Newspaper article The Canadian Press

David Shannon, CEO of Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Brings Resolve to Job: Human Rights Chief Lives Life of Resolve

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

David Shannon, CEO of Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Brings Resolve to Job: Human Rights Chief Lives Life of Resolve

Article excerpt

HALIFAX - Even when faced with the perils of a life-changing spinal cord injury 30 years ago, David Shannon's optimism never wavered.

Shannon, recently appointed the CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, was lying in a hospital bed three weeks after an accident at rugby practice during his first year at the University of Waterloo left him a quadriplegic. He was 18 years old.

Irritated by the white walls and beeping machines that surrounded him, Shannon wanted out, said his longtime friend Troy Myers. So Myers and a few other friends nabbed Shannon from the hospital and took him to a Toronto bar.

It was there that they were faced with one of the first challenges of Shannon's quadriplegia: a set of stairs.

"We said, 'Let's go find another place' and he said, 'No, you guys can get me up there.' So we picked the chair up and took him up," Myers said from Bridgewater, N.S., in an interview.

"He's always been like that, and as he's gotten older, he realized he needed to keep beating these barriers down.

"He's incredibly inspirational."

Myers said that day illustrates the kind of resolve Shannon will bring to his new job.

Shannon, 48, has worn many hats. He was a member of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, a special adviser to the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Ontario and had a private law practice in Thunder Bay, Ont., for much of his career.

He's also an author, a member of both the Order of Canada and Ontario and was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2010.

"This job encompasses all of that," the Halifax native said in an interview.

But it's his appetite for the extreme that has probably garnered the most attention.

In 2009, he became the first quadriplegic to reach the North Pole, where the expedition planted a sign that normally identifies accessible parking spaces to defiantly mark his accomplishment.

"Being Canadian, we're very familiar with being out on ice and snow, but this was a completely different experience," Shannon said from his downtown office.

Shannon also holds the record for the highest skydive by a person in a wheelchair -- a 28,000-foot plummet in 2009 that badly damaged his hip upon landing. …

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