Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 113

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

2012 Paralympic Games

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, from August 29 to September 9 last summer, 145 athletes, 12 athlete support personnel and 134 coaches, managers, support staff and mission staff represented Canada at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Led by Chef de Mission Gaétan Tardif and Assistant Chef de Mission Elisabeth Walker-Young, Canadian athletes won 31 medals, including seven gold medals in swimming, athletics, cycling and wheelchair basketball. Canadian Paralympic swimmers were particularly successful, winning 16 medals in the pool. Team Canada finished the games strong when the Canadian men’s national wheelchair rugby team won a silver medal on the final day of competition.

Honourable senators, it was inspiring to watch and follow the successes of Canadian Paralympians the over the course of the world’s second largest sporting event. In fact, the London 2012 Paralympics was the largest ever; 4,294 athletes from 164 countries participated. In terms of the number of athletes, these Paralympics were actually about two thirds larger than the most recent Winter Olympics.

Going forward, our government has a remarkable opportunity to show global leadership in promoting the human rights of persons with disabilities. As the Human Rights Committee’s recent report Level the Playing Fieldrecommends, we must celebrate and recognize Canadian Paralympians in a manner equal and proportional to the way we celebrate and recognize Canadian Olympians.

What does equal and proportional look like? Much as excellence is the not best measured by medal standings, counting new stories and broadcast is only a rough barometer as we work towards equal recognition and celebration for all Canadian athletes. There was about 12 times as much coverage of the Olympics compared to Paralympics on the front pages of newspapers and in nightly newscasts — the difference in total news stories was just too enormous to count. Obviously, we can and we must do better. Our Canadian Paralympians deserve nothing less.

Ultimately, a truly inclusive and unreserved celebration of Canadian sporting excellence means recognizing that Canadian Paralympians are primarily defined not by their disabilities, but by their extraordinary athletic abilities and incredible determination.

I invite honourable senators to join me in recognizing and celebrating the outstanding achievements of Team Canada at the 2012 Paralympic Games.