History of Spinal Cord Injury (Alberta)
(formerly the Canadian Paraplegic Association Alberta)
Prior to World War II there were few survivors of spinal cord injury (SCI); virtually all died shortly after injury. Veterans who managed to survive the tragedy of combat during WWII returned to Canada to find a country with little to offer people with disabilities, except to perhaps languish in a veteran's hospital or ill equipped nursing home. Something had to be done. From small beginnings and led by John Counsell, a veteran with a powerful mission, a fledgling organization was born in Ontario. With its first office in Maple Leaf Gardens, the Canadian Paraplegic Association (now Spinal Cord Injury Canada) started a change in our country…a change that has helped individuals with spinal cord injury and other disabilities from coast to coast.
With a “peers helping peers” mandate, the organization now has branches in every province. In Alberta, Pierre Gariepy, another survivor of WWII combat and member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, took up the charge. On February 13, 1961 the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) established (effective November 1, 2014 the name was changed to Spinal Cord Injury Alberta to better reflect the population served. The Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta) was proud to celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 2011.
In 2010, there were an estimated 86,000 survivors of SCI in Canada with approximately 4,300 additional new injuries each year. In Alberta, there was an estimated additional 186 new spinal cord injuries in 2010. It is estimated that by 2030, the number of Canadians living with spinal cord injury is expected to climb to 121,000 due to the aging of the Canadian population and more accidents occurring as a result of falls.
The need for services for those with spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities is as important today as it was in 1945. In fact, this need will continue to grow!
SCI Alberta's Mission Statement is: to empower persons with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities to achieve Independence and full Community Participation. SCI Alberta strives to achieve its mission and provide the best service possible through a focus on five core service areas which include: Rehabilitation Support and Service Coordination; Community Development and Systemic Change; Peer Program; Information Services; and Active Living.
SCI Alberta supports its clients through many challenging transitions, including relationships, sexuality, parenting, aging, recreation, education, employment, etc.
Through committee participation, SCI Alberta also assists communities to become more inclusive by creating awareness of critical issues such as accessible transportation, housing, healthcare and other supports.
Spinal Cord Injury is continuing to help rebuild dreams. While there is still much to be done, there is cause to celebrate our many accomplishments!
 The Incidence and Prevalence of Spinal Cord Injury in Canada: Overview and Estimates Based on Current Evidence. This report released by the Rick Hansen Institute in December 2010.