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Rowan’s Law Hansard Speech

December 11, 2015

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

Thursday 10 December 2015

Private Members’ Public Business

Rowan’s Law Advisory Committee Act, 2015 /

Mr. Michael Harris: While it’s always an honour to stand in this House, today’s discourse takes on added significance as we in the Ontario Legislature consider the first concussion legislation in Canada for young athletes.

We thank the member for Nepean–Carleton for all her work, her passion on this issue, in bringing forward Rowan’s Law today for the future safety of our young athletes and participants across Ontario.

As we’ve heard and as is well-documented, Rowan’s Law was born from the concerns that emerged and the subsequent coroner’s inquest following the tragic death of 17-year-old Rowan Stringer due to the impacts of a concussion she received playing rugby. While Rowan’s story is the launching point that has brought us to where we are today, I am certain every one of us knows of similar either tragic or alarming stories from the areas we represent, where concussions to our young people have taken their toll.

In my area of the region of Waterloo, a few years ago, we heard stories of a Waterloo region family, the Van Damme family, who were calling for action following their then 17-year-old daughter Jill’s on-court concussion with the Waterloo Tigers volleyball team. In her case it was days later that the concussion was confirmed, after she was crippled by throbbing headaches. She had to quit sports, miss her semi-formal and skip exams. It was four months before she felt normal again.

It’s for that reason that we, as a provincial Parliament here, provide a provincial response. Organizations and individuals are also to be commended for stepping up with programming and awareness initiatives to get that ball rolling on protecting our young athletes from the debilitating impact of concussions.

Locally—as we heard, Fitz Vanderpool is here in the audience—we’ve also seen Kitchener Rangers star defenceman Ben Fanelli’s Head Strong campaign, focused on raising awareness about brain injuries. Ben, whose career was halted by a brain injury, speaks to groups and at events throughout Ontario to increase awareness for brain injuries and, specifically, brain injuries in sport.

I feel that today, with that momentum, we’re building through a united call for a provincial response to head injuries impacting our young people. We are taking very real steps to ensure that help will be available throughout Ontario. That’s why it’s so important that we are discussing this here, on the last day of debate, before we head to our homes and families, because we’ve all heard the stories; we’ve all seen the devastating impacts; and we simply can’t continue to just shake our heads, shrug our shoulders, thinking it’s all part of the game.

It’s not, Speaker, or at least it shouldn’t be. Concussions should not be part of the game. Headaches, dizziness, slurred speech and nausea—for sometimes months on end—should not be part of the game. Certainly, the fatal tragedy that befell young Rowan should be no part of any game we allow our young people to participate in in this province.