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Paralympian Calls For Equal Pay & Says Some Athletes Could End Up ‘Working In Starbucks’

One of Canada's most decorated Paralympic athletes has expressed her disappointment that her home country doesn't pay its Olympic and Paralympic athletes equally.

Swimmer Aurélie Rivard from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, has won five gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze in a decorated career spanning across three Paralympic Games — London 2012, Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and now the Tokyo 2020 Games.

But when asked by Narcity Canada if the 25-year-old will receive payment for her medals from the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), similar to the Canadian Olympic Committee's (COC) Athlete Excellence Fund set up for Olympians, she said: "No, we officially get $0.

"Prize money will come from private businesses. For swimming, Speedo will give $25,000 to be split between medalists, for example. Swimming Canada will allow a small amount too.

"I personally will get bonuses from my own sponsors. Other Canadian athletes might not have this chance."

As Narcity Canada reported in July, eligible Olympic athletes get $20,000 for winning a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver medal, and $10,000 for a bronze medal through the excellence fund. These performance awards are the same amount regardless of whether they win in a team sport or an individual sport.

In the U.S., Paralympians and their Olympic counterparts are now being paid the same amount of money for winning medals. According to a report by the New York Times in 2019, Paralympians were paid US$7,500 for gold, but now receive US$37,500 for a gold medal, US$22,500 for silver and US$15,000 for bronze from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

However, in an email to Narcity on August 31, a spokesperson for the CPC said there is no "similar fund" for Canada's Paralympic athletes right now.

"We definitely support the idea, and strive to be in a position in the future to offer financial bonuses to medallists," the statement added.

At the Tokyo Games, Rivard has won two gold medals in the S10 100-metre freestyle and the S10 400-metre freestyle, while also claiming a bronze medal in the 50-metre freestyle event in the same classification.

She said she hopes that Canada one day recognizes equal pay for both sets of athletes. "It's a Canada problem, as other countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine and Belarus will allow their Paralympic medallists hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money for their Paralympic medals.

"We put in the same work and the same effort but at the moment we get about a tenth of what the Olympic athletes get. But, we have to remember that the COC has more money than the CPC and that is part of the problem."

Rivard also expressed concern for the next generation of young Paralympic athletes. "We do it because we love it but you can't expect people to move entire lives around and sacrifice 20 years of their life on one sport because when you retire you have nothing. You might have to go working at Starbucks."

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