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The Hon. Grant  Mitchell, B.A., M.A., C.F.A. Senator Grant Mitchell has had careers in the public service, business and politics in Alberta. He was appointed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin in March, 2005.

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Special Olympics Month

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Statement made on 29 November 2007 by Senator Jim Munson

Hon. Jim Munson:

Honourable senators, as the month of November draws to a close, I remind you that this month is Special Olympics Month in Canada. The Special Olympics is an international movement that provides opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to train and compete in athletic events.

I am proud to have been part of Canada's team in Shanghai for the 2007 Special Olympics. Canada's team gave exceptional performances and showed the world exemplary sportsmanship.

Over 7,000 athletes from 160 countries participated in the Special Olympics in Shanghai. That is an impressive number. Not long ago, in China, where I lived for several years, one rarely saw people with mental disabilities. They were hidden away. People were ashamed of them. The fact that 1,000 Chinese athletes participated in these games is proof that the Special Olympics have the power to transform attitudes.

Many honourable senators may remember a time when we thought mentally challenged people were incapable of participating in sports. In fact, many mentally challenged people were kept isolated from society as if we were ashamed of them. Started in the 1960s, the Special Olympics has shown the world what kind of hogwash that prejudiced thinking was.

Putting the principle of inclusion to work, the Special Olympics breaks down barriers and challenges our thinking about people with intellectual disabilities.

The movement has changed a small part of the world in a big way. The Special Olympics movement is alive and well in Canada, but we can do more to give a greater number of potential athletes a chance to participate. For Special Olympics month, I urge honourable senators to get involved. Senators can be a coach, volunteer to encourage an athlete to practise, or contribute financially to the movement. By supporting the Special Olympics, honourable senators will help to reach out to these potential winners and will strengthen the Special Olympics movement. Honourable senators will help breakdown the barriers that still exist for people with intellectual disabilities. By supporting Special Olympics, they will help to make Canada more inclusive and the world a better place.

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