Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons

Honourable senators, I want to share today another example of the great work that is being done by senators in this chamber as they perform concrete actions to represent and promote the rights and interests of groups and individuals who might be overlooked otherwise, and how honourable senators are supporting these Canadians.

I had the great privilege, along with ten other senators, to participate last Saturday evening in a large fundraising initiative organized by the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons. In 1987, Senator Vim Kochhar became its founding chair. He and his partner, Dorothy Price, are at the forefront of the foundation’s ever-expanding work.

The CFPDP has initiated dozens of important projects and events, raising a total of $21 million. The Great Valentine Gala is an annual event held in Toronto. This year was the twenty-seventh edition, which brought together 800 influential and inspiring individuals and organizations who are truly a community working to build a better world for Canadians who live with disabilities.

Some of the projects that have benefitted from the Great Valentine Gala fundraising include Rotary Cheshire Homes, North America’s first apartment complex for people who are deaf-blind; the Canadian Helen Keller Centre, Canada’s only centre established specifically for the deaf-blind community; and Paralympics sports, where the foundation is a sponsor of Canada’s Paralympics team participation.

Every year at this gala, the King Clancy Awards are presented in recognition of personal achievement and important contributions in support of Canadians who live with a disability. This year, the recipients were some of Canada’s inspirational 2010 Paralympics medal winners in Vancouver and Whistler.

Another of our honourable senators, Senator Joyce Fairbairn, is called by these heroic athletes their “patron saint.” Senator Fairbairn was there in the 1990s when the Paralympics movement was born in Canada, and she has championed their cause every step of the way. From those pioneering steps to the successes we saw a year ago in Whistler and Vancouver, Senator Kochhar and Senator Fairbairn were involved in representing the interests and making sure the support was in place.

The contributions of Senator Kochhar and Senator Fairbairn to Paralympic sports have given the athletes the opportunity to show the power of sports to heal and inspire. Paralympic sports showcase for Canadians the disability community’s very real abilities. This coming April 14, Senator Kochhar, again, and the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons, along with others, will sponsor the Rolling Rampage wheelchair road race on Parliament Hill.

Senator Kochhar and I know that Canadians often confuse the Paralympics with the Special Olympics — the intellectually disabled athletes that I champion. However, it is our mission to keep building awareness of these two different but compelling movements where inspiration and hard work lead to powerful stories of individual and team achievements, and victories against many odds.

The work of Senator Kochhar and that of Dorothy Price is remarkable. We thank them both for their contributions.