Chair-Leader Event on Parliament Hill

I’m exhausted, honourable senators. I’m only exhausted because it is hard enough playing basketball standing up, but in a wheelchair it is really difficult. We had a game today.

Today is Chair-Leader Day on the Hill and, with my Conservative MP colleagues, Minister MacKay and a few others, we had a basketball game today. It is Chair-Leader Day and it is about recognizing Spinal Cord Injury Canada.

I was fortunate; I could leave my chair outside and walk in here. However, can you imagine that 365 days of the year 90,000 Canadians get up each morning and struggle to get into a chair and start their day?

It is very important that we recognize what those who are in chairs do every day. I don’t want to make light of it, but today, I locked myself in a handicapped wheelchair access washroom. I almost impaled myself in a urinal by racing too fast to get there and struggled to get back up. That’s not a very pretty sight. This is the second time this has happened. You would think I would know how to find the brakes.

I can tell you that getting around in a wheelchair can take on a huge significance. Spending a day in a wheelchair can be stressful and, at times, very humbling. Though it is far from a true-life experience, it does give you an appreciation for what the world looks like from the seat of a wheelchair and that it takes courage and determination to refuse to let the obstacles get you down and question yourself.

Right now, as I mentioned, close to 90,000 Canadians are living with spinal cord injuries.

Look at some of those Olympic athletes this year that we watched in Sochi — you have to be so proud of them.

We are all susceptible to circumstances, a traumatic accident or a disease, so it is truly a wonder how accessibility issues remain so prevalent in our communities.

I’m calling on all governments because governments do have to do more. We have to have a stronger commitment at all levels — for example, those involved in planning and building streets and sidewalks. It also points to a need for advocacy and for us to focus on the abilities and to speak up for the rights of people in wheelchairs.

In closing, I support Spinal Cord Injury Canada because it helps people with spinal cord injuries achieve independence and self-reliance and has been doing so since 1945. Let’s just pay more attention to spinal cord injury. Thank you.