#5: The Founding of the CWSA

Written by Dr. Robert D. Steadward

The founding of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and the 1967 Winnipeg Pan Am Games are intrinsically tied. While the athletes were competing and training, numerous others were discussing the merits of a Canadian national wheelchair sport organization.

The initial founding members that participated in these discussions included:

  • AB: Bob Fertile, Stu Warrior, Bruce Steel, A. Henderson
  • BC: Bob Fertile, Stu Warrior, Bruce Steel, A. Henderson
  • MB: Rob Beattie, Cyril Barrington, Merv Thomson, Al Simpson
  • NS: Don Curren, Dennis Doyle, Bill Alton
  • ON: Tony Bagnato, Bev Hallam, Robert W. Jackson
  • QC: Bill Hepburn, John Paul Rochen

On Thursday, August 10th 1967, at a University of Manitoba residence, Doug Wilson of British Columbia presented a motion, seconded by Bob Fertile of Alberta, that a national wheelchair sports association in Canada be formally established. This motion was carried unanimously and the following board members were then elected:

AB Robert Fertile, Harry McBeth
BC Walt Thomson, Doug Mowat
MB M. Thomson, Al Simpson
NS Don Curren, Bill Alton
ON Robert W. Jackson, Bev Hallam
QC Bill Hepburn, John Paul Rochen
SK Wilhelmina McFayden

Later that summer, on September 9th 1967, at Montréal's Loyola College (now Concordia University), Dr. Robert Jackson commented on the progress he and the ad-hoc organizing committee had made. He noted with some pride that although wheelchair sport may have officially started earlier in England and in the USA, the Canadian organization was incorporated by paraplegics themselves with full cognizance of the many benefits they would receive. In fact, 10 of the 14 board members were wheelchair users themselves.

Elections were soon held with the following executive members being elected:

Chairperson Robert W. Jackson (ON)
Vice Chairperson Doug Mowat (BC)
Treasurer Bob Hall (ON)
Executive Director Bev Hallam (ON)
Athletic Director Vic Cue (BC)
Recreation Director Merv Oveson (BC)
Medical Director Alan Kirby (SK)

On September 9th 1967, the board officially ratified the name of the organization as the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association (CWSA) and the membership fee was set at $5.00 per year. The CWSA was officially incorporated under the Federal Corporations Act: Corporate and Consumer Affairs Canada on November 24th 1967. The mailing office was 188 Davenport Road, Toronto.

Later that same year, the CWSA arranged to send a team of 17 athletes to the 1969 Pan Am Paraplegic Games in Buenos Aries, Argentina. Funds for this endeavour came from a combination of Fitness and Amateur Sports grants and personal fundraising.

In 1969, Fitness and Amateur Sport proposed the idea of a sport centre based in Ottawa, which would house twenty-seven national sport organizations (NSO), and six other national sport related agencies. Twenty-two other NSOs would receive administrative financial support, but would not be provided residency within the national sport centre. The CWSA would be one of the groups awarded this non-resident status in 1974. It was not until 1979 that the CWSA became a permanent fixture within the centre, receiving all of the same rights and responsibilities as their able-bodied sport organization peers.