Council honours memory of Callum MacQuarrie

Callum MacQuarrie is pictured at the 2018 official opening of the Inverness Boardwalk Project.

Editor’s note: The following story was corrected from the version which appeared in the April 7 edition.

PORT HOOD: A tireless volunteer and advocate for those with disabilities passed away last week.

On the evening of March 31, Callum MacQuarrie died in hospital.

During the regular monthly meeting on April 1 in Port Hood, Inverness Municipal Council observed a moment of silence in his honour.

Warden Laurie Cranton said he enjoyed his chats with MacQuarrie over the years.

“Callum was a member of our accessibility committee, very instrumental in the work done in Inverness with the beach and the accessibility project there, and a number of other projects and fundraising activities around his community, and he’ll be sadly missed,” the warden told council.

MacQuarrie became a quadriplegic in 1995 while diving off Inverness Beach.

“After I got out of the rehab my journey then started,” he said in a GoFundMe fundraiser for a new van. “I was able to move back home to my house in Cape Breton. I was able to show all of my friends and family that I was the same person that I was before my accident. I would not be where I am today without the support that I received in the last 20 years from family, friends and the community.”

After the community of Inverness fundraised for MacQuarrie to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van, he said he was able to stay in Cape Breton for two years. He then moved to Halifax in 1999.

“Being in a wheelchair did not hinder my sense of adventure. In the past 20 years I was able to go skydiving, kayaking, skidooing, fourwheeling, sailing and motorcycling; all accomplished with the help of duct tape,” he posted on GoFundMe. “When I was in Halifax, I volunteered with the Canadian Paraplegic Association mentoring people out of the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, advocating for accessibility and sidewalk on/off approaches.”

Upon returning to Inverness, MacQuarrie was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Inverness Beach as the only fully accessible beach in all of Atlantic Canada.

In July, 2018, several hundred people visited the boardwalk in Inverness to celebrate the completion of the Inverness Boardwalk Project, which cost in the ballpark of $360,000. A number of upgrades were made, including upgrades to the washroom and shower facilities, modification to make parking easier, and safety measures.

Most notably, ramps allow people on the boardwalk to access the beach. Due to the inclusion of Mobi-Mats, people in wheelchairs can roll directly onto the sand. With that, walkers and beach chairs allow people with disabilities access to the water.

At the time, MacQuarrie was the co-chair of the Inverness County Accessibility Committee.

Deputy Warden Bonnie MacIsaac noted that a few words could not do justice to MacQuarrie’s achievements.

“Callum made such a positive impact not only in our community, the province, but right across Canada, promoting and working on improved accessibility for everyone,” she added. “He set an example, I think, to others that there’s life after injury.”

Cranton added the council can encourage the community to give MacQuarrie the recognition he deserves, such as a plaque or renaming an area of the village, or the beach.