Paul Martin Sr. spent 39 years serving in federal politics. He was the Minister of National Health and Welfare in the early 1950s when polio epidemics raged across the country. It was with the purpose of raising funds for polio research that Ontario March of Dimes was founded in 1951.
When the Salk vaccine was discovered in 1955, its distribution in the United States was halted when some of the immunized children
contracted polio. The problem was linked to defective vaccines from a California laboratory. Canada’s health officials were under pressure to follow the Americans in their decision to suspend the vaccination program. Canadian vaccines had proven safe, but the future of polio vaccination hung in the balance.
It was the sole responsibility of Mr. Martin, to determine the program’s fate. Mr. Martin had battled polio as a child, and seen it threaten his own family. After careful deliberation, he felt confident that Canada’s laboratories were sound, and made the historic decision to continue the vaccination program.
From that day, Canada led the world in using vaccines against polio, and by 1960, the fear of polio had disappeared across North America. The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Sr. Society recognizes the leadership of Mr. Martin in disseminating the vaccine in Canada by continuing his support of research which contributes to the prevention or alleviation of disabling conditions.
Major donors and contributors are recognized through membership in the Society. And all bequests, unless otherwise designated, are placed into The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund.
The Inaugural Dinner:
On the evening of June 24th, 1999, Ontario March of Dimes celebrated the inaugural event of the Paul Martin Sr. Society at Toronto’s Sheraton Hotel, generating approximately $250,000 for OMOD’s Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Biomedical & Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund. Attended by over 525 guests, the dinner was chaired by the Hon. David Peterson.
A highlight of the event was an informative video featuring the story of poliomyelitis in Canada, its eradication with the introduction of the Salk vaccine, and the roles played by the Hon. Paul Martin Sr., the Ontario March of Dimes and Connaught Laboratories. Video production was donated by the CTV National Network.
The evening’s special guests included Ms. Veronica Tennant, who presented the prestigious Dr. Jonas Salk Award and a research
grant from the Endowment Fund; and guest speaker, the Hon. Paul Martin Jr., Minister of Finance who addressed the dinner patrons
on behalf of his family, himself and his government and expressed deep felt appreciation for OMOD in establishing the Endowment
Fund and the Society.
Dr. Charles Tator of the Playfair Neuroscience Unit was selected as the first recipient of a grant from the Endowment Fund. It will be directed towards two main areas of research in spinal cord regeneration: the transplantation of peripheral nerves into the injured spinal cord to act as bridges for both ascending and descending tracts; and the use of endogenous or transplanted ependymal stem cells to repopulate the injured spinal cord with new cells. Playfair Neuroscience Unit is associated with Toronto Western Hospital and the University of Toronto.
The Dr. Jonas Salk Award recognizes an individual in Canada who has made a sustained or significant contribution to science or
medicine in the alleviation or prevention of a disabling condition. The recipient, Dr. Judes Poirier was chosen for his research into mechanisms involved in the neurodegenerative processes that characterize Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Dr. Poirier is the Director and Associate Professor at the Centre for Studies in Aging, McGill University. He is also a Director of the Aging Research Program, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, McGill University. The award, with a cash prize of $10,000, was presented in association with Pasteur Mrieux Connaught Canada.