We recognize Remembrance Day on November 11 each year in honour of the men and women who bravely served in our forces in the battles for freedom and democracy in our nation. However, I often reflect on that day about an Edmontonian who is no longer with us who fought a great battle for inclusion, human rights, and equal rights for the disabled community even while having physical struggles of his own. This man (my personal hero) is not a decorated soldier, but rather a stunning individual who paved the way for a vulnerable, often shunned population.
This fine Edmontonian I speak of is Ewen Nelson. Without this fine man the community would not be the place it is today and the leadership skills he left with the community are a driving force for me personally.
Ewen Nelson, who fought a battle of his own due to a physical handicap, worked diligently to bring rights and respect to the disabled community. Ewen always took great pride in being a positive force for change towards increased accessibility for those with disabilities. Ewen was the Vice-President of the Boyle Street Community League and the Inner City Youth Development Association, and also helped deliver the Boyle McCauley News. He was also the former Chair of the City of Edmonton’s Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities (which I now sit on) and a member of the Reasonable Accommodation Fund and Employment Equity Discretionary Fund Committees.
Ewen was a valuable resource at the University of Alberta, providing consulting services to the Specialized Support and Disability Services and Planning & Infrastructure. Also, he was the Chair of the Emergency Procedures Committee for Artspace Housing Co-operative, and the President of Supports for Artspace Independent Living, Inc. (where I proudly reside). The stretch of 101A ave between 95 st and 93 st in front of the Artspace Co-operative even has a street sign in his honour indicating “Ewen Nelson Way”
In 2003, the Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities announced that Ewen was the co-winner of the 2002 Council of Canadians with Disabilities Award for Alberta. This award recognizes individuals for their “dedication and integrity in the continuing pursuit of full participation in society by people with disabilities.” Sadly, we lost Mr. Nelson on January 5 2006 but not his legacy! Ewen was a true soldier, hero in my mind and a driving force for this community we call ours.
I will remember the great men and women that served our country, but I will also remember the man who served my community. On Nov. 11 I will proudly walk down Ewen Nelson Way and remember and respect my personal hero.
Ian is a resident of Boyle Street, a member of the Advisory Board for Services for Persons with Disabilities for the City of Edmonton, and the recipient of the Glenrose Award of Courage.