Thursday, 27 June 2013

Guest blogger Ron Plant on Rick Hansen


When I read the 4000+ word article that David Baines wrote Vancouver SUN, questioning the ‘FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP’ of the Rick Hansen Foundation, it raised a few questions for me.

1.How many months has this man devoted to this story, and what was his motivation?
2.Why, of all the prospective targets to finger point, would you choose this topic for your swan song? Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Baines.
3.What business is it of David Baines, how the Rick Hansen Foundation is run, or what compensation Rick Hansen receives?

In my opinion, if Baines is afforded months to conspire and craft his… ummm… complaint, exposé, or whatever it is, shouldn’t the folks at the Rick Hansen Foundation be given some time to respond? That is IF they feel the need to respond at all. Why is it that after a cursory read through of one reporter’s article, some members of the public (many of whom have never read a financial statement in their lives) start throwing around words like fraud, and demanding explanations? Rick Hansen doesn’t owe me any explanation, and I dare say he likely doesn’t owe you one either.

To me, Rick Hansen is a man who has made huge strides in affecting public perception of persons with disabilities. He has given hope to generations of persons with spinal cord injuries and related disorders through significant, ongoing research fundraising efforts, and has shown a spirit of determination in the face of adversity well beyond what the average person has. You ever roll around the world in a wheelchair? Me neither.
If I have any point to make here at all, it is simply: Don’t rush to judgment. Even at 4,000 words, David Baines hasn’t given us all the facts, nor do we have any feedback from the foundation. Or does that not matter in the court of public opinion?


  1. I actually do roll around in a wheelchair. Twenty-two very long years and counting. And as much as I admire Rick's achievements, I am not about to shut my eyes to the fact that the Canadian spinal cord injury foundation that gets more funding (private and public) than all the rest combined feels no accountability whatsover about how those funds are allocated. These questions did not just fall out of the sky. Many people in the spinal cord injury community have been asking for greater transparency for years now. We are nothing but thankful to David Baines for his excellent work. The Foundation has had ample time to reply. As usual, they have refused. Why do you suppose that is?

  2. As I wrote elsewhere, it seems you are mixing things here, Rick's achievements are one thing but the way a foundation is run is a very different thing. Being in a wheelchair myself, I am very troubled by this article and also very concerned by how little they spend on research for a Cure which was the reason for the tour at first.

  3. David Baines has been uncovering white collar crime and stock fraud in particular, for the past 23 years. He has an MBA from the University of Western Ontario and has won four National Newspaper Awards, a National Magazine Award and four Jack Webster Awards. The Sun columnist has written 3,887 stories in the past 25 years, nearly all about people who tried to take unfair advantage of others. The Rick Hansen Foundation was hardly singled out for no reason. The blubbering admirers should start to understand the huge amount of waste and squander that has happened with the citizens tax paid money. Health Canada owes THE PEOPLE an investigation and changes made to the funding that's blindly given to self serving initiatives that are not carried out or reviewed properly. This entire situation is an outrage and begging for government intervention. Considering the millions that have been trashed for nothing, it's no wonder the people suffering from paralysis are angry and disgusted. Thank goodness for investigative reporters like David Baine that bring situations like this to the public's attention so something can be done to stop it. If people insist on stroking Mr. Hansen's ego the taxpayer's millions will continue to finance thin air. It's time for this to stop and real funding to actually make it into legitimate labs for paralysis research. You won't hear any sobbing over the public disclosure or hero worshiping from me. The facts are the facts.

  4. You imply that no one has the right to question how the Rick Hansen Foundation spends its funds. You are wrong! Much of their funding comes from our taxes, along with our donations. It is our DUTY to question how the money is spent and to demand change if we find we do not like it. I for one do not think the anniversary tour was a good use of funds. I also find the amount paid to Rick personally to be excessive.

  5. To say I am disgusted is putting it mildly. I have a little inside knowledge into the total waste of money. This started many years ago. When I questioned it I was told by a Rick Hansen senior employee "don't worry we are only using the interest."
    Can you imagine the amount of research that could have been accomplished with those misspent dollars?
    There are many SCI organizations doing a great deal with a heck of a less.
    You can arrive at your own conclusions as to the reason there has been NO response from Rick Hansen.
    I would really appreciate an explanation on the leadership group and why he created it in the first place

  6. Has the Rick Hansen Foundation lost the public trust?

  7. Consider this as an indication of new ways of thinking about charitable donation. I cannot comment on the legality or even morality of this case, but as a researcher funded in another country for this type of work, it is reasonable to suggest that staff must have a clear sense of probity and diligence. Money collected for good causes must be handled responsibly. Formal investigation should be acceptable to all sides. Though this may highlight an issue that is extremely sensitive, there is clearly a culture clash brewing that also has to be resolved. A good example of this arising is elloquently relayed in a short talk; emphasizing the 'risk' element to the evolution of charitable funding. We are now moving toward 'Charity 4.0' where crowdsourcing is becoming ever more important, and this is harnessed by 'brands' with their high quality reputation and recognition. The ancient wisdom might suggest that the bigger risk is to 'Throw the baby out with the bath water', tarnishing an effective reputation. Better to clear up the 'confusion', quickly and to public satisfaction, or it will likely have a harmful effect long term, and that won't help the sufferers who gain encouragement from the progress that is being achieved in spinal cord and assistive technologies research. The domain of charitable work is competitive and I would suggest that since 'perception is reality', the board be given three months by this 'court of public opinion' to achieve a mutually satisfactory plan, or be invited to relinquish their positions, as we would expect of our colleagues in healthcare.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this post.
    Good job with the same.