Governor General’s Conference on Concussions in Sport
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, December 6, 2016
I want to start by highlighting the fact that today is a very important day in our nation’s calendar: the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
So before we begin today’s conference, let us all commit to speaking out and acting against inequality, harassment and violence in the hope that girls and women might live in security, freedom and dignity.
And let’s take a moment to silently remember the 14 young women who were murdered at the École Polytechnique de Montréal on this day 27 years ago.
Welcome, all of you, to this conference on concussions in sport.
And welcome to those who are watching online and participating in the webinar hosted by the Sport Information Resource Centre.
Your input is valuable, and we’re pleased you have joined us for this important discussion.
Today’s gathering, which we organized in partnership with Sport Canada, is about much more than concussions, in fact.
At its core, this conference is about living up to one of our most significant responsibilities: to ensure all Canadians—especially young people—can play sports safely and confidently, without hesitation or anxiety.
That’s the fundamental ‘why’ of why we’re all here at Rideau Hall today.
As the title of this conference indicates, we can do better. And we must.
In sports, we talk a lot about goal-setting, so we have two main goals today:
One, to raise awareness among Canadians that concussions and head injuries in sport are an important public health issue.
And two, to contribute to a national approach to make sports safer.
On the first point, the medical evidence that sports concussions are a serious health matter is increasingly powerful.
I myself suffered three concussions in four months at age fifteen: two in football and one when playing hockey. This was back when no one wore a helmet in hockey, but my doctor said the only way I could play again was if I wore one.
I was of course worried I would be laughed at, to which my doctor simply replied, “Well, you have an interesting choice. Wear the helmet and get laughed at, or don’t wear the helmet and never play hockey again.”
I wore the helmet.
And I’m so grateful for my doctor’s advice.
When it comes to concussions in sport, the time has come for all of us to take the doctor’s advice.
The medical evidence is mounting that we must take head injuries in sports seriously, and we’ll hear more about that from the experts today.
We’ll also talk about how to better prevent concussions from occurring.
We’ll talk about how to better detect, manage and monitor concussions that do occur.
And we’ll talk about the rules of play, and how to educate coaches, parents, health professionals and players to play more safely.
These topics feed into our second goal today: to contribute to the creation of a national strategy on concussions in sport by involving organizations and people from all sectors and at all levels.
This is an issue that affects us all, whether or not we ourselves or our loved ones play sports.
This is about health and physical well-being, particularly of children and young people.
I don’t want my 14 grandchildren to be denied the pleasure and benefits of playing sports for fear of injury. I don’t want anyone’s child or grandchild to be afraid.
Sport is an important part of healthy living. It builds so many skills and brings us so much joy. We have to ensure sports are as safe as they can be, and if there are risks involved, we want to be aware of them and to mitigate them to the greatest extent possible.
I’m confident that with all of you here we can move the ball forward, as they say.
So when it comes to concussions, let’s skate to where the puck is going.
Now stop me before I get too carried away with the sports metaphors!
I’m delighted that we have managed to convene such an outstanding group of leaders for this gathering, and to have so many Canadians joining us online.
We have all been called to action on this important public health issue.
Let us heed that call.
Let’s do it for the sake of our health and well-being, and for all those who love and value sports.