Wellness Champion Profile: Richard Peter, First Nations Paralympian



​​Richard Peter is a gifted athlete with a natural talent for basketball. His basketball accomplishments include winning numerous medals and accolades on the international stage, with stints on the Canadian national team. Now 50 years old, he is retired from competing on an elite level, and a member of BC's Sports Hall of Fame. He remains active with badminton.

Richard's athleticism and love of sport is all the more impressive given the fact that since he was five years old, he has been living with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the waist down. It was in his teens that he found and began playing the sport he would excel at: wheelchair basketball.

When Richard was growing up in the '70s, there was little awareness and knowledge of spinal cord injuries, and because he lived in a small community, a Cowichan Tribe [Coast Salish] reserve near Duncan, BC, accessibility was a major issue.  

The injury was not only transformative for him, Richard says, but also for his family and community. “Everybody stepped up to be as inclusive as possible after it happened." That meant modifying his home, and his community making accommodations for the drastic changes in his life.

“It was a challenge to make things accessible, but I raise my hands and hat to the community. We had a lot of help from the community, because nothing was accessible back then compared to now. Even going to school, my mom [Gloria Peter] fought for me to go to public school and not a special-needs program. It was crazy for an Indigenous mother to do that back then and to succeed."

Richard's mother also worked with the school board to ensure Richard was not left out because of his injury. The board made changes to the school and curriculum to make sure he was able to enjoy the full experience of school.

As a child living with a disability, he refused to see being in a wheelchair as a restriction. Whenever someone tried to exclude him, whether out of genuine concern for his safety, or out of not understanding his abilities and only seeing his disability, Richard's response was always: “Just watch me."

As a child, he and his advocates would find ways to adapt different sports to his needs. In baseball he would be the pitcher, catcher, or first baseman. In football, he would be the quarterback. If he was interested in a sport, Richard would find a way to adapt it so he could safely play it from his wheelchair.

Currently, Richard describes himself as the perfect middleman. He says that because of his long history in several different types of communities, he is able to leverage his connections between the athletic community, the Indigenous community, and those with disabilities.

As a lifelong athlete, Richard is a natural advocate for sports. As a Wellness Champion, he encourages others to get into sports, regardless of their ability. His mantra is to have fun, because if he is able to get someone to try a sport and they have fun, it can become a lifelong hobby and a way for people to maintain their fitness.

His current work with the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute as the Indigenous Peoples' Liaison fits perfectly with his goal of getting people into sports regardless of who they are or what their ability level is. He says that while he has figured out a way to adapt many sports to his needs, he still has not figured out a way to say no to someone when they come to him for assistance. He still travels to different communities to show how people with disabilities can be active and enjoy sports or find the equipment they need.

Richard remains hopeful for the future of other people with disabilities. He is happy to be an inspiration and advocate for them.

“Everyone can do a little bit more; I got a lot of help to get me to where I am today so that's where I try to help, to help people start a new sport or activity and help them have fun to get out there and do something they enjoy."

Skip Navigation LinksFNHA.ca>About>News and Events>News>Wellness Champion Profile Richard Peter First Nations Paralympian