Sam Sullivan

Sam Sullivan

Former Mayor of Vancouver
Paralympic Ambassador
Philanthropic champion
Langara College alumnus

Sam Sullivan was the 38th Mayor of Vancouver and served as City Councillor for 12 years. He was born and raised in East Vancouver and attended Langara College as both an able-bodied and disabled student. After his first year attending Langara, he broke his neck in a skiing accident and became a quadriplegic. He returned to the College and experienced it from a very different perspective.

Recognizing a lack of opportunities for those with more significant disabilities, he founded several non-profit organizations to improve the situation. He formed organizations that enabled people with disabilities to fly ultralight aircraft, sail in specially designed sailboats, play music with the aid of computerized adaptations and participate in gardening. He also founded the Tetra Society that links technically skilled volunteers with disabled people who require customized assistive devices and the ConnecTra Society that supports efforts to earn an income. He initiated the development of the Martin 16 Sailboat that currently has 150 in use throughout the world. He co-invented the TrailRider, which has enabled people with disabilities to summit Mount Kilimanjaro and reach the base camp of Mount Everest. The Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation has raised $20 million and supported 10,000 disabled people across Canada and beyond. 

As Mayor Sullivan, Sam started the EcoDensity Initiative as a way of reducing the environmental damage created by cities. In 2009, the Canadian Planners Institute awarded the initiative the highest award for city planning. He started Project Civil City based on the premise that the police were not the answer to Vancouver’s social problems. He negotiated to give 12 city-owned sites to the provincial government on the condition that they build over 1,000 units of social housing and contributed $5 million to the renovation of 18 low-income hotels purchased by the provincial government. He took an active role in the creation of the Street to Home Foundation and the Inner Change Society which supports drug maintenance programs for people with addictions.

Sam received international recognition when he accepted the Olympic flag for Vancouver during the 2006 Torino Olympics. He devoted much energy to preparing the city for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and was appointed Canada’s Ambassador for the Paralympics.

After completing 15 years in civic government, he formed the Global Civic Policy Society. He hosts Public Salons for audiences of 500 people at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, which promotes the ideas of Vancouver’s thinkers and doers. He operates the Greeting Fluency Initiative to encourage citizens to learn phrases in the languages of their neighbors. Sam became mayor in part because of his facility with the Cantonese and Punjabi languages. He also is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Market Urbanism and currently serves as Adjunct Professor at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

In 2010, Sam became the first mayor in history and only non-medical doctor that year to be given an Honorary Membership in the College of Family Physicians of Canada on account of his “efforts on behalf of marginalized inner-city populations”. In recognition of his significant efforts on behalf of his community, he was given the country’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada.

Event Details

November 18

1:00pm - 5:00pm

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Langara College
100 West 49 Ave,
Vancouver BC

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