Abilities Centre

Honourable senators, each of us has our own hopes and goals for ourselves, for our loved ones and for the world at large. Canadians living with physical, intellectual and mental disabilities are, of course, no different. What they dream of and aspire to is as individual as they are, with one exception — the desire for inclusion.

Earlier this month I had the privilege to visit an incredible complex in Whitby, Ontario, called the Abilities Centre. It has been open since June 2012. It is essentially a sports, arts and social community founded on a mission of inclusion. Throughout my tour of this 125,000 square foot state-of-the-art complex, everywhere I looked I saw features to ensure accessibility to its facilities and programs.

“Invest in what matters” is the motivating slogan for the centre’s fundraising activities, and all levels of government and some generous businesses and individuals have responded enthusiastically. An enterprise like the Abilities Centre requires considerable funding and

community involvement to become a reality, but its purpose and the positive changes it can bring to the lives of countless people and to society are invaluable. The Abilities Centre guarantees an enormous and lasting return on any investment.

The late Honourable Jim Flaherty and his wife planted the seed that sprouted to become this life-changing answer for people to live fully and well. Raising and loving their son, who has an intellectual disability, they gained insight that shaped their vision for the Abilities Centre.

The centre has well over 3,000 members, and it has awarded more than 70 memberships to individuals and families in need. Clearly, there is a significant demand for a place like this. I applaud the late Jim Flaherty and his wife for this. It’s just an amazing site. If you’re in Whitby, please go visit it.

Ottawa and other cities in this country should have a complex like the Abilities Centre, too, and I’m proud to be part of a planning group to make this happen.

Honourable senators, let’s bury our party lines and work together to give Canadians with disabilities what they need, to include them in a community where they can progress towards their dreams and goals. Today. Tomorrow. Any time is a great time to get involved and lend your support.

One day, and one day soon, when this city’s version of the Abilities Centre is established and in operation, maybe enhancing what was once an underused area like LeBreton Flats, you will realize that you heard it first here in the Senate.