Friday, November 13, 2015



There is nothing I treasure more than a great line from a show or a book or a speech. And for years I've been wanting to ask where this one came from.
It was in 2009 that The Rick Mercer Report telecast a wonderful stomach-churning segment that had Mercer push Rick Hansen and his wheelchair into a gorge at Whistler.
As the Man in Motion bounced up and down at the end of the bungee chord, he shouted from far below: "I can't feel my legs."
Surely all of Canada guffawed because all of Canada knows that Hansen can't feel his legs because he's been a paraplegic since that pickup truck accident nearly 50 years ago.
Hansen has been a member of the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame since it began in 1993. As a member of the selection committee, I recall there was no debate about his induction because of his stalwart work as an activist and example.
Just as there was only approval when Mercer was proposed for the Hall this year because he has done many stories about people with disabilities. "I just stumbled on this amazing group of people who happen to make great television."
I asked Mercer whether he suggested that gag line after the launch. Or did a CBC producer or writer for the show? Was it a standard Hansen gag to put people at ease. Turns out that
Newfoundlanders never push and tell.
Mercer claims not to be a social advocate, that he has no altruistic reasons as he searches for what he says must be entertaining for his "comedy" show. But his love and respect for Paralympic sport has been a gold mine of useful publicity to educate the public and to encourage those locked in that wheelchair that there can be life after the accident.
Obviously he has fashioned a close relationship with Hansen, demonstrated by a program late in 2015 when he went sturgeon fishing with him for another Mercer Report.
The Internet was alive after that televised bungee stunt with disabled youth who had renewed hope they could make their lives better.
There's nothing like creation of a risky real adventure to make the point better than any lecture that medical setbacks can be conquered. Mercer does it routinely and deserves the honour.
(I think too of my cardiologist, Dr. Heather Ross, who demonstrates that her heart transplant patients can have a great life afterwards when she and the retired Thunder Bay firefighter in whom she installed a new heart travelled in the hostile environment of the Poles.)
The other inductees couldn't have been more different. Lauren Barwick is a determined paraplegic equestrian who has won more medal at major games than any other Canadian athlete. Bernard Glickstein is a passionate personal injury lawyer whose work for his clients extends far beyond the law.
What buoyed the three recipients at the 22nd induction luncheon, and the largest crowd ever for the annual event, was the realization that, in the words of a patron, Governor General David Johnston,  the stigmas associated  with physical disabilities "are slowly being erased thanks to the dedication of those in the hall of fame."
The good new days!


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