World Down Syndrome Day

Honourable senators, today, on World Down Syndrome Day, I am on the same team as Senator Enverga. As he said, today is World Down Syndrome Day, a day for us to reflect upon and raise awareness of the vital role that people with Down syndrome play in our lives and communities.
Down syndrome is a natural occurrence. It has always existed and is universal across racial, gender and socio economic lines. One in 800 Canadian children is born with Down syndrome. You need not go very far back in time to see how drastically different life once was for people with Down syndrome. Not so long ago, they were separated, kept hidden from society, work, sport and art, and even simple social outings. These basic aspects of life were reserved for others, not for them.

Fortunately for us, there have always been individuals in our society who not only believe in equality and inclusiveness, but also have the fortitude to act on their beliefs. Today there are groups and organizations across the country that have formed on the basis of these beliefs. Their missions are to ensure inclusion and opportunities for everyone.

Under its slogan “See the Ability!,” the Canadian Down Syndrome Society is celebrating today by highlighting heroes, people with Down syndrome who are living exceptional lives. They are athletes, volunteers, students and social advocates, and through their activities and achievements they show us the abilities and contributions of all people with Down syndrome.

The Society is also marking this important day with a remarkable and timely initiative. It has released a position statement on value neutral language. Language is indeed powerful, with the potential to include people in our society, or exclude them.

The statement from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society reads:

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society promotes the use of…language that respects the unique strengths, skills, and talents of persons with Down syndrome. By using language that is respectful and informed, we can help build communities in which all people are valued, participating citizens.

Of course, as honourable senators know, I have been a supporter of Special Olympics Canada for many years now. The organization provides sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities. More than 34,000 children, youth and adults are registered in programs that run every day of the week. They are supported by an extraordinary network of more than 16,400 volunteers. Special Olympics Canada is also proud to celebrate and be part of this international day to recognize people with Down syndrome.

Honourable senators, I invite you to join the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, Special Olympics Canada and countless other groups, organizations and individuals worldwide, including Michael Trinque , who works in my office and has Down syndrome, and in memory of my late son, in commemorating World Down Syndrome Day.