26 May 2012

Rick Hansen 'answers'?!?

Picture by: Urban Mixer (Raj Taneja)
Thank you to all of you who added your names to our appeal to Rick Hansen and the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) about their plans to cure chronic spinal cord injury. A cure for spinal cord injury may well stay beyond our reach until RHF, as one of the largest and most well funded spinal cord injury organizations world wide, gets behind a cure with their massive funding.

As a person living with paralysis or supporting a paralyzed family member or friend, you have the right to ask these questions about cure and receive an answer. You are one of Rick Hansen's constituents.

As a member of the global community you also have a right to ask, and Rick Hansen knows it, too. Twenty five years ago he set off on a world tour because he understood that spinal cord injury and paralysis touches everyone, regardless of where they live.

And as a Canadian, you have an even more unique right to ask and demand answers as RHF's funding comes from your pocket ($117.3 million since 1988 comprising almost 45% of RHF's total funding). When you in Canada ask, Mr. Hansen should be answering with a 'Yes, sir'.

Rick Hansen on the other hand believes that you have neither the right to ask or receive an answer. 

When asked by cure activists, from their wheelchairs, at his recent Interdependence conference; that's right cure 
campaigners were on hand to make sure your questions were answered, he ducked, feigned, and swayed his way through his non-answer. He was like the Mohammad Ali of non-answers. When he couldn't non-answer anymore, he actually called your questions inappropriate for a public forum.

What's inappropriate about asking an organization which uses the slogan 'a world without paralysis after spinal cord injury' about their plans and spending on a cure for spinal cord injury?

Just so you think that I'm not making this all up, I was fortunate enough to receive a recording of the events from an anonymous conference attendee. He or she recorded the exchange between the cure activist and Mr. Hansen. Video footage may also be added soon.

Asked from the floor during a public Q&A about his plans to cure chronic spinal cord injury and the money he was pledging to it, he came out of his corner with that full Rick Hansen grin and a whistle on his lips. He thought he sounded clever, but anyone around him, especially those who know him personally, probably found it embarrassing as he totally evaded the questions. Listen to the recording.

He talked about his vision of an inclusive world. He talked about cure. He talked about the market and the availability of therapies to introduce into the market. He even had the gall to talk about us raising more money when he won't even tell us where it goes. 

But he never once answered the question. 

He actually said that how much he spends on cure all depends on how much he raises.  
Let's face it, RHF has a budget, and while he may have whispered sweet nothings about the distant future, he could have been clear about his spending on a cure for chronic spinal cord injury in the past AND in the near future. 

The person who asked the question described the answer as "disrespectful".

When the cure campaigner met Mr. Hansen on the floor of the convention, she thanked him for his "insulting answer". He snapped back that it was "a totally acceptable answer to a totally inappropriate question." He said that it was not the time or place to ask such a question in a public place and even accused the cure activist of being negative rather than going forward and being constructive.

When reminded by another activist in the room (there's more than one of us) that over 700 people asked this question, Mr. Hansen spoke even more nonsense. He wanted to know how much we have raised and that when we raise our own money, we can decide what to do with it. 

Where does Mr. Hansen thinks his money comes from? Does he think it falls off the spinal cord injury tree? 

Because the money comes from us. Because he asks for donations from anywhere in the world. Because the money is given to him in the name of 'a world without paralysis after spinal cord injury', we have the right to ask and be answered.

With this attitude of disregarding the questions of those he is meant to serve, it is no wonder that we are now hearing whiffs of discontent from those around him. 

Soon they will also say what we've already said; the emperor has no clothes.

So do we leave this alone? 

I say NO.

Let's make sure that your questions are answered in writing like you asked for. Let's make sure that your cure money is accounted for. Let's make sure that the voice of the paralyzed is heard over the roar of the Rick Hansen victory celebrations.

Let's make sure that other organizations understand that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.

Together my friends. 

We've come this far already. Let's make sure money raised for cure is spent on the cure we want. 


  1. Has anyone asked the equivalent of the (American)attorney general's office in the province that his foundation is based for the annual report most countries require tax emempt charities to file? There's normally a great deal of information in such reports on salaries, administrative costs, advertising and what actually goes to the cause they promote.

  2. yes, I was wondering the same thing. the foundation must be required to report on their funding and expenditures. thanks for sharing this info, and lets keep asking these questions!

  3. I saw a report that shows how many employees and the salary range but that isn't the real problem.

    The foundation is hiding what percent of income is spent on a cure. If it is 5%, 20, 50, 80% we deserve an answer. Then we can decide how we want to place our donations.

    If they can't be transparent about such a simple thing I am guessing that it is under 10% and that they are raising funds with the false belief that a large % is going to research a cure.