Polio survivor throws his hat into the Liberal ring

Another name has been added to the growing list of potential Liberal candidates in this year's territorial election.

Another name has been added to the growing list of potential Liberal candidates in this year’s territorial election.

On Thursday, polio survivor and accessibility advocate Ramesh Ferris, age 36, announced he will be seeking the Liberal nomination for the Whitehorse West riding.

Whitehorse West includes the neighbourhoods of Logan, Arkell, Ingram and part of Copper Ridge.

“The generosity of Yukon and its people has allowed me to stand up,” he said. “It is now time for me to give back and stand up for Yukoners everywhere.”

Ferris has previously sat on the board of directors of the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon and the Yukon Council on Disability, as well as on the City of Whitehorse disability advisory committee.

He said the Yukon has made progress on accessibility, but still has “a long way to go.”

“One day, I’d love to see someone in a wheelchair be able to access businesses in every community in the territory,” he said. “I’d like to be able to promote Yukon to the rest of the world as a completely accessible, barrier-free territory.”

Ferris said he chose the Liberals because Party Leader Sandy Silver is building “a middle-ground team.”

“He’s encouraging people from the right and from the left to join together as a united Liberal Party.”

Silver was not present at the announcement.

Though he now lives in the Whitehorse West riding, Ferris made his announcement in front of his childhood home in Riverdale, where he was raised by adoptive parents Ron and Jan Ferris. Ron Ferris was Yukon’s Anglican bishop from 1981 to 1995.

Ferris was born in India, and contracted polio when he was six months old. Because of the illness that had paralyzed his legs, Canada’s immigration department initially denied him entry. The government was concerned he might make “excessive demands on health and social services,” he said during Thursday’s announcement.

But his adoptive parents went public with the story, and the government eventually overturned its decision.

Ferris said that on Sept. 27, 1982, he became the “first finalized international adoption in the Yukon Territory,” when he was two and a half years old. At age four, he learned to walk with a brace and crutches after corrective surgeries in Vancouver.

As an adult, Ferris has campaigned internationally for polio eradication. In 2008, he hand-cycled over 7,000 kilometres from Victoria, B.C. to Cape Spear, Newfoundland. The Cycle to Walk campaign raised over $300,000 for polio eradication and rehabilitation. He has since promoted his cause before the United Nations General Assembly and the World Health Organization.

For his work, Ferris has received the Yukon Commissioner’s Award for public volunteer service and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award.

He now works as an adjudicator for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

But if Ferris is nominated, he may be in for an uphill battle. The Whitehorse West riding is currently held by Yukon deputy premier Elaine Taylor, who was first elected in 2002.

During the 2011 territorial election, Taylor was re-elected with 58 per cent of the vote, the best showing of any MLA barring NDP Leader Liz Hanson.

Ferris said he doesn’t know if Taylor plans to run again.

“I haven’t had any indication, and that wasn’t part of my decision here today,” he said. “I’m just going to give it my best. And if the numbers don’t work out in my favour, I haven’t lost. I’ve still won.”

Ferris joins John Streicker, Rod Taylor and Tamara Goeppel in his bid for the Liberal nomination. The other potential candidates have not yet said which ridings they want to run in.

Jason Cunning, the Liberal Party’s chief of staff, said ridings will be announced at the party’s annual general meeting this Saturday.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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