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Canadians mourn Paralympic 'founding father'

Dr. Robert W. Jackson, a driving force behind Canada's participation in the Paralympic Games, and a leader in the field of arthroscopic surgery, died Wednesday at the age of 78.

Jackson developed country's first Games for the physically disabled

Dr. Robert W. Jackson, a leader in the field of arthroscopic surgery and a driving force behind Canada's participation in the Paralympic Games, died Wednesday at the age of 78.

No cause of death was given.

"Dr. Jackson was one of the founding fathers of the Canadian Paralympic movement, and we are very saddened to hear of his death," Carla Qualtrough, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, said in a release Thursday. "I would like to express our condolences to his family and friends."

John Furlong, chief executive officer of the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, called Jackson a tireless worker who will be missed.

"It is tireless work, largely on a volunteer basis, by Canadians like him that has made it possible for our country to be a leader in the Paralympic movement and for persons with disabilities to soar on the world's athletic stage and inspire others to follow in their path," Furlong said in a release.

Jackson graduated from the University of Toronto Medical School in 1956 and pursued a career in academic orthopedic surgery.

He was working for the Canadian Olympic team when he learned Canada did not have a team competing at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He decided to change that.

Jackson spearheaded the formation of the Canadian Wheelchair Sport Association in 1967. The next year a Canadian team competed at the Tel Aviv Paralympic Games. In 1972, Jackson accepted the responsibility for organizing Canada's first Paralympic Games, the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled. The event was held in Toronto to coincide with the Montreal Olympics.

The Canadian Federation of Sport Organizations for the Disabled was created in 1981, and became the Canadian Paralympic Committee in 1993.

From 1972 until 1984, Jackson served as president of the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation. In 2005 he was awarded the Paralympic Order by the International Paralympic Committee.

The Paralympic Order is the highest tribute a person connected with the Paralympic movement may achieve.

In 1997, he received an Order of Canada.

Jackson was the team doctor for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts from 1976 to 1991 and the NBA's Dallas Mavericks from 1992 to 1995.