Sport was the language of Carla Qualtrough’s family growing up in Langley. It was the way they communicated and lived. It fostered in her a lifelong love of sport that continues to this day. Big ideas like inclusion that Carla first learned through sport continue to drive her as she serves as Member of Parliament for Delta and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion working to improve the lives of countless Canadians.
Carla was born legally blind, but whether it was water skiing, soccer, or softball, her family found ways to accommodate her disability so she could fully participate. That idea of accommodation gave way to one of inclusion when she focused on swimming in her teens and was introduced to Paralympic and blind sport. She swam for Canada at the 1988 and 1992 Paralympic Games helping Canadian relay teams to three bronze medals. At the 1990 world championships, she won two individual bronze and four relay silver medals.
After retiring from competition, she pursued a law degree and began building one of the most impressive resumes in Canadian sport. Beginning as Team Canada’s first-ever athlete advocate at the 1996 Paralympics, she served various roles on the boards of Athletes CAN, Canadian Paralympic Committee (including president from 2006-10), Canadian Blind Sports Association, Canadian Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Americas Paralympic Committee (vice-president from 2013-15), 2010 Legacies Now, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, and the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (chair from 2010-13). Carla also played a key role in helping Toronto’s bid win the right to host the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games and later with the Games organization.
One of the most influential and respected figures in Canadian sport, Carla made a massive sacrifice putting her sport involvement on hold while she served in government. In 2015, she was the first Paralympian ever elected to Canada’s Parliament and the first to serve as Canada’s Sport Minister.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.