“My vision for sport in Canada is a system that is inclusive and accessible for all.”
This is the statement of intent from Paralympian and successful lawyer Carla Qualtrough who was appointed as Canada’s Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities in November.
The appointment, which puts her in a unique position to drive the Paralympic Movement forward in Canada, marks No. 8 in the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2015.
“The Prime Minister of Canada has appointed a Paralympic athlete to lead sport in our country. This is significant for the Paralympic Movement and beyond,” said Qualtrough, a two-time Paralympian in swimming, who up until earlier this year was Vice-President of the Americas Paralympic Committee.
“I am confident that the story of my journey from Paralympic athlete to athlete leader to Sport Minister will challenge assumptions and change attitudes about persons with disabilities around the world.
“A clear message has also been sent about the equity of para-sport and Paralympic sport - a message that I will echo both within Canada and on the international stage.”
Elected in Delta on 19 October, Qualtrough believes her appointment to the Cabinet in early November highlights the Canadian Government’s commitment to addressing long-standing barriers and inequities faced by people with a disability.
“Never before in Canadian history has there been a Minister of Persons with Disabilities,” she said. “I believe that the significance of my appointment cannot be overstated - particularly given that I myself have a disability.
“I bring this perspective to the Cabinet table, and it informs my contributions well beyond my specific responsibilities. The Prime Minister has ensured that his Cabinet reflects the diversity of the Canadian population, and I am proud to bring the perspective of Canadians with disabilities to the table.”
The former Canadian Paralympic Committee president has big aspirations in her new role, not just for Canada domestically, but globally.
“Our government will support the pursuit of Paralympic and Olympic excellence, while at the same time supporting sport participation at all levels and using sport as a tool for social change,” said Qualtrough, who during the London 2012 Paralympics was the IPC’s Legal Officer.
“With respect to Canadians with a disability, I have a specific mandate to create new legislation that addresses inequity by creating accessibility standards in a number of areas, including employment and services provision.
“My vision is to create an inclusive consultation process leading up to this legislation that serves as a platform for a number of important discussions that need to happen in Canada at the national level. Finally, in both sport and disability, I intend to re-establish Canada as a world leader. Like our Prime Minister is fond of saying: "Canada is Back!"
After a busy seven weeks in her new role, Qualtrough found time to reflect on the significant role the Paralympic Movement has played in her life.
“I attribute my success in other areas in life, including politics, to the lessons I learned through para-sport and my pursuit of Paralympic excellence.
“I hope that my appointment will also inspire Paralympic athletes all over the world to continue to follow their dreams and achieve great things after retiring from competition.”
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.