Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 9 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Monday, February 14, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4:16 p.m. to monitor issues relating to human rights and, inter alia, to review the machinery of government dealing with Canada's international and national human rights obligations (topic: federal programs supporting sports and recreational activities for children and youth with disabilities).
Senator Nancy Ruth (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights was authorized by the Senate to monitor issues relating to human rights and, inter alia, to review the machinery of government dealing with Canada's international and national human rights obligations. Within the context of this broad order of reference, the committee has decided to undertake a study of the federal government's policies and programs pertaining to persons with disabilities in sport and recreational activities, with a particular emphasis on the needs of children and youth under 25 years old and on Canada's obligations under Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Participation in recreational and athletic pursuits not only promotes physical and mental well-being but also challenges the social stigma often associated with disabilities. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities can face significant barriers that can prevent them from becoming involved in such pursuits.
Canadian and international laws confirm the right of persons with disabilities to participate in all aspects of society. Equality rights are guaranteed in Canada's human rights legislation and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Canada accordingly has obligations to implement the convention and to protect the rights to equality and non- discrimination of persons with disabilities, including obligations to enable persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities. In this study, the committee will place particular emphasis on children and youth under 25, as promoting healthy living early on helps to establish good habits that can last into adulthood.
To assist us in understanding what is going on in the current state of affairs, we are pleased to welcome this afternoon, this distinguished panel of four government officials. We have from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Jacques Paquette, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development; and Carmelita Olivotto, Director, Intergovernmental Relations and Special Projects. From Canadian Heritage, we have Martin Boileau, Director General, Sport Canada; and Dan Smith, Director, Policy and Planning, Sport Canada.
The idea for this study comes from Senator Kochhar, who is the President of the Canadian Paralympic Foundation. His push and motivation have brought this group of senators to have a look at what you are up to. Please tell us.
Jacques Paquette, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Income Security and Social Development Branch, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair. I will deliver a few remarks after which Mr. Boileau will have remarks as well.
I am happy to be here with Ms. Olivotto on behalf of HRSDC. I plan to speak about people with disabilities, offer remarks about the efforts of HRSDC with respect to people with disabilities and close with a few words concerning the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
People with disabilities are, as you probably well know, a varied group. Disabilities can occur at any time throughout life. They can be permanent, temporary or episodic, and can range from mild to severe. Approximately 4.4 million Canadians, or 14 per cent of the population, have a disability. This group includes almost 400,000 youth under the age of 24.
School-age children from age 5 to 14 have a disability rate of approximately 4.6 per cent, or about 175,000 people, and the most common types of disability they experience are learning disabilities and chronic conditions such as asthma. The disability rate for youth aged 15 to 24 is about the same, around 4.7 per cent, and we are talking about 195,000 people. Learning, mobility, pain and agility disabilities are the most common reported for this age group.
HRSDC does not have programs or services specifically targeted to people with disabilities and recreation or sport, but we have two types of effects in this domain.
First, our programming for people with disabilities aims in one way or the other to increase the social and economic participation of people with disabilities in Canadian society; namely, in education, work, leisure and culture. Essentially, inclusion in any of these areas fosters inclusion and capacity to engage in other areas. In other words, if a young person with a disability finds employment because of funding we provide to provinces under, for example, the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities, that young person is also more likely to have the capacity to participate in sport and in leisure and recreational activities.
Second, some of our programs fund projects that directly support and facilitate the participation of children and youth with disabilities in sport, leisure and recreational activities. I will give you a few examples.
A program called the Enabling Accessibility Fund aims to improve accessibility, remove barriers — a key factor — and enable Canadians with disabilities to participate in, and contribute to, their communities.
Since the first call for proposals in April 2008, we have funded over 300 projects, a number of which improved accessibility of organizations that provide rehabilitative services for children and recreation opportunities for young people. I can give you more details about this program, if you wish.
As part of this program, two major projects were also funded, including the North East Centre of Community Society in Calgary, and this project will be a 225,000-square-foot complex designed to meet the sport, health, educational and cultural needs of all individuals in Calgary's growing northeast communities, including those with disabilities. The project is a unique model in program and facility design that brings together a variety of partners in one complex to meet individual and community needs.
Another program, the disability component of the Social Development Partnerships Program supports an array of community-based initiatives that effectively address barriers to inclusion in society that people with disabilities face.
For example, through this program we contributed to a project by the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability to provide people with disabilities access to sport, leisure and recreation programs in their community.
With regard to the UN Convention, the Office for Disability Issues in my Branch acts as a focal point across the federal government in relation to this Convention. As such, efforts in the short term will largely consist of working with the Canadian Heritage Human Rights Program to articulate what should be the content of the report.
As we have ratified the Convention, we have to submit a first report in April 2002 on its implementation. We will then work across the federal government to prepare the federal portion of the first report, in time for Canadian Heritage to submit the entire Canada report in April 2012.
Canadian Heritage will coordinate the required consultations with the provinces and territories to obtain their input on the implementation of the agreement.
To support this collaboration and the preparation of a pertinent, high-quality report, HRSDC is establishing a collaborative mechanism to engage other government departments, such as a core group committee with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Justice Canada, and Canadian Heritage, as well as an interdepartmental committee on disability issues.
The Office for Disability Issues, ODI, is also working to raise awareness of the UN convention. For example, a day- long education and study session for 175 federal officials is being organized in March for that specific purpose.
Our longer-term objective is to have, in place, tools to strengthen officials' capacity to consider and integrate disability issues in policies, programs and services of all kinds and not only disability programs; in other words, that disability issues become an integral part of our policy thinking across government.
I will give the microphone now to Martin Boileau.
Martin Boileau, Director General, Sport Canada, Canadian Heritage: Madam Chair, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you about the work that Sport Canada does to promotes the participation of persons with a disability in sports.
As a Branch within the federal Department of Canadian Heritage, Sport Canada strives to enhance opportunities for all Canadians to participate and excel in sport. This is achieved by enhancing the capacity and coordination of the Canadian sport system, encouraging participation in sports and enabling Canadians with talent and dedication to achieve excellence in international sport.
Sport Canada is not a regulatory body. We use our policies and programs to encourage and support our objectives. As the federal government branch responsible for amateur sport, we must also respect the important roles and responsibilities of provinces and territories. For example, we have no mandate or authority in the education system.
When it comes to sport for persons with a disability, the federal government is only one player among many. Other key players include provinces and territories, national, provincial and territorial sport and disability-specific sport organizations, municipalities and, of course, the private sector. However, Sport Canada has played, and continues to play, an important role in sport for persons with a disability.
Since 1993, the Government of Canada, through Sport Canada's policies and the leveraging our funding provides, has encouraged the integration of sport programs for persons with a disability within mainstream national sport organizations.
The Government of Canada announced on June 28, 2006, the Sport Canada Policy on Sport for Persons with a Disability. I think you have a copy of that policy with you.
In 2009-10, Sport Canada contributed over $1.1 million to the Canadian Paralympic Committee to assist with its operation, including the preparation of Team Canada for the Paralympics and the development of a national Paralympic sport system strategy. Through Budget 2010, an increase in federal funding of $5 million per year for the next five years will support the work of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
In 2009-10, Sport Canada provided $1.5 million to Special Olympics Canada to support the participation of persons with an intellectual disability in sport. Through Budget 2010, an additional $1 million per year for the next five years will go to Special Olympics Canada.
Sport Canada also contributes funding to the Canadian Deaf Sports Association, including support for a Canadian team to participate in the international Deaflympics.
Sport Canada provides funding to over 50 national sport organizations, such as Hockey Canada, who are each responsible to govern the practice of their sport in Canada. The funding supports their operations, including the delivery of national level disability sport programs such as Hockey Canada's sledge hockey program.
In 2009-10, Sport Canada contributed over $3 million to national sport organizations for these programs. National sport organizations also undertake a variety of projects to support the participation of Canadians in their sport. In 2009-10, Sport Canada provided over $1 million to national sport organizations for their sport participation projects aimed at persons with a disability.
Through our Athlete Assistance Program, Sport Canada provides direct grants to athletes having the greatest potential to achieve top 16 results at Olympic and Paralympic Games and World Championships. These tax-free federal funds enable athletes to combine their sport and academic or working careers while training intensively in pursuit of world-class performance. In 2009-10, Sport Canada provided almost $3.9 million directly to athletes with a disability. A total of 36 per cent of these paralympic athletes are under the age of 25.
In 2009-10, Sport Canada, based on the recommendations of Own The Podium, provided almost $5.4 million to support the efforts of paralympic sport organizations and their athletes to achieve podium performances at the Paralympic games.
Recognizing that the development pathway for persons with a disability is more complex and involves special considerations, Sport Canada has supported the development of a resource document entitled No Accidental Champions.
Sport Canada is supporting individual sport with the development of their sport-specific model for long-term athlete development, including a component for athletes with a disability in sports such as cross-country skiing and swimming.
In 2009-10, Sport Canada made contributions totalling $275,000 towards the hosting in Canada of international single-sport events in wheelchair athletics, wheelchair basketball, boccia and swimming, as well as the hosting of Défi sportif, an international games with four events for elite and recreational athletes with all types of disabilities. Contributions were also made to Canada Games for events for athletes with a disability.
Canada is proud to be hosting the third edition of the Parapan American Games in 2015. The Government of Canada is contributing $500 million for the hosting of the Pan Am Games and Parapan American Games in 2015.
Sport Canada has also negotiated bilateral agreements with every province and territory that provides federal funding on a matching basis for the efforts of these governments to increase the participation of their citizens in sport. A number of these agreements include initiatives for persons with a disability.
Sport Canada also works collaboratively with provinces and territories to advance the objectives of the Canadian Sport Policy endorsed by all federal-provincial-territorial governments in 2002. This policy has equity and access as one of its principles. The policy stresses that sport be welcoming and inclusive to all under-represented groups, including persons with a disability.
Currently, Sport Canada is chairing the federal-provincial-territorial disability sport work group, whose mandate is to examine issues, challenges and opportunities to increase participation of persons with disabilities in sport, and to recommend a course of action to federal-provincial-territorial governments to address those opportunities.
Clearly, Canadian Heritage, through Sport Canada, is making a significant impact on the participation of persons with a disability in sport in Canada. In total, the Department contributed in 2009 —10 over $17 million dollars towards sport for persons with a disability.
I understand that the committee is particularly interested in how programs and policies target youth under 25 years of age. While the programs of Sport Canada are not specifically targeted at youth, many of our high-performance athletes, as well as many of the participants in the programs that are delivered by the organizations we support, are under 25 years of age.
My colleague Dan Smith and myself will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you for coming here today. I was interested in what you said about the UN and about your preparation. You covered that area well, namely, how you are preparing for the 2012 reporting and how you are working with the departments. We will be interested to know how that participation goes.
My question is on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. What particular impact has the convention had on programs of sport with persons of disabilities?
Mr. Paquette: First, when we signed the convention — and, before ratification — we went through the usual process that any country goes through, which is to see if we are compliant. In other words, is there any need to change our legislation? We, as well as the provinces and the territories, went through that process. At that stage, the conclusion was that we had both the legislation and the protection in place to ratify it. We ratify it when we are compliant.
As I said in my remarks, first, we are pursuing awareness throughout the department to ensure that everyone is well aware not only of the convention but also of the content and meaning of some of these articles. Second, through that discussion and coordination with other departments, we are trying to identify where we must place more effort. That effort is what we must identify, in consultation with the communities, to see where they want priorities to be placed.
One important element of the first report that will be prepared in April 2012 is that this report will serve as a benchmark for us. With the convention, we see the importance progressively evolving with these rights. We need to have a starting point and the first report will be the benchmark. That report will indicate the kind of progress we are achieving over the years. We must pursue regular reporting.
Senator Jaffer: My next question concerns Article 30 of the convention. I know that you know what that article is, but I will summarize it for the people who are watching this proceeding. The convention affirms that persons with disabilities have the same rights as others to participate in and enjoy sports, arts and other cultural activities. On one level, the convention is intended to ensure that such sites as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services are accessible to everyone.
Are any new programs in development as a result of Article 30 and especially Article 35 of the convention?
Mr. Paquette: Regarding Article 30, on the participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport, a program that was in place, the Enabling Accessibility Fund, EAF, came to an end in terms of its three-year span. In the last budget — that is, at the time that the convention was ratified, which was in Budget 2010 — the program was renewed by the government. In other words, another $45 million over three years was announced in the last budget. At the moment, we are in the process of completing the assessment of the first series of projects that was submitted.
I refer to this program because it has two main components, and I want to talk about the one specifically for small projects. These projects are roughly up to $75,000, and any organization can submit a proposal. We called for proposals. In fact, we received a lot of proposals across the country.
An amount up to $75,000 is available to make buildings that are accessible to the public more accessible. When we say ``building,'' we are talking across the board. In this case, we will see a lot of projects that deal with community centres, for example. Buildings can be churches, because churches have religious services but are often used as community centres as well. This type of program will facilitate access, across the communities, to recreation, leisure and so on, and it will remove some the barriers that the community of people with disabilities face across the country. This program is something we think will continue to have a significant impact in dealing with that specific article.
Senator Zimmer: Thank you for your presence and participation. Please pardon my voice, as I have a bit of cold. What are some of the barriers and challenges encountered by persons with disability who want to participate in recreational and sport activities, and what do you consider some of the potential solutions? It is a general question.
Mr. Paquette: I will say a few things. The first is that we know that the situation of people with disabilities varies a lot, for all kinds of reasons, including the nature of their disability, which means that the barriers also vary a lot. It is hard to give one general answer. When we look at some of the percentages, they vary significantly in terms of participation in sports and leisure, depending on the condition of the person. You can imagine that the spectrum is wide.
We notice that participation in sport and recreation, especially sport and exercise, is higher for youth between 15 and 24 years old. There is a peek at those ages, and I must admit that when we look at the general population, there is also a peek at those ages, and it is a problem that sometimes participation after age 25 goes down. That is another problem. In other words, we see a similar tendency for people with disabilities.
The other factor that we look at is where people are. Overall, situations are similar whether in a rural area or urban area, with two exceptions. One is the facility. The barrier, the absence of facility or accessibility to the facility is stronger in rural areas compared to urban areas. When we look at what prevents people from participating in sports and so on, the percentage is not high, but there is an element there. The other exception is that some people need assistance, and this situation is the reverse. Apparently it is easier to have assistance when they are in a rural area than in an urban area. The reason might be because the community is stronger in a rural area. When we look at the stats, these two factors vary. The rest are all the same, whether they are in a rural or an urban area.
I will go back to the facilities. This factor is number one, in my mind. If they do not have access to the facility, we can invest efforts and so on but that will not have the impact we want, so it is essential to make the facilities accessible and work on the other elements that support people.
I will add as well that, as you might know, a fitness tax credit was introduced a few years ago to allow parents to claim up to $500 for expenditures associated with physical activities in sports. The program is for people 16 years old and younger, and for people with disabilities, up to 18 years old, so there is a slight difference. I say that because that tax credit is also to facilitate participation when cost is an issue.
Dan Smith, Director, Policy and Planning, Sport Canada, Canadian Heritage: Building on what Mr. Paquette mentioned, one of the aspects is making people aware of the programs available to them. There are persons with disability that have that disability congenitally and other people who acquire it at some point later in life. Being aware of the programs and services available is one aspect that needs to be addressed. The socio-economic aspect is another important factor, and Mr. Paquette dealt with that factor.
More specific to sport, specialized equipment, for example, is required to participate in a number of paralympic sports, and access to coaching and other types of leadership, including the classification system to determine what disability group they belong to in terms of competitive sport. Those are other examples.
The other one I noted has been covered already. It was facility access, but also accessing transportation to those facilities for persons with disabilities.
Senator Zimmer: How well does the Government of Canada understand and respond to the needs of persons with disabilities, and will it be prepared to respond to these needs as they evolve in the future?
Mr. Paquette: Do you mean in general terms, not only in sport and leisure?
Senator Zimmer: Yes, briefly.
Mr. Paquette: Briefly, I would say that it is a significant issue on which the government is working. The government, and HRSDC in particular, has a suite of programs specifically targeted toward people with disabilities. When we talk to the community, one of the main issues that comes up is integration into the labour market, for example, which was and continues to be a significant challenge that we have to address. For example, we have programs like opportunity funds that work with employers. We have labour market agreements with provinces for people with disabilities because there are also many tools at the provincial level.
In the context of the economic action plan, a suite of measures was put into place specifically to support people with disabilities. Overall, the issue is clearly something significant. The fact that we ratified the UN convention quickly was a demonstration that this issue was important for the government.
If you ask the community, they will tell you that the work toward the ratification of that convention was completed through close collaboration between the community and the government, which proved we are able not only to work together but to produce concrete results. This collaboration is something we want to continue, and we have regular discussions with different organizations representing the community for that purpose. We want to see a real impact at the end, and a real result, because we want to ensure that, in the life of people with disabilities, there will be a real improvement in some cases. In other cases, there will be solidification of the economic gain they have made.
Senator Zimmer: In your view, does the participation of persons with disability in sport and recreational activities challenge the social stigmas surrounding disabilities and promote equality of right, and, if so, how? I want to add a comment at the end.
Mr. Smith: One of the trends over the last 15 to 20 years is the amount of integration of so-called mainstream sport with sport for persons with disabilities. For example, the national swim team holds their national championships where they have athletes with disabilities competing at the same competition as mainstream athletes. That integration contributes to the visibility of sport for persons with a disability; it puts them on a relatively equal footing with their able-bodied counterparts; and adds to the importance attached to sport for athletes with disabilities and to their sense that they are every bit as much a part of the national team as the other athletes. Swimming is one of the best examples of that integration. We see that in athletics, cycling and other events as well. That is one example of an area where it comes to the fore.
Senator Zimmer: Two years ago, Senator Kochhar and I co-chaired a fundraiser at the Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario. The Stronach family donated the entire facility. We raised close to $200,000 for the Paralympics. We are noticing that the Paralympics, the Paralympians and people with disabilities are an inspiration when we see what they have overcome, and the smiles when they spoke. It was an inspiration to listen to them. I think there is not only an increasing awareness but also that they are moving ahead of other athletes in popularity. Good luck and God bless.
Senator Hubley: Thank you for your presentations. My first question is to Mr. Paquette. When you told us about the Enabling Accessibility Fund, you closed by saying that if we needed more details, you would be willing to provide them. You have provided more information in your answers. I will ask about the services for children. What age group are we looking at when we talk about children in the context of opportunities for young people? Is it 6 years and under or ages 6 to 10 years? It is important to establish age parameters. Is it only age 25 years and under?
Mr. Paquette: Let us start at the beginning. We do not count children under 5 years of age because the physical development of children is much more difficult to assess. We begin at the age of 5 years and continue until they are no longer kids. That age will vary.
We do not necessarily have a fixed range in terms of age because it varies according to program, for example. For example, student loans can be in place as long as the person is studying. Student loans do not stop when the student is 18 years old. Depending on the purpose of the program, the age may vary. I referred to the fitness tax credit, which applies to the age of 16 years. Often the programs are put in place to look after an issue that we want to address. We apply the parameters to target the issue for various reasons.
I am not sure that I can provide you with a clear definition of ``youth'' or ``young people.''
Senator Hubley: Is programming information available through medical doctors? Is that one avenue of informing young parents of young people with disabilities that programs are available? How do you deliver the information to the people who need it?
Mr. Paquette: There are different measures, as for any government program. In our case, we use Service Canada with its many areas of service across the country to make sure that the information is available. We also work a lot with national organizations such as those that represent the community of people with disabilities.
For example, we work within communities to ensure that they know about the Registered Disability Savings Plan. We had three-year targets for that program and the take-up shows that we have achieved those targets in only one year. Obviously, we work well with organizations representing communities to ensure that the information is available through various means. That is how we make these programs known.
Senator Hubley: It was noted by Sports Canada that you have no mandate or authority in the education system. Is that a deterrent or barrier to children with disabilities?
Mr. Boileau: Clear roles and responsibilities can be an opportunity. Our focus in sport is at the high performance level. Municipalities focus at the community level, and provincial governments focus at the provincial level. It might be a barrier in some cases, but we have clear roles and responsibilities. That is only an opinion on my part.
Mr. Smith: Collaborative mechanisms exist between the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments in the area of sport, physical activity and recreation. Those mechanisms are a way of bringing forward to our provincial and territorial colleagues ideas or issues related to sport. Following that, there is a mechanism for discussion. Governments, in turn, can liaise with their respective education ministry colleagues where that need applies. It provides an indirect way of having that discussion.
Senator Hubley: The Canadian Sport Policy does not address issues in much detail that pertain to Canadians with disabilities. Do you agree or disagree? Given the current emphasis on Participaction, should more attention be placed on persons with disabilities under this policy? What issues affect this area?
Mr. Smith: When reading the Canadian Sport Policy we do not see many references to sport for persons with disabilities. However, the policy was developed at a system-wide level and looked at issues that apply across the board within the values and principles.
Equity and access are some of the fundamental principles being advanced through the Canadian Sport Policy. Sport Canada has taken the pan-Canadian policy, which applies at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, and used it to build the Policy on Sport for Persons with a Disability. We did the same for sport for Aboriginal persons and in our recent revision of the policy, sport for women and girls.
They are mentioned in the policy, but the policy was intended to apply system-wide. During the consultations for the Canadian Sport Policy, there was significant engagement not only with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, the Special Olympics Canada and the Canadian Deaf Sports Association but also with Paralympic athletes and others involved in sports for athletes with disabilities. We are about to embark on a renewal of the Canadian Sport Policy. It has a vision through to 2012. In that next phase, sport for persons with a disability will be an important component of the consultation for this new policy.
Senator Kochhar: Thank you, witnesses. You have done an excellent job in presenting the policies of the federal government.
I am in a learning mode. You said, Mr. Boileau, that the government is spending $17 million on athletes with disabilities. You mentioned the Office for Disability Issues. Is the $17 million a combined figure from Canadian Heritage and the sports ministry, or is that figure separate?
I want to find out how much money you allocate for able-bodied sports compared to disabled sports. I will ask a number of questions. You can answer them as you feel like later on.
As you know, 37 per cent of able-bodied kids participate in some kind of physical activity and sports, whereas only 3 per cent of disabled kids participate in any kind of physical activity. The gap is too wide for my comfort. That gap must be narrowed. I congratulate the federal government; in five years you have done many good things, but you still have a long way to go.
Proportionate to population of abled and disabled, what percentage goes to able-bodied people and what percentage goes to disabled people?
Mr. Boileau: Thank you for the question. When I referred in my remarks to the $17 million, I was referring only to Sport Canada programs. If I use numbers from 2009-10, those numbers do not include the new money, the $5 million for the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the $1 million supplementary for the Special Olympics.
The total budget of Sport Canada was $118 million. For people with a disability the budget was $17 million. It is close to 15 per cent. I have 14.4 per cent here, more or less. I can explain how the budget is divided. If you are familiar with the Own the Podium initiative in 2009-10, the part that we can attribute to athletes with a disability is about $5 million out of a budget of $34 million.
If you look at the Athlete Assistance Program, which has a budget of $26 million, almost $4 million is for athletes with a disability. For the national sports organizations that we fund, it is directly $3 million out of $35 million. I can probably provide you with more detail on that breakdown if you want. That breakdown is for the $17 million, but on the other aspect of the question I will turn to Mr. Paquette.
Mr. Paquette: For HRSDC, I can give you a few numbers for a few programs. For HRSDC itself, we fund a suite of programs specifically for people with disabilities.
I spoke about the Enabling Accessibility Fund, EAF. We had the first $45 million over three years, and in the last budget there was new funding of $45 million over the next three years. That money is purely to fund accessibility projects.
I spoke about the disabilities component of the Social Development Partnerships Program. This funding is $11 million per year. That money is to fund the different components, but some components are to support national organizations that deal specifically with people with disabilities. Part of that money is also for specific projects, and another part is for what we call the Community Inclusion Initiative, and that initiative is specifically for people with intellectual disabilities.
Finally, there is a small accommodation fund, which is to provide support for conferences, for example, so organizers can use devices to make the conference accessible to people with disabilities.
The Opportunities Fund, which is the fund that deals with businesses and so on to support employment, specifically, this budget is $30 million per year. That budget is purely for that purpose.
The Registered Disability Savings Plan is a special program. When people have a child who is disabled, they can open this plan and put money in. It is a bit like the other one; the growth of the plan and the interest that is within this amount; but there are grants and there are bonds that are provided in some cases to match the money put into these plans by the government. Sometimes we match one to three, for example. For people who have a low income, there is also money put into the plan by the government the moment it is open, even if there is no money put into it by the family of the person. That plan is to build financial resources for that person in the future. So far, if we talk about how much has been invested by the government, we are talking about roughly $200 million for this specific plan.
With the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities, we have labour market agreements in general for everyone, and in addition, we have labour market agreements with provinces for people with disabilities. For these agreements, we transfer money to the provinces but with specific objectives. That amount is $223 million per year.
Senator Kochhar: Do you have some kind of listing for the public, a booklet that specifies what Canadian Heritage does and what the ministry of sports does, so the public can find out who to approach and what is available? I realize health, sports and education are the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments and not of the federal government, and we still have fairly good budgets. Are any booklets available in which you describe the kinds of programs offered by Canadian Heritage and the kinds of programs supported by the sports ministry?
Mr. Paquette: In Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, we can provide the information to which I referred. All the information is on the department website. As you said, in some cases, the money is transferred to the provinces according to agreements, but in other cases we administer money directly to organizations or to support specific projects.
Senator Kochhar: Can you supply that list?
Mr. Paquette: Yes, I can.
Senator Kochhar: How about you, Mr. Boileau?
Mr. Boileau: We have three programs in Sport Canada: the Athlete Assistance Program, the Sport Support Program and the Hosting Program. The information is on our website. We do not have a paper booklet that can be distributed, but our clients use the website to make application to Sport Canada.
National sport organizations or organizations that want to host events use our website.
Senator Kochhar: Do you have it written down in a format so that ignorant people like me can understand it?
Mr. Boileau: We absolutely can prepare a document for you, sir.
Mr. Paquette: Can I add something? I have been reminded that I approved something not long ago that I did not remember. We have a Federal Disability Report that we publish every year that brings together all the information about disability programs for the federal government. This report is thick. We will provide copies to the members of the committee and then you will have the entire picture.
Senator Kochhar: Mr. Boileau, all the programs you listed are generated from the pride in Vancouver that we accomplished so much in the Olympics and Paralympics. You are trying to develop programs to help and train our elite athletes reach the podium and to go to London to win more medals. However, I think that money is not being filtered down to make a feeder system so that the kids in different territories and provinces can be trained to substitute for athletes who are retiring, for example, like Chantal Petitclerc, who won five gold medals. Unless we can filter a fair amount of money into the programs for elite athletes, when the time comes for the Olympics in London, we will be disappointed — that is, unless we can filter the money to the agencies where they are trained, like Paralympics Ontario in Toronto, Variety Village or a lot of other centres all across the country.
Have you given any thought to that training so that we can have the best overall results for our country and ensure that we encourage kids with disabilities to take part in activities and sports?
Mr. Boileau: We are injecting money into the entire sport system. By hosting events, we create infrastructure and legacy. These events create opportunities for our athletes, including our young athletes — the feeders, as we call them — to participate and use those facilities. The money we inject into the hosting program helps these athletes.
On the other aspect, we increased our contribution to national sport organizations, and we also increased our money to the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Special Olympic Committee. We invest money in bilateral agreements with provinces and territories. Some of that money is not only for the elite athletes.
In the last budget, there was money for the Own the Podium initiative that mainly feeds our excellence strategy, but there are other components for the entire sport system.
Mr. Smith: Some of the significant new funding is going to the Canadian Paralympic Committee. The committee also identified this issue. They are aware that they need to do something about recruiting new athletes to replace some of the athletes that will retire or need to be pushed, as happens in able-bodied sport. The committee is looking at ways to reach down to the grassroots level to collaborate with their provincial counterparts to have a better development system for athletes. That is one of the priorities and challenges that have been identified.
I think you may have a copy of this document as well, No Accidental Champions. In last eight years, there has been an initiative called Canadian Sport for Life, the long-term athlete development model. Many people are interpreting that initiative as a way of having more high-performance athletes in the future. This initiative is a way of having a better system so that we can enable more of our top athletes to achieve excellence at the international level.
Every bit as important is involving more young people in sport and having a positive experience when they are involved so they will stay in sport for life. This particular model was developed specifically for athletes with a physical or motor disability — and there is an equivalent one for athletes with an intellectual disability — to try to look at ways of dealing with the entire system, from the grassroots to high performance and, once an athlete retires, to keep them in the system as a coach, volunteer or leader so they can continue to contribute.
Senator Kochhar: I am familiar with the programs the Canadian Paralympic Committee offers. I do not see them spending adequate money in the provincial bodies. Perhaps one way to encourage the provincial governments is give a portion of matching funds to them. I know that Paralympics Ontario receives $133,000 from the provincial government to run programs and to train their local provincial athletes. That funding barely pays for the rent where they are located. The Canadian Paralympic Committee has increased their budget from $1.25 million plus another amount, which totals about $7 million a year. They received a big boost to look after the elite athletes. While it is gratifying and encouraging to see our athletes climb the podium, it is embarrassing that the people at Variety Village do not receive a nickel, and the provincial sector does not receive a nickel. If I know about the programs you offer, maybe I can help groups access the system and encourage them to show you what they can do so you can help them and vice versa. I am talking about our athletes who are trying to climb the ladder — not those who are already there, but those who are trying to climb the first few steps and to continue upwards. Those athletes come from the local organizations.
Mr. Boileau: We will ensure that senators have proper documentation.
I want to mention something encouraging that happened in Halifax last week. We had a federal-provincial- territorial meeting. In the past, we have been talking mostly about physical activities and sport, but not necessarily excellence and high performance.
At the suggestion of one of the provincial ministers, there will be a federal-provincial-territorial table on high performance and excellence at the provincial level. I understand what you are saying about the gap between the community and the federal government in our excellence strategy. However, with the involvement of provinces and territories, we will be in a situation, hopefully, to reduce that gap.
The Chair: To Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, I want to have a better understanding of these people we are talking about and who we are interested in most. Regarding Canadians with disabilities, who are these people who are 25 years and younger? I suspect you will not have the information; the clerk will be happy to receive it. How many Canadians are in that group? In what provinces and territories do they live? Where is the largest group within Canada? What is the urban-rural breakdown? What is the gender split? What do we know about participation levels in recreation and organized sport at this point in time by disability, age and gender? I am happy to give you a copy of these questions.
I understand that many people in the under 25 group may still be at home. I want to know more about the economic status of families with disabled children and about disabled youth who are living independently. What do we know about their economic status, for example, with respect to income? How does that status compare to other Canadian teenagers or families?
I am also interested in what disabled persons, particularly young people who are disabled, express as their priorities for their lives. Do you conduct a survey of what is most important to them? Some of the feedback that has come from the disabled community is, why are you doing sport: priorities are jobs, housing and access to education. That is partly why I ask if there is any data behind participation in sport, besides people who send me emails. Is there other data about what disabled people have as their needs and desires? Where does recreation and sport feature in their views anyhow? Since there seems to be so few of them engaged in recreation and sport — there may be a multiple of reasons — I would like to know what you know or do not know.
For the Canadian Heritage officials, I will also give you a page of questions. The list is much the same as the first list I asked. I am interested in what disabled persons, particularly young people who are disabled, express as their priorities for their lives. Do we have the survey or other data about what are their needs or desires?
Where does recreation and sport feature in their views? How does the Canadian policy on sport for persons with disabilities measure up against what young disabled Canadians want to see?
The 2006 Policy on Sport for Persons with a Disability commits to an action plan and to evaluation of the outcomes of that action plan. Can you speak to the key elements of the action plan, and table them with the committee? Can you also speak to the evaluations of that action plan that you have undertaken and table these evaluations?
Can you explain what is meant by long term athlete development? How does this development relate to the sport- for-life requirements for sport-governing bodies? What responsibility do sport-governing bodies have for making equity groups a priority, and what progress has been made on equity? Of course, when I say ``equity,'' I am talking, in part, about gender equity. How are sport-governing bodies accountable for their process of addressing the needs and desires of various equity groups within the whole community?
I will split up those questions and hand them to you, and you can take a crack at some of them now or you can answer in writing later, as you wish. What would you like to do?
Mr. Paquette: I will start with the big ones by saying that we will provide you with the information. You are asking pointed questions. For some of the questions, I am confident that we have the information. For others, I am far from sure that we have any information on them, so we will provide the information that we have, especially by province, where they are and so on. We will provide as much as we can.
The economic situation becomes more difficult because it is always the same thing. The economic situation of children is usually the economic situation of the family, so the question is more about family.
The Chair: Do we know if there are many disabled young people living independently, say under age 20? There may be more between the ages of 20 and 25. Is this a phenomenon at all?
Mr. Paquette: I suspect it depends on the degree of disability or the condition of the person; mild or severe. We can look at this information as well. For example, for the labour market, we have statistics, I suspect. What is not clear is if we have data for ages 18 to 25 versus the adults, but we will look at what we have.
We will provide you with everything we have on this subject. If we think that we can find additional information that might be useful for the committee, we will include that information.
The Chair: Is there a survey of what these young people want? If they had X number of dollars and could wave a magic wand at the federal government, how would they spend the money, and where does sport come into that list?
Mr. Paquette: Are you talking about young kids?
The Chair: Yes, disabled.
Mr. Paquette: If you were to ask the same question of any population in Canada, I am not sure that we would have that information necessarily either.
I will say one word about sport. In my mind, sport is an element, and I would say recreation and culture is also the same thing. They are components of integration into society. Labour market or employment is a key element, in our mind, because that is where we find the financial support we need to live our lives. The other element is essential in integrating into society and being part of the community.
I would say it is not one or the other. We need to ensure that we remove barriers that will prevent participation in these different sectors — culture, sport and labour market. That is probably how the convention is drafted too. They look at all sectors of activity to ensure there are no barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating if they wish to do so, and that is what we have to work towards.
The Chair: Will Canadian Heritage comment now or leave it for later?
Mr. Boileau: We will come back to you with some of the answers. We have at least one survey that we can look at when we are back at the office, and that is the status of the athlete survey. We use that survey to guide our program on the athlete assistance program. We will definitely look at that survey.
I will ask Mr. Smith to give you a quick overview of Long Term Athlete Development Model, LTAD, and a little bit on accountability.
Mr. Smith: The Long Term Athlete Development Model intends to take an approach that is based on growth and development principles. It looks at stages of development. It does not rely only on chronological age but looks at the developmental age of athletes. It builds on that development, ensuring that athletes are provided with an appropriate introduction to training and competition that is commensurate with their stage of development. The model aims to have optimal development and not end up with situations where kids are turned off sport at an early age because it is far too competitive and too organized — organized in the negative sense — and they drop out of sport.
The idea is that all children need an introduction to what we call physical literacy. Just as we have literacy generally in the education system, the model looks at physical literacy and some of the basic, fundamental movement skills that all children require. We build on those skills to introduce the development of sport skills and then we gradually introduce competition.
One of the other principles is avoiding early specialization other than in sports like gymnastics, which is an early specialization sport with elite athletes at a young age, particularly for females, and less so for males, but they are still relatively young. The model tries to redesign the system in Canada, so that we have proper introduction of basic skills, building on those with fundamental sports skills, and then gradually introducing competition.
Seven stages of development have been identified. The model starts with an active start, which is age three to five, and sometimes even younger, where kids are exposed to balance and to different kinds of movement that might include movement in water or movement on ice, but those kinds of things. They are the fundamentals.
Then there is learning to train, and these are catch-phrases used to describe the various stages: training to train, training to compete and training to win.
The last stage is called active for life, and it tries to keep people in the system, whether as a participant, like me playing old-timers' hockey, or whether it is someone that comes back into the system and gives back as a coach or a volunteer in a community sport association.
For No Accidental Champions, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, in their consultations, advised there is probably a need for two additional stages: they have an awareness-raising stage, and unfortunately I do not remember the name of other particular stage. They have added other stages that are more specific to sport for persons with a disability.
Implementing such a system will require a significant change in the way that sport has been organized in the past. Already many sport organizations are implementing it gradually.
We believe the model will do two things. It will contribute to better performances for our top athletes in the future, and it will also ensure that since children's first exposure to sport is a positive one and they have the fundamental basics to enjoy competition and participating in sport, they will stay in sport for a longer period of time.
The Chair: Of all the dollars you give out to both able-bodied and disabled athletes, how much of it goes to boys and girls or men and women?
Mr. Smith: I will get back to you with the specifics.
The Chair: It would be great if you would.
Mr. Smith: Yes.
The Chair: You talked about the complex in Calgary that was built recently, saying that it will work for disabled athletes. It will function for them. What has Canada contributed regarding money to build the facilities for the Pan Am Games, including the viewing structures and transportation access to the games?
Mr. Boileau: We are providing an overall contribution to the Pan American Games and the Parapan American Games, and to the host society of $500 million. Of that amount, $50 million is for essential federal services, and the balance is mainly for infrastructure and legacies. The host society is developing a business plan for the venues, which they will submit to Canadian Heritage in the coming months. Of course, we do not have their full business and implementation plans.
The Chair: They have not yet received the $500 million.
Mr. Boileau: Absolutely not.
The Chair: How will you use that clout to make these facilities the best possible for the disabled who are viewing the games and who are participating in the games?
Mr. Boileau: We have a multi-party agreement and a contribution agreement with the host society whereby they have to meet certain criteria, including official languages and accessibility.
The Chair: Can you share with us the criteria around accessibility?
Mr. Boileau: Yes.
The Chair: For clarification, the Canadian Paralympic Committee receives $5 million per year.
Mr. Boileau: Correct.
The Chair: Is any of this money to be set aside as an endowment, or is it a case of money in and money out?
Mr. Boileau: There is no endowment. We are in the first year, so I will give you a few examples of what the new money will be used for. There is a changing-mind, changing-life program for schools. There is an international hosting strategy, the LTAD system development. There is money for coaching, para-sport equipment, a national public awareness campaign and a sustainable business model.
The Chair: Are any of these things put through a gender lens? If not, would you consider making gender part of the criteria of that committee?
Mr. Boileau: We will get back to the committee with that information.
The Chair: We would be happy to talk to you about it.
Senator Kochhar: You have given $5 million per year to the Canadian Paralympic Committee for developing sports: the Own The Podium program, the heroes program and other programs. However, none of the programs is set up as a feeder system. Perhaps it is geared for that system in the proposal but not in practice. Will you receive a report from them to ensure that a substantial amount of that money is spent on a feeder system to help develop young athletes at the local level? That is for the Canadian Paralympic committee.
You said that you have committed $500 million to the Pan American and Parapan American Games. I understand that they will divide the games into Parapan American Games and Pan American Games, each with two weeks, like the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.
You were in New Delhi, India, for the Commonwealth Games, where they were able to roll both games into one segment. I understand that if the Pan American Games and the Parapan American Games combine, it will save them over $200 million by having only one opening ceremony and one closing ceremony, and not wasting infrastructure and local authorities on an extra two weeks. I want to ensure that when the proposal comes to you, you will consider amalgamating the Pan American Games and the Parapan American Games.
Once the committee receives the $500 million, I am sure they will come back to you for another $500 million. It is better to take into consideration how you can produce more with $500 million.
Mr. Boileau: I will try to answer in part your two questions.
In terms of money for a feeder system and for Own The Podium, there was $5 million per year for La Relève, which identifies talent for future years. Of course, this money will not go to the Canadian Paralympic Committee but to the Own The Podium initiative more directly.
Just as the International Olympic Committee manages the Olympics and the International Paralympic Committee manages the Paralympics, the Pan American Sports Organization, PASO, will manage the Pan/Parapan American Games. Toronto 2015 is following the guidance of this international organization.
Part of the bid process for Toronto was to follow those procedures, and to have a two-week gap between the events. I will add my views to yours in terms of what was achieved in the Commonwealth system and in New Delhi specifically. We saw the advantage of the integration. However, the event is managed by an international body, and the Toronto 2015 host society is simply following the rules. I assume that for 2015, the Pan/Parapan American Games will have a gap of two weeks between the two events.
The Chair: Nothing can be done about that rule at this stage.
Mr. Boileau: That is correct.
The Chair: That gap is part of the deal.
Mr. Boileau: That is correct. That was part of our bid process. In accepting to host the games, we also accepted the rules of the international body.
Senator Kochhar: You do not know what the rules are. Will they have separate games?
Mr. Boileau: They will have two separate games: the Pan Am and the Parapan Am.
Senator Zimmer: Is that what you want or is that what they gave you? Do you know what I mean?
Mr. Boileau: Yes.
Senator Zimmer: Would you prefer to have the games at the same time? Do you have to accept that rule because that is the best you can do right now?
Mr. Boileau: That was one of the conditions around the bid for the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. The host society and the funding partner accepted this requirement at the bid phase. We have to implement this requirement now that we are hosting the games in Toronto.
The Chair: What would be the legal or other consequences if you chose to do differently for Canada? My question is absolutely hypothetical and speculative because they set the bid criteria. How do you change structures? Can you stage the games in a different way now that you have the games and the government has put up $500 million?
Mr. Boileau: If that change was the position of the funding partners — the municipal, provincial and federal governments, we would have had to state that position in the bid process. Now that the games have been awarded to Toronto, we have the legal obligation to follow the rules.
The Chair: If this group of senators could deal with their municipal and provincial cohorts, the world might change.
Senator Kochhar: There might be the legal obligation, but if the federal government and the organizing body of the Pan Am Games feel that combining the games would save a considerable amount of money and bring equality to the able-bodied and disabled athletes and give their medals the same prestige, would you encourage them to go back to the international organization and try to influence them to change their policy?
Would the federal government participate in that power of persuasion? The way the committee is going right now, they will be coming back for another $200 million. If you give them any more money, you should be able to persuade them to go to the international committee.
Mr. Boileau: I totally understand your position. At this moment, the Government of Canada is not entertaining the idea of funding more money to host the Pan-Am and the Parapan American Games. It is a $500 million contribution in total for infrastructure, legacy and essential federal services. I understand your point.
The Chair: It is all right. It is okay. We are here; you are there. We do different jobs. It is fine.
On the UN reporting back to the HRSDC, we have jumped through this kind of hoop on other issues and other conventions that are coordinated through Justice Canada or Canadian Heritage. What will those 175 people study for one day? Why are there no non-governmental organizations involved in the reporting mechanism?
Mr. Paquette: Even if the convention was ratified, this piece of legislation is comprehensive and we want to ensure the discussion over that day is with people from all departments.
The Chair: Are they from all territories and provinces or only federal?
Mr. Paquette: They are only federal. This discussion is our role as a federal focal point. We bring in our colleagues and explain to them what the convention means and what implication it has in the way they develop their programs, projects and initiatives. What I said at the beginning was that we want to ensure that people do not think that this convention applies only to programs specifically dedicated to people with disabilities. It has to penetrate all the programming of the government across the board. In other words, we want to go beyond the converted, those ones who are already aware and working on issues dealing with people with disabilities. We want to go beyond this work.
The Chair: Is it to integrate the perception of disability into all the fingers of government?
Mr. Paquette: Exactly: This process is basically awareness and education.
The Chair: Are there any women-specific sports groups for disabled women or girls? Do we know? I know there are women's sports groups, but are there any for disabled women and girls? Can you have a search and let me know?
Mr. Smith: Can I have clarification of what you mean?
The Chair: Are there women-specific sports groups for disabled girls and women?
Mr. Smith: There are no women-specific groups. Other than the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, which receives funding from Sport Canada, we no longer provide funding to any gender-specific organizations. They were all encouraged to amalgamate as one organization. It used to be that there was the Canadian Women's Field Hockey Association and the Canadian Field Hockey Association. Now there is Field Hockey Canada, Swimming Canada and Hockey Canada. All of them have an obligation and responsibility to provide programming for both male and female athletes.
The Chair: How are they doing?
Mr. Smith: For the most part, they are doing reasonably well. I mentioned earlier that the Government of Canada and Sport Canada had recently conducted a review and updated the policy on sport for women and girls. The original one had been in place since 1986. In 2009, the new version was completed.
As part of that process, we looked at where progress was being made. From a participant's point of view, there is good participation and relative gender equity among participant groups. Where we have significant issues is with leaders and coaches, as an example, where there is still an under-representation or under-engagement of women as coaches and board members in sport organizations.
Senator Andreychuk: I have several questions. One is a follow-up to Senator Zimmer's comments or questions. What are the greatest impediments now? It used to be attitude and information, and then it was physical infrastructure. I have not updated myself — perhaps others on the committee have — but what are the impediments to having the disabled involved in sports and leisure when that involvement seems to be the agenda for all of us? Where are you putting your emphasis now?
Mr. Smith: Examples of those barriers were the ones related to access to facilities. Access is something that is being addressed. I am sure that we will need to continue to address access.
Awareness is another important example, and not only awareness at the national level, because we deal primarily with national sport organizations like the Canadian Paralympic Committee and they, in turn, have relationships with their provincial counterparts. Swimming Canada will have interaction with its provincial counterpart.
We do not become involved directly at that level. However, we make people aware of the programs that are available and also move out to the mainstream population, involving them as coaches and leaders as well, and making them more aware so they can pass that information on to persons with a disability. I cannot pinpoint one specific element. A myriad of factors are all interconnected.
Senator Andreychuk: Coming from the community itself, where is the emphasis now? I was involved in the past when the emphasis was on infrastructure — making the buildings and the field facilities acceptable. Where are we now from a community point of view?
Mr. Smith: Coaching is one. Ensuring coaches are aware of any specific needs of athletes with a disability in comparison to mainstream athletes is an example. Another example is ensuring we have persons not only with a disability trained as coaches but also able-bodied persons who can be coaches and include athletes with a disability as part of a training group, for example, in a community sport association or a sport club. That area is important.
In some sports, equipment is an important factor. A basketball player needs running shoes, a uniform and a basketball. In wheelchair basketball, the technology is such that athletes require a particular type of wheelchair to participate in that sport. Providing more access for persons with a disability to sport wheelchairs, and they are different for each sport as well, is another important component. I know the Canadian Paralympic Committee is trying to provide that access in dealing with their provincial counterparts.
Mr. Boileau: Specific sports science and medicine is also something that has been looked at more and more. Mr. Paquette wants to add something as well.
Mr. Paquette: I can keep going if you wish and provide more information. That information is based on the data we have from 2006. The question was regarding leisure activities and what barriers prevented people with disabilities from participating.
We are looking at children specifically. The number one barrier, 40 per cent, was their condition. That was an issue. The second one was that participation is too expensive, and that is leisure, not only sports, so that barrier is broader, followed by needs some assistance. The barrier of costs was30 per cent and the barrier of needing assistance was 14 per cent. Then transportation service inadequate was at 13 per cent; and no facilities or program available in the community was at 10 per cent. Facilities, equipment or program not accessible is only 5.8 per cent.
Obviously, a lot of progress was made because that barrier does not seem to be a major barrier compared to others. Finally, needed specialized equipment not available is at 3.9 per cent, but that is leisure. It includes a lot of activities, including sport.
Senator Andreychuk: You now take that database into account in your policies. How have you shifted with that information?
Mr. Paquette: When we say that participation is too expensive, for example, the fitness tax credit can help. The incentive provides a tax credit of up to $500 for children to participate in physical activities. That type of support is available to address that issue.
Some of the other elements are more difficult. They depend on the community. For example, transportation is more at the provincial and municipal level in that context. Some of the elements are more difficult for us to act upon.
Senator Kochhar: Let us say that a young fellow wants to participate in wheelchair racing. Wheelchairs cost $15,000 plus. Where can he acquire that kind of money to participate in a sport like wheelchair racing?
Mr. Boileau: I do not know about wheelchair racing. However, I will follow up on that question. Hockey Canada, for example, has provided 100 sledges for sledge hockey in different parts of the country. They provided them to help people who want to practice this sport. Providing the sledges is also used as a communication tool because they understand the challenges that sledge hockey players face. I know the example of sledge hockey, but I do not have any specific information on wheelchair racing. However, I can try to get back to the committee on that question.
Senator Kochhar: Thank you.
Senator Andreychuk: Not at the broad-based level but at the Paralympic level, when the Olympics were on, there was a debate that some athletes who were designated for the Paralympics felt that they were qualified to compete in the Olympics.
Having been involved in the 1960s and 1970s when we said we did not want to separate those with disabilities, we wanted to integrate them into society, is that integration movement taking hold at the level of the Olympics, or was it only a few athletes who, because of their particular disabilities, felt that they were able to compete in the Olympics?
Mr. Smith: There was Brian McKeever, the cross-country ski athlete, who qualified for the Olympic team. However, there are only so many events. In the particular event for which he might have been included, the team made a decision to put in a different athlete. However, Brian McKeever qualified for the team, was recognized as part of the Olympic team and might have competed under other circumstances. He then went on to participate in the Paralympic games as well.
There are a few examples like that one. There was some debate and a lot of media coverage about the South African athlete, the sprinter, who used an artificial leg. There was much discussion about whether he should be allowed to compete. In the end, the International Olympic Committee and the International Amateur Athletics Federation decided that he did not meet the criteria, with that prosthetic device in particular, to be able to compete.
I think there are times when athletes can demonstrate that they are able to compete. Swimming might be another sport where an athlete with a particular disability may be able to qualify. In cases like that, I think the system is much more open to it than it may have been in the past. That issue is different from whether sport for athletes with a disability should be on the calendar of the Olympic Games, for example. They are on the calendar for the Commonwealth Games. At present, those sports are exhibition sports when it comes to the Olympic Games, for example, the 800-metre wheelchair race.
In Canada, we have the Canada Games where those sports are full medal sports. Wheelchair basketball is taking place right now at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax. That event counts toward the flag points for each of the provincial teams. I know there is wheelchair athletics racing in the Summer Olympic Games and also swimming. There is also an event for Special Olympics athletes in the summer games for swimming, too.
Senator Andreychuk: My conclusion is that there is some debate amongst the organizations and the athletes themselves as to what direction they want to go. That debate is not finished; it is ongoing.
Mr. Smith: That would be a good characterization, yes.
Senator Kochhar: Much depends on the international body and whether they will allow this integration. It does not depend upon the country. Representatives from Canada on the international body can give ideas about what must be done, but it is the decision of the international body to regulate and allow what can and cannot be done on these sports levels; am I right?
Mr. Boileau: Yes, that is correct.
Senator Hubley: I believe there is a young athlete participating in the Halifax Canada Games who is deaf but is competing with one of the hockey teams. The story was an interesting one. Thank you.
The Chair: Are there any other questions, senators?
If not, then thank you.
Mr. Paquette: I want to answer one of your questions about the preparation of the report for the convention. We will engage the community in the preparation of the report. I wish to confirm that engagement.
The Chair: Does the community know that already?
Mr. Paquette: I suspect so. If they do not know, I will tell them. I am meeting with some members on Wednesday. I will make sure that they know at that time.
The Chair: Great; thank you.
(The committee adjourned.)