? We have come a long way from crippled
athletes to Paralympians and having no money at all, with private institutions
instituting small token amounts for podium money. Still, there is a huge gap
between the recognition of the Olympic Gold and the Paralympic Gold in the
public's perception and in the media's perception.
Do you think both of these games should be joined so that all get the huge
media exposure we get for the Olympics? In turn, should the medals to
Paralympians be awarded at the same time they are awarded to Olympians so that
the Paralympic Gold is considered the same value as the Olympic Gold? What is
your opinion on that?
Ms. Bourgonje: Eurosport is able to promote their Paralympians, and
they just cover everything. Maybe we could mandate the media to cover the sport
and to do a better job of it. CTV did not do a good job of promoting or covering
our sport. We are not using that coverage that we had one year ago to inspire
children of all ability levels.
If we joined the Olympics and the Paralympics, the Paralympics would lose out
on the number of events. Let us say that I can ski three cross-country events,
but if we join the Olympics, my fear would be that we would only get one event
in the whole category.
However, if we were still able to maintain all of the venues and all of the
races that we enjoy right now, then I would say it would be okay. There are
10,000 Olympians and 3,000 Paralympians so accommodation would be a huge
problem. Right now, we have two villages because there are just too many people
and it is too much of a zoo.
I think we just need to do a better job of promoting the Paralympics as a
worthy sport. People really enjoy it when they get the opportunity to see it,
but if we never show it or promote it, they do not get that chance. I think we
need to do a better job with media.
Senator Kochhar: In other words, you are saying that if none of the
games are eliminated, if the full range of Paralympic games are part of the
Olympic movement, and you cut the interval of two weeks and add two weeks to the
Olympic Games, you then have one opening ceremony and one closing ceremony, and
the money saved should be put into the infrastructure to have the bigger village
and more facilities so both of these games can be done at the same time?
Ms. Bourgonje: Through my athletic career, I have seen that the IOC
has not wanted to be — when we first started, we had five Tae-Geuks. The IOC did
not like that because it was too close to their symbol of five circles. They
actually put that to the side and now use three. Throughout history, when I
started in Barcelona, we had five Tae-Geuks and now we have only three.
Therefore, I would see a huge resistance from the IOC to having the IPC be
part of that organization. I understand what you are saying as far as money is
concerned and opening and closing ceremonies for sure.
One thing it does is excite everyone. The opening ceremonies in Vancouver
were phenomenal. They excited the whole community again, but then it went flat
because CTV was not intending to televise the games. Why is that? Public
pressure was saying, "Hey, come on, there are other games going on; show those
games." I just think we need to do a better job of promoting them.
Senator Kochhar: It is a slow process. CTV gave it zero time 20 years
ago. At least they are providing 20 hours now. They are doing a much better job.
With the route we are taking, we will reach the goal, but it is a slow process.
Senator Munson: Ms. Bourgonje, could you walk us through again the
funding cuts that happened after the games. I would like to know how that could
be changed and how things could be put in place so that this does not happen
after a games end.
Ms. Bourgonje: Cross Country Canada is our national organization, of
which I am a member. "Own the Podium" was putting money into our program. Then
they went to determining who could possibly produce a gold medal. Brian McKeever
for sure was one person as well as Mark Arendz, a young guy they feel could come
up. They only put money in for those two people, but they are not developing
anyone else who is at the national level. They are saying that anyone else will
have to be funded by Cross Country Canada.
Cross Country Canada has had, since 1998, the opportunity to put funding into
the para program, but they do not see it as a primary focus. They see the
able-bodied side as being more important right now than the disabled side.
I am carded, but if you look at what I would have to pay to go to the World
Cup, it would be $10,000. That means that for living and training expenses, I
would have $8,000 to live off of for a year. That is crazy. I am not sure, but
Cross Country Canada needs a better board of directors and a mandate that
supports the national team.
Senator Munson: I am not familiar with Cross Country Canada. Who are
Ms. Bourgonje: It is our national governing body that funds the
able-bodied and disabled programs and juniors, all cross country skiing. It is
called Cross Country Canada. There are skiing organizations in every province.
It is the national body for cross-country skiing in our country. It has produced
athletes like Beckie Scott.
Senator Munson: How do you get yourselves on that stage again in two
or three years? We have listened to Special Olympics and Paralympics and what
they have to go through to get federal money. The federal government has been
good to Paralympics and Special Olympics and has contributed a specific amount
of money. Both organizations could use more, but it has been a good thing
because it has produced results and people are participating.
What do you have to do in the next three years to get prepared and to ensure
that there is federal funding for not only just your elite athletes but every
Ms. Bourgonje: All of the provinces are now working harder. I believe
there were 24 Para-Nordic athletes at the Canada Games. That is awesome. We have
to develop our athletes in Canada. There is a lot that we must do to get them to
be competitive on an international stage; for example, by providing travel
subsidies or something. When I go to nationals, I will have $1,000, but hotel
rooms will eat that up in no time. A lot of this is self-funded at the Cross
Country Canada level.
I am retiring after this year, but when I look at the development of the
sport, we do not seem to be doing it like Russia. They will have 170 athletes.
Russia's Nordic team was as big as our whole Canadian team. To me, it is
If we have five athletes when we go to Russia, I will be surprised. We will
probably have three or four Cross Country Canada athletes that will represent
Canada. When we race internationally, we have to be in good shape to compete
against the Europeans, Russians, Ukrainians, et cetera.
We have a lot of work to do for Sochi. We will get a few medals with Brian
McKeever and Mark Arendz, for sure. We have opportunities, but we will get our
butts kicked by Russia.
Senator Munson: We have a Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights,
and this is about human rights. We have to write and present a report. The
government will listen to us, particularly with Senator Kochhar here.
Could you give us an executive summary of what you would like us to include
in our report so that we can encourage the government not to forget you?
Ms. Bourgonje: If we assist cross country ski athletes provincially,
that would be helpful. We need to help our athletes become better in Canada
before we take them overseas. We need to fund equipment and racing expenses. We
need coaches and people who can share their expertise with recreational
We need more equipment, more coaches, and we need to fund athletes to race in
Canada prior to going overseas and racing in World Cups.
Senator Brazeau: Ms. Bourgonje, it was a pleasure meeting you last
November 10 in Toronto. I would be remiss if I did not congratulate you on your
accomplishments and for representing Canada and making our nation proud.
You talked about the importance of raising the level of awareness with the
media. What weight would you give to the importance of raising the level of
awareness with Canadians?
If Canadians were in a position to see some of the barriers that you have
faced as an athlete, the inequalities as compared to other Olympians, what
weight would you put on that?
As Senator Munson said, we will be working on recommendations for the
government to consider. What can we do? How should we start a campaign to raise
Canadians' level of awareness so they can sympathize? If they were aware, I
think they would try to bridge the inequalities.
Ms. Bourgonje: At all of the Paralympic games, I have heard about how
great the Paralympic movement is and what a wonderful experience it is. I like
to get the feelings of people, including my family, the other Paralympic
families and volunteers, who come to the games, both the Olympics and the
Canadians absolutely embraced the movement. I think they would really embrace
the games if they had an opportunity to see more. We need to mandate CTV to show
the games and what is available. When a child sees that, they say, "I want to
try to do that." That is when you want to hook them. We want to make sure that
the young who have a disability have an opportunity to stay in shape through
whatever sport they choose. I am a cross-country skier, but I could promote any
sport to a child.
My recommendation is we need equipment. It is expensive. You can pay up to
$8,000 just to get a special bike. You can buy a pair of shoes, but my
wheelchair will be way more expensive. There is a different wheelchair for every
These two women I mentioned do not know how to use the equipment. They will
not buy it unless they get an opportunity to try it first. They do not know what
to buy. Equipment is a huge problem. There are sit-skis in California, and there
are some in Saskatchewan but they are heavy. They can pay up to $1,500 for a
sit-ski. That is cheap compared to a sled that costs $5,000 in other countries.
It gives them the opportunity to at least try it.
First, we need more exposure to all kids. I have been cross-country skiing
since 1992, and I am surprised at how many people have never seen this sport
before. We need to do more promotion of skiing as a recreational activity. The
two women have an opportunity to ski here, and they think it is phenomenal.
Out of 20 athletes, because of the commitment, training and sacrifice
required, you might get one that will push it to the elite level. Even 1 in 20
might be a surprise, if you are able to push them to that upper level. If they
are funded better and have the support, maybe they will do that. However, for a
lot of them going to school, it is too much training and too much of a time
commitment. Commitment and dedication is huge in sport.
I now have an opportunity to give back to the sport. I would like to see the
smiles on these people's faces when they get the opportunity to try it and,
hopefully, lose 10 or 20 pounds and increase their quality of life. To me, it is
increasing their quality of life, right at the beginning.
Senator Brazeau: As a Metis woman yourself, have you seen increased
participation among Aboriginal Peoples in the various sports?
Ms. Bourgonje: I have not. I am sorry to say that that has not really
happened. Leading up to the games, we did a program with two Olympians on APTN
and I was the only Paralympian. There were no sledge hockey players. I am not
sure why we are not seeing many Aboriginal people. I know that there are other
Aboriginal people in chairs, but I do not know where they are. Hopefully, I will
have more of an opportunity in Saskatchewan to do so.
I would like to have a job with Saski, skiing for the disabled, to promote
the sport. I think there is a huge need to promote in this province. I have not
even tried to promote it and there are two women already who are trying it. I do
not know why in the Aboriginal population we have not seen more participation.
The Chair: Senator Kochhar has asked you to put in writing all these
dreams around more funding, equipment, television coverage, promotion, et
cetera, and send them to the clerk. That way we have them all down. It would be
great if you could set it out in a list for us when you have a moment.
Ms. Bourgonje: Okay.
The Chair: How do you decide when to retire, and when you make that
decision, what kinds of things do you think about in your transition to not
being a competitive athlete, and how do you keep your body in shape?
Ms. Bourgonje: The wonderful thing is that I moved from downtown
Saskatoon where I was training. I knew I will be competing against 20-year-olds
from Europe. Cross-country skiing is not an easy sport. I knew I had to live and
train at altitude so I moved to Canmore to the Nordic Centre. I received a leave
When I came back to Saskatoon, I felt I could not live in downtown Saskatoon;
I would love to live closer to Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan because
it is so beautiful. There are dog-sled trails everywhere. I think it is a great
place. When I look at my pension, my 15 years of part-time teaching does not
work that well because I have taken leave many times to go and compete
internationally, which has been awesome and I would not trade that for anything.
When I am skiing with these girls, I look super human because they are in
such bad shape. For me, my dog is a big motivator because she always wants to go
cross-country skiing. The wonderful thing about the sport is that it is a
lifestyle. I have been active since I was four. I was on a national able-bodied
running team, and this sport is a closer simulation to what I did when I was
I will always want to be active. However, I am not 29 anymore, so I need a
lot of hours to train. That is why I am not teaching this year; I put my name on
the substitute list.
Sport is my passion. I want to get back to sport and I see that the quality
of life and health are hugely enhanced. When I looked at the health costs for
Rick Hansen, I cannot see how we cannot afford to make a better effort at
getting children and young adults physically fit. The health costs are huge. You
have a mind, body and spirit. The mind and the body are way more in tune when
you are in shape.
If you are only using your small arms and you are trying to lift yourself in
and out of a van all the time and you put too much weight on your arms, you will
not be able to do it. One of the girls has $7,000 worth of equipment just to get
into her van. If you are in better shape and you can transfer easier, you can
eliminate some of that $7,000 and you can buy a hand-bike.
My whole life revolves around being active. I can see now just being able to
show other people what is possible and to see the smile on these women's faces.
When they get out, they think it is awesome.
I will still stay in shape and I would like to get back in the classroom a
bit, but my passion is sports. I think I could do a good job at selling physical
The Chair: I have no doubt of that.
I want to clarify. You are 29; you would like to go back into the classroom
and your passion is sport. However, what does this have to do with building
pension credits and protecting yourself against poverty in your old age?
Ms. Bourgonje: Thank you for saying I am 29; I am actually 49.
The Chair: Okay.
Ms. Bourgonje: I am actually 49, which is one of the reasons that the
500 hours a year of training is too hard on me. I want to go out and ski and
enjoy it with my dog versus training and racing at an elite level. I have
enjoyed sport. I have competed since 1992. I have been to nine Paralympics and
three summer Olympics. I really have had a great time doing sports.
Now, however, I would like to give back. I can see that as us old guys
retire, where are these young people? There are not any youngsters that are
beating me in Canada yet and I am 49. We need to build these guys up; we need to
build more athletes but we do not know where they are. They might be on their
computers or something, I do not know.
Senator Hubley: This is the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.
Could you comment for me on how you feel about how successful Canada is in
meeting its international and national human rights obligations?
Ms. Bourgonje: I always felt we were on a pretty level field in terms
of funding and stuff with Cross Country Canada. As you are in the sport longer
and you get to understand the national aspect of it, I do not believe we are
doing a good job from a human rights perspective. We are not treated the same. I
would love to be treated like the able-bodied athletes because they have
training camps and they have funding because they have reached a high level in
I am not sure how that is covered by human rights. At the elite level, we are
not treated the same as our able-bodied counterparts, especially not this year.
Leading up to 2010, we had great funding. We could race in all the World Cups.
We had coaches. That has changed this year.
From a sporting perspective, we are not doing a great job.
Senator Hubley: The cut in financial support is somewhat dramatic. It
is disturbing that it was done pre-Olympics, as though it were for a bit of a
show. Do you sense that as well?
Ms. Bourgonje: Own the Podium is only looking at gold medal funding
from a Paralympic perspective. Own the Podium is supposed to be top-up funding
for our gold medalists. However, that is short-sighted and we will not develop
anything below that. Silver and bronze winners are not receiving the same
funding that a gold medal performer will. We need to do a better job of funding
the system. Perhaps it should be team funding that helps everyone who makes it
to the national level. I am the best sit-skier in Canada and I must pay up to
$10,000 to race this year. Why are we doing that? That is not encouraging for
people at the elite level. As well, it involves a lot of training and full-time
hours. To be a good cross-country skier internationally, not working is
important. I was well funded by Team Visa. Team Visa, in 2005, supported Brian
McKeever and me up to 2010. That allowed me to move to Canmore in the two years
prior to the games. I would not have been able to afford to live in Canmore on
$18,000 a year. It would not have been possible.
If we treated our elite athletes equally, we would have a bigger
representation from the Paralympic side. We could do a better job.
The Chair: If the Olympics and the Paralympics were merged in some
way, would the funding be merged, too?
Ms. Bourgonje: CPC has not been well funded in the past. If there were
a merge, the accommodation and the logistics would be a huge challenge for an
organizer. The 10,000 people that come in for the Olympics have a hard time with
accommodation. Even during the games, some athletes leave in order to be able to
Usually, it takes two weeks between games to re-establish the venues. If you
took those two weeks away and said, "On Sunday night, the Olympics are over and,
on Monday night, the Paralympics start," that would be a possibility. However,
in that scenario, the Olympic athletes do not get to go to the closing
ceremonies while the Paralympians are at the closing ceremonies.
I am not sure that is a great solution. By doing a better job of focusing on
the Paralympics and showing the abilities of the athletes, you would get younger
athletes from all levels.
The Chair: We will look forward to hearing about that in the e-mail
that you will send us.
You said that, after the Olympics, they take two weeks to re-establish the
facilities for the Paralympics. What actually happens in those two weeks?
Ms. Bourgonje: They remove many of the Olympic sponsors. Some of the
venues are changed. It becomes smaller because they only have to do security for
3,000 people versus 10,000 people. The organizers change the venue quite
substantially to accommodate the smaller need of the Paralympic movement. There
are more wheel chair accessible buses.
After Torino, the cross country venue was sloppy and had to be made better
for the 40 wheel-chair sit-skiers attending. The Paralympics have things well
thought out and organized. People running around, trying to make sure everything
is perfect for the Olympics. Then they downsize. I have heard that it is calmer
and quieter because you do not have the same number of people. The volunteers
tend to enjoy the Paralympics because they have closer access to the athletes.
We are not treated like Gretzky. The security is there; however, it is more
relaxed. The athletes have more time to talk to volunteers. It is like living in
the city versus living in a small town.
Senator Ataullahjan: As an elite athlete, you have done a lot to
promote sports and physical activities among youth under age 25. What role can
other elite athletes play to promote sports and physical activity?
Ms. Bourgonje: I see a need in rural Saskatchewan. For example, a
child in school has crutches and does not fit the mould of putting on the
cross-country ski. He could have a sit-ski and could lead his classmates on the
cross country trail. He needs the equipment and for someone to come in and say,
"You can do this." We need to empower the kids by spending time with them and
showing them what is available.
Women from Prince Albert are driving an hour and a half to Saskatoon to try
sledge hockey. They will not get in shape by trying it once a year. They need
things in their own backyard so that they can go out by themselves, with their
friend or dog to be physically active.
The 21-year-old girl I mentioned, who was not in good shape, tried skiing. I
was freezing to death because it was 20 below and windy, but she was sweating.
She was smiling as she was trying it. All that is needed is the opportunity, the
equipment, and someone to take them by the hand.
The important thing is that we find the children and take the time to see
what they want to try. The wheelchair sports organization in Saskatoon is great.
However, everyone has to drive all the way to Saskatoon.
They will not make that drive every day. They need activity in their own
communities, and cross-country skiing is the great leveller. When my niece goes
skiing at Porcupine Plains, Saskatchewan, he could go with her if he had a sled
to sit on; and we are working on that.
As Paralympians, we need to give back to the community to give other people
the opportunity to gain some motivation to go out and try something. If we can
do that when they are younger, then we can keep them in better shape and maybe
spend fewer of our health care dollars on their health issues.
Senator Zimmer: I have a geographical fondness for where you live
because I attended the University of Saskatoon and I have relatives in Prince
Albert; it is a gorgeous area.
Every group needs funding from governments; and all causes are very good.
However, the day has come when the government cannot supply funds to everyone.
Does your community do any fundraising to supplement the needs of the community?
Ms. Bourgonje: I moved to the McDowell area recently. My place is on
acreage so there is nothing around me. It was a surprise to me when I saw those
two women. I asked about any wheelchair activities or other things they do, but
there is nothing happening here. At this time, there is nothing to fundraise
for. We have individuals going to Saskatoon to try out things. In Prince Albert
we need a sporting organization of some sort or even some equipment. Currently,
I am training to go to Canmore for the nationals. I will be gone for one month.
I said to these two women that when I have more time next year, we should get
together and try biking or other sports so that we can be physically active.
I see this happening in the able-bodied population as well. For example, as a
teacher, I wonder what is happening when I see an 80-pound child in grade 1. The
populations are the same. The implications of not being physically active or fit
increases the rate of hospitalization by 2.6 times. Society is paying $1.6
million more in health care costs and hospital stays because we are not in
shape. Some of the implications of no funding and no equipment are more dramatic
in our population.
I look forward to something happening in this area because I also look
forward to fundraising for something. I have been here only a couple of months.
Senator Zimmer: Let me offer this challenge to you: Find an
organization in Prince Albert and I will come out there to assist you. I have
been a fundraiser for 40 years. I will give you my 14 rules of fundraising, sit
down with your committee, work with them and help you to start an annual event
of fundraising to provide additional money directly. Find the organization, call
me, and I will go to Prince Albert to take you through the whole thing and
follow up. It can be very successful. That is the challenge that I offer. Just
call me. I am Rod Zimmer and my office telephone number is: 613-995-4043.
Senator Kochhar: Take him up on that, Colette.
Ms. Bourgonje: Thank you for that challenge, Senator Zimmer; I look
forward to calling you. We need to get some people together, but I do not know
yet who is here. There must be a big need in this community.
Senator Zimmer: I am sure there is. The key is to get started. You
would be amazed how many resources you have in that community. It is a matter of
pulling them together, and inspiring and motivating the people. I will not only
come and meet with you but also I am prepared to follow up and inspire them on a
Ms. Bourgonje: Thank you; that is a good offer.
The Chair: Ms. Bourgonje, if someone like you wanted to transition to
being a professional paid coach, how would that happen?
Ms. Bourgonje: That is a good question. I have worked with sports
science people for a number of years in Saskatchewan and in Alberta in the last
year and a half prior to the 2010 Olympics. I have many training programs. I am
not sure how I could transition to coaching because everything is geared to
able-bodied people. Cross Country Canada has coaches in place for disabled
teams, but they do not have athletes. I see a huge need to work specifically
with sit-skiers because it can take a long time to get to the international
level. It is a lot of work because it requires constant double poling with the
arms. I would have to ask Mr. Jeff Whiting, who is a coach in Saskatchewan, how
I could transition to sit-ski coaching. That would be absolutely awesome.
I see a huge need to get people physically active. That is the great
challenge in this community right now. I have met two women who will be awesome;
and I look forward to helping them be more physically active.
Senator Kochhar: Who funds the coaches? Where does the money come from
to pay for coaching? Does that come from the athletes, the government or the
Ms. Bourgonje: Currently, the funding comes from Sport Canada. Mr.
Robin McKeever is a coach and Kaspar Wirz is a half coach. Recently they hired a
Paralympic coordinator. They have about as many staff as athletes.
The Chair: Ms. Bourgonje, this has been an absolutely wonderful hour
with you. Every best wish in the world to you; and do not forget about Senator
Mr. White: Thank you so much for listening. This has been an awesome