Why Rick Hansen should be the next Governor General of Canada
Above: Rick Hansen (PHOTO: RICK HANSEN FOUNDATION FACEBOOK)
On January 21, 2021, Julie Payette resigned as our Governor General after a workplace review conducted by the Privy Council Office found evidence of harassment of civil servants in the GG’S office.
With the GG’s sudden departure, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to decide who will be the next Governor General of Canada.
Plenty of names have been tossed around recently. One name that I haven’t heard nearly enough of, though, is Rick Hansen.
I’ll give you a brief rundown and share my personal experiences with him for those who may not know who he is.
Rick Hansen was born on August 26, 1957, in Port Alberni, BC. On June 27, 1973, Rick and his friend Don Alder were involved in a car accident on their way home from a fishing trip. As a result, Rick became paralyzed from the waist down.
From 1979-1984, Rick competed in 19 wheelchair marathons. He won three world titles and 15 medals, including six at the Paralympic Games and nine at the Pan Am Games. In 1979, 1980, and 1982, he was chosen as Canada’s Disabled Athlete of the year.
On March 21, 1985, Rick Hansen and his team began The Man In Motion World Tour. The goal of the tour was to show the world the potential of people with disabilities as well as raise awareness about accessibility. During the tour, Rick raised $26 Million for Spinal Cord Injury Research, rehabilitation and sport programs. From March 21, 1985, to May 22, 1987, Rick wheeled over 40,000 km through 34 countries.
In 1988, The Man In Motion World Tour Society (later named The Rick Hansen Foundation) was formed to raise money to improve the lives of people with disabilities and to support research in Spinal Cord Injury.
Rick Hansen and The Rick Hansen Foundation would later fund several projects across Canada, including here in Ottawa, related to SCI research and other issues related to people with disabilities. After 33 years, the Rick Hansen Foundation is still going, and Rick continues to raise awareness of people with disabilities through public speaking engagements and advocate for change.
I’ve had the honour of meeting Rick Hansen twice.
The first time we met was when his tour stopped in Ottawa. At the time, I was a student at Centennial Public School in Ottawa. I remember boarding a school bus with my classmates, and we all had various disabilities. We headed to Billings Bridge Shopping Centre to meet him as he rolled into the parking lot. I admit that I don’t fully remember all of the exact details from that day, but I recall having a good conversation with Rick.
Funny side story, our meeting was shown as part of his coming home celebration on CBC TV.
Thankfully, I met Rick again many years later, and we again had a great conversation.
I think Rick Hansen would be a perfect choice for our next Governor General for many reasons.
First and foremost, people with disabilities are in dire need of better representation, not just in Canada but globally. We need to be seen as capable of great things just like anybody else and bring more awareness of issues we face.
When Rick Hansen did The Man In Motion World Tour, he sent a message to the world about people with disabilities. He made people take notice of us in a very positive way. Sadly, it seems that the message appears to have been forgotten.
Rick managed to turn a terrible incident into something beautiful which continues to help people with disabilities. He also refused to let anyone or anything get in his way — a message that needs to be seen and heard again worldwide.
Mr Trudeau, if you’re reading this. I feel pretty confident in saying that on behalf of people with disabilities across Canada, we’re asking you to please pick Rick Hansen as the next Governor General of Canada.
Now, more than ever, we need him.