The Honourable David Onley (28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario), Toronto

Thoughts about Ontario at 150

The photo became an heirloom in our family: a picture of Her Majesty the Queen at Kew Gardens in The Beach, escorted by Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe on a blistering hot June 1959 day, viewing dozens of kids in wheelchairs. The large banner framing the area proudly proclaimed “THE CRIPPLED CHILDREN WELCOME OUR QUEEN.”

And while all the other children wore cool shirts, I was the only one wearing a thick wool blazer – as my British-born grandfather had insisted that if I were to be seen by the Queen, I would be “properly attired.”

All three Toronto newspapers carried pictures of that exact moment, and the clippings – yellowed with time – remained in our family.

The terms would change. “Crippled” would give way to “handicapped” and then to “disabled.” But, regardless, Mr. Smythe – along with other generous benefactors – would build Ontario’s first rehab facility for children and I would be one of its in-patients in 1963 for crucial recovery from surgeries that would get me out of my wheelchair and allow me to have a significantly more mobile life.

Almost 50 years later, I would be photographed with Her Majesty again, but this time the picture would be from Buckingham Palace in my role as Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor. What an amazing province! Truly one of opportunity for able-bodied and disabled alike.

Photos courtesy of David Onley