Spinal Cord Injury BC


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Since 1957, Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC) has served people with spinal cord injury and related physical disabilities living in this province. Learn more about our history below.

A group of SCI BC staff outside of the head office building in the early 1990s.
A group of SCI BC staff outside of the head office building in the early 1990s.

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World War II veterans with paraplegia found the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA). The CPA’s mandate was to minimize social barriers faced by persons with disabilities so that they could benefit from an improved quality of life.

The CPA founder, John Counsell, who fought and was injured at Dieppe, starts Lyndhurst Lodge, a community-based rehab centre run by the CPA in collaboration with medical leaders in SCI and the newly established Department of Veteran Affairs.

Counsell brings the first folding, self-propelled wheelchair to Canada. This simple act creates a revolution in the area of mobility, and something Counsell regarded as “the initial road to rehabilitation”.

Other CPA founders include Ken Langford, Andy Clark, LM Wood, Conne Smythe, and Al Jousse.

We were called Canadian Paraplegic Association because in 1945, most people with quadriplegia did not live very long after their injury, or simply were not able to break down enough barriers to be out and about in their communities and members of associations.



The British Columbia Division of the Canadian Paraplegic Association (BCPA) is born. Forty new spinal cord injuries per year are recorded in the province of British Columbia, an annual statistic that has grown steadily over the past 5 decades to an average of 500 per year.


The Women’s Auxiliary is formed and for over twenty years raises funds to provide bursaries scholarships, emergency loans and other assistance to BCPA members.


Stan Stronge is hired as the first employee of the BC Paraplegic Association (BCPA) and later that year secures our first job placement – the first of hundreds to come.



Active in the formation of BCPA, Doug Mowat accepts the role of Executive Director. Our organization flourished under his innovative, strong leadership extending over three decades.


Our first regional information and referral service is started in Victoria and run by long-time volunteer Walter Thompson. Today Spinal Cord Injury BC serves all areas of our province, with staff in eight communities.


Through BCPA’s consultation with Vancouver Parks and Recreation, all community centre facilities provide, at minimum, partial accessibility to enable people with physical disabilities to participate.


The BC Wheelchair Sports & Recreation Association is started through the support of BCPA staff, members and volunteers and in 1971 becomes the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, BC Division.


BCPA’s safe driving rodeo and car rally events are held to demonstrate that people using hand controls were safe and responsible drivers. As a result of our car safety demonstrations, special speed restrictions are removed.



One of our longest-standing and beneficial partnerships is with the Kinsmen Rehab Foundation and the Association of Kinsmen Clubs. In addition to generous contributions to BCPA operationally, club members rallied to keep people with spinal cord injuries in their communities by helping with home renovations.


The Lions Paraplegic Lodge opens – a pioneering partnership between BCPA and the Vancouver South Lions Club creating transitional housing for people with spinal cord injuries as a ‘stepping stone’ between rehabilitation and the community.


BCPA advocates for elimination of stairs in public buildings. The City of Vancouver introduces building bylaws with accessible code amidst protest from builders and architects.


The first Acute Spinal Cord Injury Unit is established with the support of BCPA—providing excellence in medical treatment that has earned BC widespread respect and recognition.

The BC Paraplegic Foundation is established with a donation of $1,100. Since then, it has contributed over $9 million to supporting individuals with physical disabilities.


The BC Coalition of Persons with Disabilities is initiated with encouragement and participation from the BCPA and its members.

BCPA expands community-based service to the South Okanagan, the North Okanagan and the Kootenays areas. Within the next few years, an office is opened in Prince George and rehab staff positions are dedicated to serve the Fraser Valley, North Shore, North and South Vancouver Island.


BCPA Director Lloyd Chamberlayne starts the “Lloyd’s Loan Program” hand controlled equipped vehicles. This program evolved into the Paratrans service that provided affordable rental of equipped cars and vans for over 25 years.


Accessible standards for building bylaws are expanded throughout the province.



The Stan Stronge Pool opens at Pearson Hospital. It was the first fully accessible and equipped swimming pool, open to all persons with physical disabilities from the hospital and the community.


The International Year of the Disabled, chaired provincially by BCPA Executive Director Doug Mowat. The committee produced recommendations for provincial and municipal initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for community inclusion. People with disabilities are incorporated into the Provincial Human Rights Code.


The BCPA and GF Strong partner on the “Living Independently Forever” (LIFE) project, which provides financial assistance for people with spinal cord injuries to renovate their homes upon discharge from rehab.


Vancouver Taxi puts three lift-equipped vans into circulation—a result of BCPA’s efforts to change legislation involving taxi licenses.


Creekview opens near Granville Island in Vancouver. Creekview was the world’s first integrated, self-managed housing project with shared support services for people with high-level quadriplegia.


The BCPA plays a consultative role in the planning of Expo ’86 in Vancouver, which showcases to the world accessibility and high-tech innovations for people with disabilities.


Rick Hansen completes his Man in Motion World Tour. The BCPA and the BC Paraplegic Foundation were among the Tour’s first supporters.


The Spinal Cord Injury Prevention Program is established as a joint project between the BCPA and University Hospital, Shaughnessy Site.


Development begins on the Stanley Noble Stronge Housing Cooperative, led by BCPA in collaboration with George Pearson Centre residents and many community partners.



Working with BC Transit, BCPA is instrumental in the development of the accessible bus program—first established in BC’s Lower Mainland, and the first of its kind in Canada.


The BCPA hosts an International Spinal Cord Injury Symposium, bringing together researchers from around the globe.


The Spinal Cord Injury Unit moves from Shaughnessy to Vancouver General Hospital. The BCPA was very active on the planning committee to ensure a smooth transition.


The BCPA is a partner and co-chair of the BC Neurotrauma Initiative, spearheaded by the Rick Hansen Foundation, for funding solutions to support rehabilitation, research and injury prevention.


The Paraplegics & Quadriplegics with Pressure Ulcers Program is established at Vancouver General Hospital – developed by VGH, Vancouver Coastal Health, the BC Rehab Foundation and BCPA.


BCPA and GF Strong begin a partnership in education outreach initiatives to deliver spinal cord injury information to individuals and health providers.


Lions Millennium Place opens and the BCPA accepts stewardship of the “Technology for Independent Living (TIL)” program, formerly operated by Kinsmen Rehab Foundation.



Our Peer Support Program is established and quickly gains momentum, illustrating the irreplaceable value and power of peer support.


In partnership with Muscular Dystrophy and the Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Associations, the BCPA helps establish the Bridges to the Future program, helping youth with disabilities transition from adolescence to adulthood.


BCPA publishes “Coming into Focus” – the results of an in-depth research study that provides a snapshot of services for people with spinal cord injuries, touching on everything from employment to social activities, income and health care.


BCPA dedicates a full time position, Community Capacity Coordinator, to lead advocacy and increase ability of the community to allow for full participation. The BC Association for Individualized Technology and Supports for People with Disabilities (BCITS) is formed to operate adaptive technology and respiratory services nurtured by BCPA.


BCPA changes it’s name to Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC). The new name is reflective of the changing face of spinal cord injury, in that there are now as many people living with quadriplegia as with paraplegia. Despite our new name, however, it’s business as usual for our Peer and Information Services Programs. SCI BC continues to be the “go to” place for information and support.