Special Olympics

Honourable senators, last month I had the privilege of being part of Canada’s Special Olympics Team in Boise, Idaho, for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Canada was proudly represented by 113 athletes, coaches and volunteers. Our athletes brought home a record 20 medals, 11 of those gold.

In the weeks ahead, when the business of this chamber and the rough-and-tumble of politics gets me down, I will remember the days I spent with enthusiastic and well-trained competitors, committed and devoted coaches, and family members so proud that they could burst. I will keep with me always the memories of these Special Olympians, who face so many challenges in their day-to-day lives, being winners and heroes on the world stage. Indeed, that is what makes these Special Olympics so wonderful. It creates opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to train and compete at an international level.

In Boise, our athletes joined 2,500 others from 100 countries, who took part in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, curling and speed skating.

The Special Olympics movement, which began in the 1960s, has done a lot to combat prejudices.

The Special Olympics movement has done so much to remove the stigma surrounding intellectual disabilities. It has done so much for inclusion and for changing the way we think and see others. I congratulate the government for including $1.5 million in Budget 2009 in support of Special Olympians. It is extremely appreciated.

The Special Olympics open doors for people who often find themselves facing closed ones. They also help many people see the potential in others.

Honourable senators must trust me when I say that the best cure for cynicism is to get involved in the Special Olympics. One can be a coach or a volunteer; or one can take an athlete to practice or contribute financially to the movement. By supporting the Special Olympics, one can help to break down the barriers that still exist for people with intellectual disabilities.

As honourable senators know, this is a personal cause of mine. By supporting the Special Olympics, we will make Canada more inclusive and the world a better place.