Wheelchair star Rick Hansen says no but wasn't asked, Michaelle Jean can only cool her heels

Rick Hansen wheelchair celeb snubs Harper

Michaëlle Jean out as Harper goes shopping for new Governor General

Wheelchair star Rick Hansen says no but wasn't asked, Michaelle Jean can only cool her heels
Rick Hansen, Governor General Michaelle Jean photo: Peter Power/Toronto Star (left), Chris Wattie/Reuters

Canadians have finally warmed to Michaëlle Jean but she’s out in September. Rick Hansen turned down Stephen Harper who didn’t ask him to be Governor General.The story originates with the Toronto Star.

The role of Governor General has passed from colonial days to a modern figure head. When Canada was young the Governor General represented the Queen and Britain in Canada. The GG could decide a government lacked the confidence of the people and dissolve Parliament or ask the Opposition to form the government.

The GG is supposed to be a check on government. Former Quebec broadcaster Michaëlle Jean  did what ever the Prime Minister wanted and still he didn’t like her. At least she didn’t spend like a drunken sailor as did Adrianne Clarkson, another media darling.

Harper’s decision to replace Jean after five years is not unusual. We’ve had four five year term GG’s since World War II: Jules Leger, Ed Schreyer, Ray Hnatyshyn, and Roméo LeBlanc. That is more the norm than the exception in the past six decades. Longer terms have been: Adrienne Clarkson (6 years), Jeanne Sauvé (6), Roland Michener (7) and Georges Vanier (7.5).

Rick Hansen

It’s an election or pre-election year and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking for photo ops to balance his otherwise unlikeable government. Harper is in trouble every second week with some jarring reminder that he is a right-wing, religious demagogue from another era in Canadian life.

Last week he showed his anti-abortion colors. He’s been playing the humanitarian with women’s health and Haiti but we learned it’s all talk. No money is flowing to Haiti and women’s health doesn’t include reproduction.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, sits with Rick Hansen in Vancouver during the 2010 Paralympics. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

During the Paralympics, Harper got to spend time with Canadian wheelchair hero Rick Hansen. Note the two sharing a laugh as Hansen hits up the Prime Minister for $13.5 million. Harper said yes. Hansen also squirrelled another $20 million from the BC government.

Hansen’s people say Rick wasn’t asked to be GG and wouldn’t accept anyway. He’s on a mission to raise $200 million for the Rick Hansen foundation. That’s Rick: he likes celebrity status raising money from politicians and businessmen who want to look good in photo ops next to him. He’s not going to give that up to serve all Canadians or at least Stephen Harper.

The buzz in the disability community is that Hansen would make a great governor general to represent us – us as in people with disabilities.

It’s true he has done wonders for Vancouver which ranks up there with the top accessible cities in Canada.

Hansen is a media darling and no one wants to be anywhere but on his good side. So if Rick Hansen wants something, people tend to give it to him.

Other than the optics, I can’t see the benefit. Rick Hansen is about Rick Hansen. He’s a celebrity, a star in a wheelchair who 25 years ago wheeled himself around the the world, which in my book is right up there with 6 months of flag pole sitting.

He does have charisma and speaks eloquently about reaching one’s potential with disabilities. Having met him twice, the reality is very deflating. He’s a celebrity and like most celebrities he’s really all about Rick, his ego his money his fame.

If he were GG would he do any more for Canadians with disabilities that preen for the cameras? He might spin the Canadian disability support system into a gigantic waste of money on spinal chord research. Of course the Canadian media who are short on substance and long on the quick story love Rick Hansen.

Michaelle Jean was able to get hundreds of millions in charity for Haitians. Perhaps Hansen would do the same. But aren’t you getting tired of the incessant charity drives? I am.

People with disabilities need their place in Canadian society, their human rights, not a donation. Rick Hansen is still begging for money and that’s not getting us anywhere.

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  • Scott

    Hansen is all about Hansen.

    Hansen uses his disability like a crutch to get what he wants.

    If he was really a true Canadian or even a decent person he would be out raising money for people yes but sure as hell not for some foundation named after himself.

    If Steven Harper was to name him GG I know for one I sure as heck would change my vote back to the Liberals,

  • Ross Broom

    First —the reality is very deflating—
    and then —Rick Hansen is still begging for money and that’s not getting us anywhere—

    Just because you feel he snubbed you personally doesn`t mean he hasn`t been a huge inspiration for many young Canadians, disabled or able-bodied. Meeting Rick as he wheeled across Canada is often brought up by adults who were there to experience it as teens or children as the moment they realized people with disabilities were the same as them, and not just the image the media has portrayed.

    As for `begging for money`, Rick Hansen has done more for the normalization of disability in Canada and social change towards building a better Canada for people with disabilities than anyone else.

    Stow the sour grapes, Stephen. Your slip is showing.

  • Stephen Pate

    Thanks for your comment. Jumping to conclusions takes you over a cliff. I have met Rick Hansen. He didn’t snub me and but I do think the guy is self-aggrandizing. Rick Hansen is all about Rick Hansen, going for another $200 million to cure his own personal affliction which is spinal cord injury. Hansen likes to hob nob with rich business people and politicians who repay his interest with big donations.

    We didn’t have superstars like Rick Hansen and millions of Canadians, Americans and Europeans grew up to believe in themselves despite their disabilities.

    What is it about humans that we need false gods? Feeble men with a single newsworthy attribute the media can publicize for viewer eyeballs. They said that golf needed Tiger Woods to come back so people would believe in golf again.

    If Rick Hansen wanted to help Canadians with disabilities he would get off the Charity Bandwagon and Freak Show circuit and use his charisma to get a Canadians with Disabilities Act or reduce poverty for those living with disabilities. Those goals don’t pay $200 million but they do help most of the people living with disabilities.

  • Ross Broom

    Yes, he is very greedy, wanting to find both a cure for spinal cord injury and also improve the lives of those with it.
    How dare he not do it overnight! You know, society changes at the blink of an eye, right? Civil rights for blacks happened at the blink of an eye, gays immediately had equality.

    It’s easy to ignore good works of people when finding nothing but fault. It never fails to say more about the complainer though.
    So he’s a moral failure because he hasn’t singlehandedly done everything for everyone, everywhere?
    Your slip.

  • Stephen Pate

    Growl! You should be on the inside and see how he works. They used to do the annual event on PEI until they complained he was taking all the money back to BC. Internal emails got nowhere until we exposed their little greedy behavior. I think the ratio for PEI is somewhere above 50% now.

    He does his thing. Good for him. The reality is politicians need someone like Rick to tag themselves with. Instead of doing something real for Canadians, politicians like Stephen Harper have well publicized photo ops with stars like Rick. Isn’t the world a wonderful place for people with disabilities the media proclaim, looking for a superficial story to placate the masses. Yes say all the charity do-gooders, those people with disabilities are being looked after by their heroes.

    For 25 years Rick Hansen has been doing his thing and for 25 years human rights for Canadians with Disabilities has moved at the speed of tectonic plates. In the meantime, the US has passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, fought battles in the Supreme Court, and then added 1,100 pages of amendments to strengthen the ADA.

  • Ross Broom


    It’s great you disagree with him and think he’s the Boogeyman. Your facts however are completely wrong.
    You have a well-publicized and self-documented one-sided feud with Rick Hansen. That’s fine also.
    For you to pretend you know how it is “on the inside” and “how he works” is laughable.
    I’ve been lurking here for a couple years and lately have chimed ion on a couple of issues.
    Just because you say over and over he is crooked doesn’t make it so.
    Very sorry.

  • Stephen Pate

    To put the record straight, we have never claimed he was a “Boogeyman” or “crooked.”

  • Ross Broom

    Didn’t you say he uses the money raised to live “a celebrity’s lifestyle”?
    That sounds like he used money donated to charity for personal gain, which is illegal and immoral.
    Anyone who knows him knows he lives in a “normal” house with his wife and two children and works very hard to make things better for everyone, not just himself as you claim.
    You seem to think all he does is fly around in private jets and eat caviar. In one of your blogs posts you appeared to claim he had a “blond bimbo” in his “limo” when he visited the legislature in Charlottetown.

    While you haven’t used the word “Boogeyman” or “crooked” your past blog posts point to your true feelings on him. Or was it someone else at the Network who wrote these posts?

  • Garth

    Snubbed PM Harper? My sources say not so.
    We shall see.

  • Ross Broom

    The “article” say it’s not so either:
    —Hansen’s people say Rick wasn’t asked to be GG and wouldn’t accept anyway—

    Wonder where the headline came from.

  • Paolo Cipolla

    I want to add that the money of Rick Hansen Foundation are not spent at all to find a cure for paralysis.
    The cure side of the RHI it has been a SCAM since the beginning. Just a perfect marketing tool.

    I wonder how come very few Canadians realize that..

  • http://www.lifeforcefoundation.org Peter Hamilton

    We sent this letter but no response:

    Dear Rick Hansen:

    I hope that during your next 25 years of raising money for spinal cord
    research (SCR) we will see the end of inhumane, scientifically fallacious
    spinal cord experiments on animals. It was 25 years ago when Lifeforce, a
    Vancouver based ecology and animal rights organization, gave you extensive
    data about the failure of …“animal models” but you went on to fund animal
    experiments. Your Boards have had many vivisectors directing your funding
    priorities. You raised $20 million for SCR as the “Man in Motion”. Your “dream” for a cure is a nightmare for animals.

    It is time to stop the barbaric experiments that have been repeated for over
    50 years. New technologies, clinical/ epidemiological studies permit humane
    studies with humans. That is how breakthroughs are discovered! … CONTINUED

    Please sign the new petition:
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/will-rick-hansen-stop-supporting-vivisection/See More

    Please read: Rick Hansen and Lifeforce 25th Anniversaries

  • Abigail Duncan

    “But aren’t you getting tired of the incessant charity drives? I am.” Sounds like something a Satanist would say. Since the governments and financial institutions who weild most or all the power in this world are continuously creating circumstances of suffering, I think it’s only fare for them to assist in keeping those people they enjoy punishing alive. Even if only to make themselves feel good. *shrug*