Milestones of SCI Ontario - A Brief History

Canadian Paraplegic Assocation Ontario logo

Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario (CPA Ontario) was the original name of Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

Prior to 1945

Most soldiers from WWI with spinal cord injuries did not make it back home after their injury. And of those who did, only 10% lived longer than a year.


Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) is founded by a group of WWII veterans Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) is founded by a group of WWII veterans with spinal cord injuries. Low life expectancy, combined with a pervasive belief in society that having a disability meant living in a hospital or being institutionalized, made for a grim situation for people with spinal cord injuries. John Counsell, CPA founder, who fought and was injured at Dieppe, starts Lyndhurst Lodge, a community-based rehab centre run by 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". Our founders include John Counsell, Ken Langford, Andy Clark, LM Wood, Conn 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 United Automobile Workers gave our organization a fully-equipped, hand control car so that driving lessons could be offered to members.


The first meeting of the National Advisory Committee on the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons is held in Ottawa.


Ken Langford (replacing Colonel Baker founder of the Canadian Institute of the Blind) is elected Chairman of the Council of Veterans Associations, an organization with the purpose of keeping abreast of developments and presenting a united front to the Federal government on matters pertaining to veterans.


The Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association is formed through CPA to create opportunities for people with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities to achieve full community participation.


Built by CPA, Lyndhurst Hospital is officially opened in November, as the first and only hospital in Canada for the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injuries, and is not only regarded a model for the nation, but also for the world.


CPA Ontario begins providing Employment Services in the Toronto Region.


The Nucleus Housing Project was launched to establish the first community-level, attendant services facility for people who have high level quadriplegia. CPA Ontario is vigorously involved in the initiation and development of the project.


Rick Hansen launches the “Man in Motion Tour” with the support of CPA, drawing much needed attention to spinal cord injuries and disabilities in general.


CPA Ontario’s Attendant Services program is started by Darrel Murphy who became the first Director of the program.


Wheelchair Relay Challenge The first pilot Wheelchair Relay Challenge is organized in Ottawa. As it is a huge success, another Wheelchair Relay Challenge took place in Toronto the same year. Afterwards, Wheelchair Relay Challenges across the province became the signature fundraising event for people with SCI. Today, SCI Ontario hold one provincial Wheelchair Relay Challenge in Toronto bringing the best teams in the province to one location to compete.


The Employment Resource Centre is opened at Lyndhurst Centre, dedicated exclusively to helping people with a disability re-enter the workforce.


CPA Ontario completes an aggressive expansion of its programs and services – offices open in London, Barrie, Ottawa, Hamilton and Thunder Bay to serve people with SCI throughout Ontario.


CPA Ontario launches its highly successful “Peer Support Program” to assist people with new injuries in dealing with the impact of a spinal cord injury and to reintegrate into society.

First CPA Ontario Conference


CPA Ontario holds the first annual conference on SCI to introduce the latest research advances and to educate the medical and lay communities.


CPA Ontario establishes a Postdoctoral Fellowship on spinal cord research at Toronto Rehab/University of Toronto to fund research into functional electrical stimulation to enhance motor control. .In the same year, the Kingston office opens.


CPA Ontario keeps expanding, with two additional offices established in Muskoka and Chatham/Windsor.


Peterborough regional office is established. CPA Ontario launches its website.


Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury offices are established to accommodate the rising needs in the areas.

SCI Resource Centre - Lyndhurst


The SCI Resource Centre opens in Lyndhurst Centre, a joint initiative with Toronto Rehab and CPA Ontario.

CPA Ontario develops a three year plan to focus future efforts.

An office opens in York region.


CPA Ontario establishes the Aboriginal/First Nations Strategy expanding programs and services to Northwest Ontario and to the Six Nations Reserve.

An office opens in Kitchener-Waterloo region.

CPA Ontario gets its own Twitter and Youtube account.


The year's Annual Report wins the Voluntary Sector Reporting Award from the Queen's Centre for Governance at Queen's University and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. 3 year strategic plan


CPA Ontario develops a three-year strategic plan entitled Good to the Core to guide the organization to achieve even greater results. With so much still to achieve, the plan is extended from 3 years to 5.

CPA Ontario begins pursuing accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International

CPA Ontario gets its own Facebook page.

The year's Annual Report wins the Voluntary Sector Reporting Award from the Queen's Centre for Governance at Queen's University and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario.


SCI Ontario logoCanadian Paraplegic Association Ontario changes its name to Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and

The year's Annual Report wins the Voluntary Sector Reporting Award from the Queen's Centre for Governance at Queen's University and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. Having won three years in a row, SCI Ontario is named an "exemplar" and the annual reports are used as
examples of excellence in financial reporting for other non-profit organizations.


In partnership with RARE Theatre Company and in association with Soulpepper Theatre, SCI Ontario brings Borne, a play about living with a spinal cord injury, to the Young Centre for Performing Arts for 22 performances.

The life expectancy of someone after injury has increased to between 85% and 90%. Approximately one person a day sustains a spinal cord injury in Ontario - up to 11 people a week. There are 33,000 Ontarians living with spinal cord injuries.

SCI Ontario has a long track record and continues to provide people living with SCI and other physical disabilities, with the specialized programs and services they need to conquer the physical and psychological barriers to regaining independence.


Our History in Videos

History of SCI Ontario
History of SCI Ontario
John Counsell
John Counsell
Ken Langford
Ken Langford
Andrew Clarke
Andrew Clarke
Albin Jousse
Albin Jousse
Kirby Rowe
Kirby Rowe
Bill Adair
Bill Adair