Special Olympics Month

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, as the month of November draws to a close, I remind honourable senators that this month is Special Olympics Month in Canada. The Special Olympics is an international movement that provides opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to train and compete in athletic events.

Next February 6 to 13, 81 of Canada’s best athletes will compete in the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games in Boise, Idaho. They will give their all to bring home gold, silver or bronze in such events as alpine and cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing and speed skating.

More than 3,000 athletes from 85 countries will meet in Boise. And I will be there too, proud to represent Canada and our athletes at these games.

I will be representing Canada at these games but I will also be attending to pay tribute to the memory of my own Special Olympian, Timothy James Alexander Munson. Timmy was born almost 40 years ago, our little boy. He was born with Down’s syndrome and like many people with Down’s syndrome, he had other health problems and passed away before his first birthday.

Timmy was born into a family full of love and acceptance, but as many honourable senators may remember, a generation ago our society was not so accepting of people with intellectual disabilities. There was a sense of shame and stigma surrounding all disabilities, but especially intellectual disabilities — and those words were not the ones used in those days.

We have come a long way since then and I think the Special Olympics movement deserves much of the credit. By involving people in sport and giving them opportunities to compete and to win at the international level, they are opening doors and minds.

For Special Olympics Month, I urge all honourable senators to become involved. You can be a coach, a volunteer to take an athlete to practice or contribute financially to the movement. By supporting the Special Olympics, honourable senators, you will help to break down the barriers that still exist for people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics athletes have a motto, “Winning at Life”; and in their oath they say: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

By supporting Special Olympics, you will make Canada more inclusive and the world a better place.