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Our History

The War Amps innovative programs have grown over the years from assisting war amputees – whom we still serve today – to all amputees, including children.

With your support, our commitment remains: To continue improving the lives of amputees.

1918: The War Amps is established

The Amputations Association of the Great War.

The origins of The War Amps trace back to September 23, 1918, when the Amputation Club of British Columbia held its first meeting. It was the first of many groups of war amputees across Canada to organize and, eventually, amalgamate into a national organization. War amputee veterans envisioned a fraternal society where they could help each other adapt to their new reality and advocate for seriously disabled veterans.

The founding years were a mixture of high hopes and hard work fuelled by a philosophy of “amputees helping amputees.” With a focus on practical assistance, counselling and self-reliance, the Association sought to provide direction to its members and address their needs.

Formally chartered in 1920 as the Amputations Association of the Great War, the organization pledged to “bind together in the spirit of fraternity all men who have lost a limb or limbs whilst giving their service to Canada.”

In its constitution, The War Amps identified a threefold purpose: to bring their case to the Canadian government; to help amputees with retraining and rehabilitation; and to explore and initiate research into the little-known world of artificial limbs.

Group of war amputees (some in military uniforms and others in civilian clothing) posing in front of a building.

1920: Sidney Lambert named first Association President

Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Lambert

Lt.-Col. Sidney Lambert, an Army Padre who lost his leg during the First World War, was named the first Association President. Lambert laid the groundwork for ensuing generations of amputees and shaped the philosophy that, with courage and determination, amputees can succeed in life.

Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Lambert posing in his army uniform sitting in a chair.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Lambert joined the Calgary Regiment and served in England and France. In 1916, on the battlefields at Ypres in Northern Belgium, he lost his leg above the knee.

It was at the College Street Military Hospital in Toronto, where Lambert was recovering, that he first conceived of the idea of a national association to help solve the problems of all amputees.

In 1920, Lambert became the first Dominion President of The War Amps. He led The War Amps through the Great Depression and beyond. He was an expert on veterans legislation and appeared before Parliament on many occasions.

As an amputee veteran himself, and as the well-known Hospital Padre at the Christie Street Veterans’ Hospital and, later, at Sunnybrook Military Hospital, he was acutely aware of the needs of seriously disabled veterans and their families.

Let us accept the challenge of amputation and overcome it in the same spirit that gave us victory in the days of war, victory in days of suffering, and will ultimately give us victory in our own lives, crowned by achievements worthy of our best selves.

Sidney Lambert
Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Lambert posing in his army uniform sitting in a chair.
Padre Lambert standing in front of a microphone beside other veterans giving a speech at a ceremony.
Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Lambert laying a wreath in front of a war monument.

In 1931, Lambert was named honorary President of the Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded (SAPA), a group with which The War Amps had worked closely on bringing pension issues to the government.

Edwin Baker and Sidney Lambert both wearing formal black suits with top hats (1939).

Lambert was a close friend of one of the founding members of SAPA, Edwin Baker, who also served on the Dominion Executive of The War Amps. Together, the two organizations supported each other not only in their advocacy work but in other activities such as marches and wreath layings.

At 82 years old, Lambert was awarded the Medal of Service in the Order of Canada for his contribution to the welfare of Canada’s veterans. He died May 5, 1971, after 50 faithful years of service to The War Amps.

Group of war amputee veterans posing in front of a building (1922).

1921: First dominion convention held

Group of war amputee veterans posing in front of a building (1922).

In 1921, The War Amps hosted its first dominion convention in Toronto. Conventions, which became an annual event, were a mixture of intense sessions on prosthetics and veterans' issues, camaraderie and some well-earned social time for the veterans.

1921: First issue of The Fragment is published

The cover of The Fragment.

In the fledgling years, The War Amps membership faced the hurdles of distance and communication in such a vast country. Staying connected was difficult – even more so when one was not close to a War Amps branch. As such, the Association introduced its internal magazine, originally called The Amputations’ Quarterly, as a means of communicating with members across the country.

Renamed The Fragment in 1926, the publication played a mighty role in bridging the distance, bringing vital information on pensions, veterans legislation, prosthetics, health care and Association events to members and their families. Its gentle good humour and shared stories reflected the camaraderie only those who were bonded by both military service and amputation could understand.

In the decades that followed, The Fragment continued to publish information regarding the latest, cutting-edge prosthetic technology and functioned as one of the few resources available to amputees.

1921: “Still striving to push ourselves forward”

The Association's soccer team.

The process of recovery and reintegration was a vital one for members as they adapted to their new reality as amputees. The Association played an integral role in connecting war amputees with their peers and, together, they encouraged and learned from one another.

At a time in society when disability was often seen as taboo, these amputees proved that they would not let it hold them back from their participation in sports, work and all other aspects of life. The “Amps” soccer team was just one example of this tenacity. At the time, they wrote that through the soccer team, they were “showing the public at large that we are still striving to push ourselves forward and better still, on our own initiative.”

1922: Mary Riter Hamilton completes battlefield paintings

A portrait of Mary Riter Hamilton.

Well-known Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton was commissioned by The War Amps to paint the battlefields in Europe with the aim of capturing the devastation and destruction of war before restoration took place. A selection of her paintings would be featured in an Association publication called The Gold Stripe.

In 1919, she travelled alone to France and Belgium. Working in harsh conditions, over the next three years she produced more than 300 paintings. There is a ghostly character to the artist’s hurried sketches of the scarred landscape. Yet, along with the images of destruction, she conveyed the important messages of renewal and rebirth, as depicted by the red poppies growing among the trenches in Trenches on the Somme.

Mary Riter Hamilton's painting, “Comrades.”

Hamilton’s works were featured in exhibits in Vancouver and Victoria, as well as in England and France. While she presented some of her paintings as gifts to war veterans, she never sold her art. Instead, she donated her collection to the National Archives of Canada to be kept as a memorial for the Canadians who fought and died in the First World War. “I painted them for the men and of course they must have them,” she said.

In the 1980s, 40 of Hamilton’s battlefield paintings were restored by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) for a touring exhibition called “No Man’s Land,” a joint project between LAC, The War Amps and curators Dr. Sarah McKinnon and Dr. Angela Davis. The exhibition travelled to many Canadian cities from 1989 to 2001.

Mary Riter Hamilton's painting, “Comrades.” Mary Riter Hamilton's painting, “Ypres Cathedral.” Mary Riter Hamilton's painting, “Canadian Monument, Passchendaele Ridge.”

1931: Maritime provinces join

In March 1931, the Association welcomed Maritime war amputees into the fold, establishing an unbroken chain of membership from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia.

1932: War Amps leads formation of veterans’ group NCVA

Beginning in 1932, The War Amps came together with four other veterans' groups to appear before parliamentary committees to represent the concerns of Canadian veterans. By presenting a unified voice, submissions to the government were considerably enhanced.

The War Amps and the other founding groups, which included the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada; the Sir Arthur Pearson Association of War Blinded; the War Pensioners of Canada and the Canadian Corps Association, had long-standing ties and a history of advocating for the rights of war veterans, especially those with disabilities.

The National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada.

Together, these groups eventually formalized into the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada (NCVA) in 1943. Throughout the years, the NCVA has continued to accept a number of other veterans’ organizations into its membership, which today stands at 60-plus member groups.

The National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada.

1936: War amputees attend unveiling of Vimy Memorial

In 1936, thousands of Canadian veterans and their families made the pilgrimage to France to witness the unveiling of the majestic Canadian National Vimy Memorial on July 26. Sitting on land donated by France to Canada, the monument commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge and stands as a tribute to all Canadians who served during the First World War, particularly those killed at Vimy and elsewhere in France who have no known grave. Among The War Amps members who joined the pilgrimage were First World War veteran Vic Burt and Vimy veterans Ethelbert “Curley” Christian and Perce Lemmon.

Vic Burt, Mrs. Gertrude Burt, Mrs. Nora Lemmon and Perce Lemmon posing.

1939: Name changed to The War Amputations of Canada

Anticipating the next generation of war amputees coming back from the front lines of the Second World War, the Association proactively changed its name to The War Amputations of Canada in 1939. The new name created an inclusive organization that would provide information and fellowship not only to First World War amputee veterans, but to the younger amputee veterans from the Second World War as well.

The War Amputations of Canada original logo.

The decision to change the name of the Association was documented in the Constitution Committee Report in November 1939:

Whereas the present war crisis affects the future of this Association and whereas the efforts of the Association should be made available to future war causalities, therefore be it resolved by the Amputations Association of the Great War that we adopt the following name: The War Amputations of Canada.

1944: War Amps refutes claim that prosthetic technology can “replace natural limbs”

Even as early as 1944, The War Amps played an important role in the public conversation about amputation and artificial limbs. In 1944, the Toronto Telegram published an article describing new artificial limbs as near-replicas of a natural limb. The War Amps responded critically with an article published in The Fragment, warning against this kind of description.

A veteran arm amputee being fitted for an artificial arm.

It is not only inaccurate but, we think, harmful to leave an impression with the general public of recent, rapid and remarkable progress in limb design which is already returning new war amps to active life and practically free from disability.

Today, this type of misconception is still prevalent in society and the Association continues to dispel the myths of prosthetic technology.

1944: War Amps secures dental benefits for arm amputees

Stemming from a presentation made by The War Amps to a parliamentary committee in 1941, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a dental treatment plan to arm amputees. The presentation described how many arm amputees used their teeth to perform everyday tasks, which inevitably led to considerable wear and, in some cases, breakage. As a result, the Department of Veterans Affairs granted dental service to arm amputees “as a matter of right.”

1945: Members welcome Second World War amputees back home

A male leg amputee on crutches.

As the new Second World War amputees returned home, they were welcomed to the Association by the “old amps." These new members, like the generation from the First World War, went on to contribute greatly to the success of the organization as we know it today.

Ralph Hodgson, a leg amputee of the First World War, was just one of many members who personally reached out to the returning amputees (and their families), informing them of The War Amps and offering support. In the following letter, he writes to the mother of Second World War amputee Albert Steinhoff.

Dear Mrs. Steinhoff,

I have been informed that your son, Albert M. Steinhoff, has recently lost his right leg on active service. It is hoped that he would soon be returning to Canada by hospital ship and that I, as an old amputation case of the last war, may have the privilege of meeting him at that time, to assist him to re-establish himself back into civil life.

May I say that we are an organization of some 3,000 soldiers who lost limbs during the last war, and it is our hope that we may be able to assist these young men who are suffering similar disabilities.

Yours sincerely,
Ralph Hodgson, The War Amputations of Canada

1946: The Key Tag Service is launched

War amputees working in the sheltered workshop making key tags.

The Key Tag Service debuted in 1946, creating jobs for war amputees in the sheltered workshop and generating funds for the Association by providing a valuable service to Canadians.

This service was a popular venture from the start. It not only served as a revenue stream to support the Association’s activities but also helped raise the profile of The War Amps with the public. By attaching a War Amps tag to a set of keys or other valuables, Canadians could feel assured these important items would be returned to them if lost.

In the beginning, the key tags were made by hand and looked like miniature licence plates. Within a few months of operation, more than 70 sets of keys were found and returned by mail.

To date, The War Amps has returned more than 1.5 million sets of lost keys to their owners and the Key Tag Service remains a sheltered workshop, employing amputees and people with disabilities.

Collage of War Amps key tags. Collage of War Amps key tags.

1946: War Amps leads amputee driving course

A double leg amputee sitting in the driver's seat of a car demonstrating adaptations to the vehicle.

In 1946, a driving course for War Amps members was established in Toronto. The course was financed by John Labatt of Labatt Limited and supervised and operated by The War Amps.

A double leg amputee sitting in the driver's seat of a car demonstrating adaptations to the vehicle.

After nine hours of instruction, including one hour of night driving, veterans were able to undergo testing and obtain licences. The course was also made available to seriously disabled veterans, including paraplegics.

One of the early students of the course, War Amps member Bob McGregor, told the Globe and Mail:

Learning to drive all over again made all the difference. Being able to handle a car in any traffic gives you a confidence which can’t be described. Behind the steering wheel, you finally realize you’re as good as the next one.

1952: Automatic conveyor belt allows for Canada-wide issuing of key tags

The introduction of a mechanized assembly system for key tags meant that the amputees employed at the Key Tag Service could produce 2,000 key tags per hour. In 1952, for the first time, they produced enough to issue to all of Canada.

Over the years, the Key Tag Service has continued to modernize by adopting new technologies, all while remaining a sheltered workshop that employs amputees and other people with disabilities. Under the leadership of David Saunders, CPA, CA, who has been with the Association since 1979 in the capacities of Director of Finance and (currently) Chief Operating Officer, the operations have also met top-of-the-line standards of privacy in the form of an ISO 27001:2013 certification for the operation of an information security management system to protect the privacy of donor and key tag information.

1957: Association Prosthetics Committee formed

Arising out of a need for more functional artificial limbs and better fittings, The War Amps formed the Association Prosthetics Committee in 1957. At the time, some members were wearing limbs that had not changed since the 1920s.

Collage of old prosthetic legs.

It was an uphill battle from the start. Fighting against the stigma of disability, the committee worked hard over the years to bring to light the needs and challenges of war amputees, most of whom were very reluctant to “complain” about the shortcomings of their artificial limbs. At the time, the committee wrote:

We do feel that the subject of artificial limbs has been hiding for too long. Outside of our own Association and close circle of friends, the words ‘artificial limb’ are either whispered or ignored.

Also working against the potential for advancements in prosthetic technology was the belief that available limbs were simply “good enough.” The War Amps fought this through extensive research and knowledge, looking to international advancements in prosthetics when necessary, and becoming the expert in the field.

In 1960, the Association campaigned to expand the artificial limb options that were available through Veterans Affairs, stating:

Several amputees have purchased their own limbs from outside sources; we suggest that any limb manufactured should be available to the Canadian war amputee. Those who have purchased other limbs are satisfied. They do not have trouble with their stumps or backs. They have not been visiting prosthetic services every other day for adjustments. The reason is their prosthesis is fitting them properly. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not have to suffer when wearing an artificial limb.

Over the years, the committee became well established both as a source of information for amputees and as an advocate for them. It even received the occasional correspondence from amputees abroad – as far away as Egypt.

The committee was also an integral source of information for the Department of National Health and Welfare (now known as Health Canada), and ensured the government was kept informed of all the most recent developments in prosthetics and amputees’ health care.

1957: War Amps asked to join government advisory committee

The Prosthetics Services Advisory Committee was initiated by the Minister of Veterans Affairs as an independent group that could advise the department on prosthetic treatment for veterans.

The four main corners of the prosthetics field would be represented on the committee: engineering; medicine and surgery; production; and user, which The War Amps was brought on to represent.

A male amputee demonstrating the Hydra-Cadence prosthetic leg (1961).

1961: Members test the Hydra-Cadence leg

A male amputee demonstrating the Hydra-Cadence prosthetic leg (1961).

In December of 1961, the Hydra-Cadence prosthetic leg, featuring hydraulic control of the knee and ankle, was officially approved for issue in Canada. The War Amps was involved in liaising with the manufacturers of the leg in California and helped bring the cutting-edge prosthesis across the border.

Members of The War Amps Prosthetics Committee took on the task of testing the leg and reporting back to Association members. While acknowledging that the Hydra-Cadence would not answer all amputees’ problems, they found it to be of great benefit to the above knee amputee who could wear one. The use of hydraulics was a milestone in prosthetic technology and is still used today.

A 1963 sketch depicting war amputees helping civilian amputees.

1962: The Association broadens its scope

A 1963 sketch depicting war amputees helping civilian amputees.

Although founded to assist amputee veterans, in 1962 The War Amps began expanding its support to all Canadian amputees with the introduction of the Civilian Liaison Program.

The two versions of the Civilian Liaison Program – one for adults and one for children – were the precursors of the modern-day Adult Amputee Program and CHAMP Program.

The program was built on The War Amps core philosophy of “amputees helping amputees,” as was explained in The Fragment at the announcement of the program:

As war amps themselves know, there is nothing like the personal experience of living with an amputation – and we hope to be able to give the benefit of our knowledge and experience to the civilians of Canada who share with us the common bond of amputation. And why not! There is no other group who has our experience. Moreover, the amps have never been an organization that said, ‘you owe us something.’ Instead, we have taken the attitude that we owe something to others – and the Civilian Liaison Program is going to give us that chance to pay the debt.

1963: “Sidney Junior” Award encourages positive spirit in child amputees

Harold Roberts, a young leg amputee, wearing an artificial leg and using parallel bars.

As part of the newly established Civilian Liaison Program, the Sidney Junior Award was created to celebrate young amputees who demonstrated courage and a positive attitude. The award, named after Association President Sidney Lambert, also encouraged the spirit of “amputees helping amputees” between the younger generation and the war amputees.

The very first Sidney Junior Award was presented to eight-year-old Harold Roberts, who had lost his leg the previous year in a train accident. Harold was chosen because his “cheery smile, proud accomplishments and youthful spirit” would inspire Canadians who may suddenly find themselves faced with the loss of a limb.

Many of the principles of the Sidney Junior Award were retained in the development of the CHAMP Program in 1975 – particularly the founding philosophy of the “Winner’s Circle,” which encourages children to accept their amputations and develop a positive approach to challenges.

1964: Pensions for Syme’s amputees increase after 40-year battle

In 1924, following presentations by The War Amps to government committees, the Government of Canada established a fixed pension table for amputations. This change benefited most of the Association’s members; however, the rating for Syme’s amputees (those with an amputation at the ankle joint) fell from 50 per cent to 40 per cent.

This lowered rating meant Syme’s amputees were not only receiving less compensation but were also no longer eligible for two important provisions: automatic pension increases with age; and protection for the widows of pensioners who die from a condition unrelated to their disability. Both provisions only applied to those with a pension of 50 per cent or more.

After 40 years of The War Amps fighting for a higher assessment for Syme’s amputees, the goal was met in 1964. The rating climbed back to 50 per cent, making those amputees eligible for an automatic pension increase at age 55 and offering enhanced protection for widows.

The cover of the booklet “Ask the Man Who Has One.”

1964 : “Ask the Man Who Has One” booklet published

The cover of the booklet “Ask the Man Who Has One.”

The War Amps booklet “Ask the Man Who Has One” served to provide information and advice for individuals who were either about to undergo amputation or had recently become amputees. It covered a wide range of topics, from practical advice on how to care for the residual limb and communicate with the medical team, to how to cope with the psychological effects of amputation and keep a positive attitude.

The booklet featured diagrams and honestly conveyed the realities of amputation with an encouraging and positive tone throughout. The title of the booklet became a catchphrase for the Association that encapsulated the philosophy that resulted in The War Amps becoming recognized as a centre of excellence in the field of amputation and prosthetics.

Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Lambert and H. Clifford Chadderton

1965: Cliff Chadderton named Executive Secretary

In 1965, H. Clifford Chadderton was named Executive Secretary (later CEO) of The War Amps. He was a Second World War veteran who lost his leg while battling for the Scheldt estuary in Belgium and Holland in October 1944.

Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Lambert and H. Clifford Chadderton walking alongside one another.

As a long‑standing War Amps member, Chadderton was mentored by former Association President Sidney Lambert and was intimately familiar with the plight of the war amputee through his active involvement in Association initiatives. He is also credited as the “sparkplug” behind the Civilian Liaison Program that was started in 1962.

Under Chadderton’s leadership, the Association made the transition from a solely veteran‑oriented organization to a charitable institution that effectively represents all amputees in Canada.

During this time, many of The War Amps well‑known programs were established, including CHAMP, PLAYSAFE, Matching Mothers and JUMPSTART.

Cliff Chadderton waving to the crowd of spectators from a military jeep during a veterans’ parade in the Netherlands.

Known to Canadians as “Mr. Veteran,” Chadderton led The War Amps for 44 years, from 1965‑2009, and was renowned as Canada’s most influential developer of innovative programs and services for war, civilian and child amputees, and as a tireless advocate for veterans.

In 1939, he enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and went from a non‑commissioned officer to company commander. A D‑Day veteran, he lost part of his right leg in 1944 while in command of a company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles battling for the Scheldt.

Chadderton joined The War Amps upon returning to Canada. An active member, he held a number of positions within the Association until his appointment as Executive Secretary.

On behalf of both the NCVA and The War Amps, he appeared before hundreds of committees established by Veterans Affairs Canada in the pursuit of improvements to pension benefits and allowances on behalf of individual veterans and their families, with particular focus on the prioritization of the seriously disabled veteran. An expert in the history and evolution of veterans legislation in Canada and throughout the world, he appeared regularly before committees of the House of Commons and Senate, presenting papers and recommendations regarding legislative amendments for the betterment of Canadian veterans.

Portrait of Clifford Chadderton wearing his medals standing in a living room.
Clifford Chadderton hugging a child amputee.
Portrait of Clifford Chadderton casually sitting in a chair with his head resting on his hand.

He also made it a mission to preserve the integrity and reputation of Canadian veterans, giving a voice to their concerns over the controversial television series The Valour and the Horror and the Billy Bishop documentary The Kid Who Couldn’t Miss.

During his life and career, he received numerous awards, including Companion in the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, induction into the Canada Veterans Hall of Valour and the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honour of France, the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, the Royal Bank Award for Canadian Achievement and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.

He considered the creation of the CHAMP Program, however, to be his greatest achievement. Both CHAMP and the solid foundation of programs for amputees that was established under his leadership will stand as his lasting legacy.

Chadderton passed away in 2013 at the age of 94. His passing was marked by countless tributes across the country, including on national television networks and in newspapers. He was also honoured in the House of Commons by then‑MP Steven Fletcher and the Minister of Veterans Affairs at that time, Julian Fantino, which received a standing ovation from the House. In 2016, a lake in the Duck Mountains in southwest Manitoba, his home province, was named Chadderton Lake in his honour.

1965: “Woods Committee” advises on veterans pensions

The Committee to Survey the Organization and Work of the Canadian Pension Commission, called the “Woods Committee” after its chair, was launched in 1965 to conduct an extensive investigation of veterans pension legislation.

Chaired by Second World War veteran Justice Mervyn Woods, the committee studied the Pension Act and the work of the Canadian Pension Commission.

The final three‑volume report resulting from the committee’s work was a landmark study acclaimed as the most important of its kind since the Second World War. The report made available to veterans for the first time a complete and detailed explanation of virtually every section of the Pension Act and presented 148 recommendations to improve the legislation and administration of the act. These recommendations included entitlements for multiple amputees and caregivers of seriously disabled veterans, recognition of consequential disabilities, and more.

Following the committee’s recommendations, extensive amendments were made to the Pension Act, leading to significant improvement in the lives of seriously disabled veterans, allowing them to better cope with their disabilities. Cliff Chadderton, who served as the committee’s secretary and executive director, considered this achievement to be one of the most significant of his career.

Members of the Woods Committee sitting at a table.

1972: War Amps recommends specialized training for “limb fitters”

As early as 1961, The War Amps was recommending specialized training such as courses at recognized universities for “limb fitters” (now known as certified prosthetists) who were employed in the various prosthetic centres across Canada. Typically, these limb fitters were amputees themselves who had taken up the trade but lacked consistent training or medical background.

As such, limb fitters were limited in their abilities and one of the major issues facing amputees was the ability to get a proper fitting and a durable, functional prosthesis.

The strong need for standardization and regulation in the industry eventually resulted in the formation and incorporation of the Canadian Board for Certification of Prosthetists and Orthotists in 1972 (later amalgamated with the Canadian Association for Prosthetics and Orthotics to form Orthotics Prosthetics Canada).

1972: The Address Label Service is introduced

In 1972, the Association introduced the Address Label Service to thank donors for their support and to provide year-round employment for people with disabilities at the sheltered workshop. Every fall, The War Amps mails personalized, peel and stick winter-themed address labels as a thank you to donors.

Collage of address label styles.
A young girl wearing artificial limbs on both arms sitting on Cliff Chadderton's lap.

1975: The CHAMP Program begins

A young girl wearing artificial limbs on both arms sitting on Cliff Chadderton's lap.

With war amputees’ needs well served by existing programs, War Amps members recognized their knowledge and experience could benefit children across Canada who were dealing with the effects of amputation.

As a natural evolution of the Civilian Liaison Program, and an extension of the Sidney Junior Award, which encouraged a positive attitude and perseverance in child amputees, the CHAMP Program was created. CHAMP would ensure children had artificial limbs and shared the “amps’” positive motto: “It’s what’s left that counts.”

When we came back from the Second World War, everything was there for us. We had a limb service to provide limbs, and we had a strong organization to fight our battles. We said to ourselves, ‘What happens now when a youngster loses an arm or a leg? Who is going to speak for these kids?’ So we started CHAMP.

Cliff Chadderton, War Amps CEO

From its inception, CHAMP has served all child amputees, no matter the cause of their amputation(s) – congenital, medical or due to an accident. Today, the program continues to offer comprehensive services, including financial assistance for artificial limbs, regional seminars and peer support. The program is built on the Winner’s Circle philosophy, which encourages child amputees to accept their amputations and develop a positive approach to challenges.

1975: War Amps goes to bat for seriously disabled veterans

War Amps members Jack Agnew, Cliff Chadderton and Jim Jenkinson walking down a corridor.

The War Amps played a leading role in initiating several significant interpretation hearings before the Pension Review Board in the 1970s and '80s, which provided a more liberal interpretation of veterans’ legislation in various categories of benefits. These changes to the interpretation of the Pension Act substantially improved financial security for seriously disabled veterans and, particularly, war amputees.

In 1975, The War Amps took its first appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal from the Pension Review Board. This was a historic judicial intervention that provided a landmark decision eliminating discrimination regarding seriously disabled veterans in the Pension Act and its policy guidelines of automatic age increase and fixed disability increase.

In 1980, The War Amps returned to the Federal Court of Appeal and once again was successful in dramatically expanding the interpretation and application of the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance provisions of the Pension Act, thereby providing a more generous application of the allowance and access to higher grade levels. This had a lifetime benefit to all war amputees and seriously disabled veterans in Canada.

Ultimately, a new Exceptional Incapacity Allowance guideline was established in 1985 through the collaborative efforts of the Canadian Pension Commission and War Amps representatives, including CEO Cliff Chadderton and Association Solicitor Brian Forbes. This guideline continues to provide improved benefits to war amputees and is an integral component of a seriously disabled veteran’s financial package under the Pension Act.

1976: Karl Hilzinger appointed sports consultant to CHAMP

Karl Hilzinger and a child amputee on a ski hill with mountains in the background.

Karl “Karlo” Hilzinger, an athlete who played in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for 10 years and enjoyed skiing and golf in the off-season, lost both his legs above the knee due to a car accident in 1964. Following his recovery, Karl was determined to find new ways to do the activities he loved and so became a pioneer in amputee sports, designing his own prosthetics and developing techniques that would allow him to continue to pursue his passions.

In 1976, Karl joined The War Amps as a sports consultant. Karl was inspired by the war amputee veterans’ philosophy, “It’s what’s left that counts,” and adopted it as his own personal motto.

In the spirit of “amputees helping amputees,” Karl shared his love of sports with Champs across Canada by attending CHAMP seminars and leading golf and ski clinics. One such clinic is featured in the film Downhill: Any Way You Can, which documents Karl teaching a group of young Champs how to ski at Mont-Tremblant. This inspirational video encouraged other Champs to take up the challenging sport of downhill skiing.

Karl was also featured in War Amps public service announcements and became known as the “silver-suited skier.” Although he passed away on December 15, 1988, Karl’s positive attitude and determination continue to inspire Champs today.

1976: War Amps parade float makes its debut

The 1976 Grey Cup parade float with young amputees dressed in football uniforms riding on board.

Thanks to the ongoing relationship with Sports Consultant Karl Hilzinger, a former CFL player, The War Amps debuted its first parade float in the 1976 Grey Cup parade. Champs from each province rode the float along with Karl.

A parade float featuring a stop sign and “mean machines,” like a lawn mower and farm equipment.

The Association’s participation in the parade became an annual tradition and helped develop the concept of a “kids-to-kids” message of child safety. Later, with the creation of the PLAYSAFE Program in 1978, the float became PLAYSAFE-specific and The War Amps participation grew into numerous community parades. The parade program was retired in 2023 and will be remembered fondly by generations of Champs.

A parade float featuring a stop sign and “mean machines,” like a lawn mower and farm equipment.

1977: War Amps joins board of International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics

Representatives of The War Amps had been attending the World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) as far back as 1963. The ISPO is comprised of various health-care professionals in the prosthetic and orthotic fields, from surgeons to physiotherapists to prosthetists.

At the 1977 conference, the Association presented a paper entitled “Prostheses, Pain and the Sequelae of Amputation, As Seen by the Amputee,” which provided the unique perspective of the consumer to this group of health-care professionals. To accurately reflect the needs of amputees, The War Amps conducted a survey involving 19 veterans' organizations from 14 different countries.

As a result of this impressive presentation, CEO Cliff Chadderton was appointed to the board of the ISPO in 1977.

1977: Prosthetics – Yes… Bionics – Maybe!!

Following the World Congress on prosthetics, The War Amps released a film titled Prosthetics – Yes… Bionics – Maybe!!, which documented the events of the congress and provided an up-to-date look at the field of prosthetics. The purpose was to ensure that all the new prosthetic technology and information available from around the world would be disseminated throughout the country in order to improve prosthetics for Canadian amputees. The film included interviews with leaders in the industry and details on the latest technology closest to bionics: the myoelectric hand and arm.

The film was of great interest not only to amputees and their families, but also to the public. At the time, unrealistic portrayals of prosthetic technology were abundant in popular television shows and movies. The video educated its viewers on the reality of the technology available. As was explained in an article from The Fragment:

A public which is conditioned through television should not be blamed if it has come to believe that miracles do exist – and when the word amputation is mentioned the public automatically thinks of bionics.

1978: The “kids-to-kids” PLAYSAFE™ Program is started

In response to an influx of enrolments into the CHAMP Program of children who had lost limbs due to accidents while at play, the Association started the PLAYSAFE Program, which adopts a unique “kids-to-kids” approach to child safety to make children more aware of the dangers in their play environment. By giving school presentations, hosting displays, taking part in events and participating in public service announcements that are shown on TV nationally, Champs tell other children to spot the danger before they play.

1980: Armand Viau hired as prosthetic consultant

Armand Viau with Cliff Chadderton and a young girl who is wearing a prosthetic arm.

In keeping with the Association’s commitment to providing current information and helpful resources to its members, The War Amps hired prosthetist Armand Viau as a consultant in 1980.

Mr. Viau had generously been providing advice and acting as a consultant on a voluntary basis since 1972. But in 1980, the needs of the Association had grown such that The War Amps formalized its partnership with him so that his services could be made available to the membership on an “as required” basis.

Over the years, Mr. Viau would become an indispensable asset to the Association, as he frequently attended CHAMP seminars to provide information and address individual questions and concerns among the Champs and their families.

Mr. Viau became one of the country’s leading experts in the field of prosthetics. He operated his own prosthetic facility and contributed many innovations to the field, which were beneficial not only in Canada but also on an international scale. In addition, Mr. Viau founded the Canadian Association of Prosthetics and Orthotics, acting as its first president, and the first certification board.

Terry Fox wearing an artificial leg, running on the road with a van following behind him.

Photo credit: ©Ross Dunn

1980: War Amps steps up for Terry Fox

Terry Fox wearing an artificial leg, running on the road with a van following behind him.

Photo credit: ©Ross Dunn

As Terry Fox was running his Marathon of Hope across Canada, his artificial leg was subjected to considerable wear and tear. By the time he reached the Ottawa River, his leg was causing him significant pain. The Association stepped in by referring Terry to War Amps Prosthetic Consultant Armand Viau, who fitted him with a new leg and a spare, both of which were funded by The War Amps.

1981: First CHAMP Seminar is held

The first CHAMP Seminar was held in Burlington, Ontario, in May 1981, and featured sessions such as parent counselling, a prosthetic clinic and time for children to play and learn with other Champs.

Seminars began as a national event and grew to multiple regional seminars each year, taking place across the country. From the very beginning, a tradition of older Champs mentoring younger Champs was put in motion, in keeping with the philosophy of “amputees helping amputees.”

The Winner’s Circle philosophy was also fostered through the seminars, encouraging Champs to accept their amputations and develop a positive approach to the challenges they face.

A large group of child amputees posing around a play structure at a CHAMP Seminar.

Since the first seminar, the CHAMP Program has brought together child amputees and their families from large and small communities across the country. For many Champs, a regional seminar is often the first opportunity they have to meet other amputees. This is a powerful experience, as Champs and parents learn they are not alone in dealing with amputation.

1981: PAYLAW Program is introduced

PAYLAW was created to provide legal information and support to CHAMP families whose children had been wrongfully injured and where there was a possibility of a damage claim.

The Association saw that, frequently, parents were not aware of their rights, and so initially the main objective of the program was to provide information to parents as well as their lawyers. CEO Cliff Chadderton was also accepted as an expert witness in courts throughout the country and would provide testimony regarding amputation when necessary.

Over time, the number of families seeking help and information increased as the Association’s abilities became nationally known. By 1984, The War Amps was being contacted frequently by legal firms representing amputees who felt the statistical information provided was most valuable to the successful outcome of their cases.

The PAYLAW Program would eventually grow and evolve to become the Advocacy Program that exists today.

1982: The War Amps opens Quebec office

In addition to The War Amps National Headquarters, located in Ottawa, and central Key Tag Service, in Toronto, the Quebec Operations office was established in 1982 to better serve the needs of the population in the province. The opening of the office enabled the Association to reach a larger French-speaking population to offer its existing services and comprehensive programs for amputees, including CHAMP, for which a yearly French seminar and other activities were created. Quebec Operations continues to deliver donor services, as well as programs for amputees, in the province.

1983: The War Amps and CFL begin an annual tradition

The War Amps and the Canadian Football League (CFL) kicked off a special tradition in 1983 – the annual CFL PLAYSAFE Award, saluting the League’s support of the PLAYSAFE Program. This took the form of a public service announcement (PSA) that debuted during the Grey Cup telecast from Vancouver, and it was estimated that the broadcast was shown in three-quarters of Canadian households. Ten-year-old Champ Shawn, who lost his arm in an accident, starred in the PSA along with former CFL star and fellow amputee Karl Hilzinger and CFL Commissioner Jake Gaudaur.

At that time, CEO Cliff Chadderton had formed a friendship with Jake Gaudaur, a fellow war veteran. In his role as Commissioner, Gaudaur took a personal interest in supporting the PLAYSAFE message. He regularly visited with the child amputees participating in the Grey Cup parades and invited them to attend the Grey Cup games. The close bond that developed between the two organizations continues to this day.

Over the years, many CFL stars have helped the Champs deliver their PLAYSAFE message, including Hall of Famers Doug Flutie, Miles Gorrell, Pierre Vercheval, Mike O’Shea, Milt Stegall and Ben Cahoon. The public service message premieres every Thanksgiving during the TSN football telecasts, and airs throughout the playoffs and Grey Cup, reaching millions of viewers nationwide.

See more of our CFL PLAYSAFE PSAs

1983: The War Amps supports research for artificial feet for children

In keeping with the commitment made to child amputees through the CHAMP Program, The War Amps supported the research, development and field testing of artificial feet for children.

The Association saw the need for artificial limbs to be tailored to the specific circumstances of child amputees as, up until 1983, children’s artificial feet had essentially been miniature replicas of adult models. These were not particularly suited to the needs and activities of children, and they lacked any relationship to the body weight of a child.

1984: ASTAR, the safety symbol, debuts

A cartoon sketch of ASTAR surrounded by machinery, augers and wires.

ASTAR, the gold, child-like robot from “Planet Danger” became a fixture during Saturday morning cartoons in the 1980s and early '90s. Appearing in a public service announcement (PSA) about safety aimed at children, ASTAR was created to appeal to youngsters already captivated by the popular sci-fi movie characters of the time. In the PSA, ASTAR flies, spins and somersaults through dangers like moving machinery, augers and wires with stunning agility until a saw blade catches his arm and sends it flying in an explosion of smoke and sparks. Reattaching his arm, he delivers a hard-hitting message: “I’m ASTAR, a robot. I can put my arm back on. You can’t. So PLAYSAFE.” For a generation of kids who grew up watching the PSA, ASTAR left a lasting impression.

The PSA’s special effects techniques generated much interest among adults as well, with many wondering how the PSA, and particularly ASTAR’s performance, was achieved. ASTAR endures as a memorable piece of Canadian pop culture.

1984: The Matching Mothers Program begins

The Matching Mothers Program was introduced after a CHAMP mother told CEO Cliff Chadderton that, upon learning of her child’s amputation, she could have benefitted from the advice of another mother who had gone through the same experience.

We listened, and before long, Matching Mothers became a part of our CHAMP Program. Now, when there is an accident or a birth which involves the loss of a limb or limbs, we arrange for a personal visitation to the mother from one who has learned how to cope.

Cliff Chadderton

We listened, and before long, Matching Mothers became a part of our CHAMP Program. Now, when there is an accident or a birth which involves the loss of a limb or limbs, we arrange for a personal visitation to the mother from one who has learned how to cope.

Cliff Chadderton

The Matching Mothers Program brings together families so new Champs and their parents receive support, information and a positive glimpse into the future.

1984: First CHAMP magazine is published

Cover of a 2018 issue of the CHAMP Newsletter.
Cover of a 1984 issue of the CHAMP Newsletter.

By 1984, membership in the CHAMP Program had grown considerably since its inception in 1975. This prompted the Association to find ways to foster communication with CHAMP families. The CHAMP magazine, later renamed the CHAMP Newsletter, was introduced as a way of keeping families informed about CHAMP activities and new developments in prosthetics, as well as sharing interesting and useful information about amputation.

The modern-day CHAMP Newsletter remains a useful resource that keeps CHAMP families in touch and provides encouragement to young amputees, as they see the many accomplishments of other children just like them.

1985: NEVER AGAIN! video series debuts

The NEVER AGAIN! series was inspired by CEO Cliff Chadderton and his visits to veterans’ organizations and military cemeteries around the world. Following this experience, he came to the realization that there was a need for a program that would dispel the myths of Hollywood films that glorify war, while paying tribute to those who served.

The goal of the NEVER AGAIN! videos was to teach younger generations about the horrors of war, to remind them of the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers and to tell the stories of veterans who experienced war first-hand.

NEVER AGAIN! was initially conceptualized as a four-part series, but was eventually expanded into a collection of more than 30 documentaries known as the Military Heritage Series. Hosted by Chadderton, the series made extensive use of archival footage and was broadcast on community channels from coast to coast.

1986: Kids spot the danger with SAFETY WALK™

In 1986, the Association started SAFETY WALK, a PLAYSAFE initiative that aims to make children aware of potential dangers in their neighbourhoods. By taking the time to look at familiar surroundings from a child’s point of view, adults can teach children how to recognize danger to avoid accidents and injury.

The inspiration for this program came from a letter to a newspaper, in which a father described how he lost his son to an accident involving power lines. He wrote: “It is too late for Shawn, but I plead to all parents: please check out the potential hazards in your community. Take the walk that I didn’t.”

A War Amps DRIVESAFE sticker.

1987: Child amputees remind adults to DRIVESAFE™

A War Amps DRIVESAFE sticker.

When it was discovered that a number of children being enrolled in the CHAMP Program had lost limbs in preventable traffic accidents, The War Amps established DRIVESAFE, a “kids-to-adults” message – from child amputees to drivers – developed to promote safe driving.

To help get the message across, The War Amps offers defensive driving tips and DRIVESAFE windshield stickers. As well, the DRIVESAFE message is prominently displayed on all War Amps key tags.

1987: The Thalidomide Task Force is formed

Cliff Chadderton with a male thalidomide victim in a wheelchair surrounded by journalists with microphones and cameras.

Thalidomide, a drug prescribed in Canada in the early 1960s to treat nausea and insomnia in pregnant women, caused shortened or missing limbs, hearing loss, heart problems and other issues in more than 120 babies born to mothers who had used the drug.

To address the needs of the Canadian thalidomide victims, The War Amps established the Thalidomide Task Force in 1987. With CEO Cliff Chadderton as its chairman, the task force issued a report in 1989 arguing that the federal government was responsible for compensating victims. The comprehensive report highlighted, among other missteps, the government’s inadequate screening process for new drugs, failure to act on early evidence of thalidomide’s side effects, as well as the slow withdrawal of the drug from the market.

Association Solicitor Brian Forbes represented Canada’s thalidomide victims in a submission to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, exposing the Canadian government’s failure on an international stage to compel the government to recognize the claim. Ultimately, after extensive negotiations, compensation was granted to thalidomide victims in 1990 when the Canadian government issued lump-sum payments ranging from $52,000 to $82,000. The War Amps viewed this compensation as a starting point, affirming that the government was responsible for meeting any future needs and financial requirements of thalidomide victims.

Twenty-four years later, the Canadian government agreed to lump-sum payments of $125,000. In 2015, the government also announced annual pensions worth up to $100,000 depending on level of disability – a major breakthrough in this hard-fought battle.

1987: Spirit of the Olympics captured in The Nakiska Kids film

In this film produced by The War Amps, 17 child amputees from across Canada formed the CHAMP Ski Team and challenged the slopes of Nakiska in the Alberta Rockies, where the alpine events for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics would be held the next year. The Champs, who ranged in age and level of skiing ability, were coached by CHAMP Sports Consultant Karl “Karlo” Hilzinger, a double-leg amputee. Innovative ski limbs for children were featured, along with a demonstration of a device for senior leg amputees designed by CEO Cliff Chadderton.

This was not just a film about skiing. In the closing scene, the skiers appear with letters on their suits to spell the words “CHAMP” and “NEVER AGAIN.” The “CHAMP” skiers represented the Olympic principle of excellence through determination. The words “NEVER AGAIN” reflected both The War Amps commitment to passing on the message of remembrance and the true spirit of the Olympics – to spread goodwill and develop peace and understanding among nations by bringing together athletes from many countries.

The Nakiska Kids Ski Team returned to Nakiska the following year to participate in the opening ceremony of the women’s alpine events. Led by Karl and young Champ Chris Koch, born missing all four limbs, the Champs descended the mountain in serpentine fashion, an inspirational feat watched by thousands of spectators.

1989: War Amps granted NGO status with the UN

While fighting for compensation for Canadian thalidomide victims and Canadian Far East PoWs, The War Amps sought and secured consultative status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with the United Nations (UN). NGOs are granted this status if their work relates to international human rights and combats violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This certification allows the Association to assist amputees on an international level and present submissions to the UN’s human rights bodies as necessary.

When organizations are granted this status, it is because they have special expert knowledge on a subject from which the UN Economic and Social Council may wish to draw. As an organization advocating for the rights of those with disabilities for nearly 70 years at the time of application, The War Amps was in a unique position to be of assistance.

The team of delegates sent by The War Amps included Dr. John Humphrey, co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Dr. Gustave Gingras, honorary President of the Canadian Human Rights Foundation and internationally renowned specialist in rehabilitative medicine; Brian Forbes as Association legal counsel and a leading advocate in international law and human rights; and CEO Cliff Chadderton.

1991: Champs take up the torch of remembrance

Cliff Chadderton posing with a group of young amputees in front of the Cross of Sacrifice (Beechwood Cemetery).

The success of the NEVER AGAIN! video series, which was created to dispel the myths of Hollywood films that glorify war, inspired a new program called Operation Legacy, in which Champs carry on war amputees’ message of the horrors of war to future generations.

As well as taking part in wreath layings, candlelight ceremonies and other commemorative events, Champs educate the public through presentations and displays, and by submitting letters to local and national newspapers.

Having adapted the war amputees’ message, the Champs’ motto is: “It was their war; it is our legacy.”

1991: JUMPSTART focuses on needs of children with multiple amputations

Cliff Chadderton sitting with a young double arm amputee in front of a computer monitor.

In the early '90s, The War Amps recognized home computers as “the great equalizer” for children with multiple or high-level amputations. As such, the Association began offering funding toward computers and assistive technology for these children through a new initiative called JUMPSTART.

Educational tools, a computer and a printer enabled multiple amputees to keep up with their schoolwork, particularly with producing reports and other printed work. As well, early computer training would ensure that youngsters had improved future job prospects and independence later in life.

Seminars for Super Champs were also started to meet the unique needs of multiple amputees. These delivered specialized sessions and content that was not covered at other CHAMP seminars. These sessions continue to be included today at CHAMP seminars across the country, providing Super Champs and their families with relevant information for their specific needs.

1995: New category of “seriously disabled veteran” recognized by VAC

In a major breakthrough with Veterans Affairs Canada, The War Amps, led by CEO Cliff Chadderton and Association Solicitor Brian Forbes, succeeded in creating a “seriously disabled veteran” category within veterans legislation, regulation and policy – a change that continues to benefit war amputees today.

This change recognized those veterans with more than 78 per cent pensioned disability (effectively all war amputees) as being in a category of their own, resulting in automatic entitlement for health-care and long-term care benefits as a consequence of their pensioned and non-pensioned conditions.

Through this initiative, VAC recognized that the interrelationship of amputation with other pensioned and non-pensioned conditions produced a cumulative impact on the veteran’s overall disability.

Over the last 20-plus years, this designation has had an extremely positive impact in ensuring war amputees receive the benefits to which they are entitled in a timely manner, especially as they confront the ravages of age and require additional support.

1996: War Amps enters digital age with online presence

As a centre of excellence in the field of amputation and a central source of reliable, up-to-date information on prosthetic technology, joining the World Wide Web made the Association’s many resources for amputees more accessible to the public than ever before. Today, the website features information on all aspects of life as an amputee, including prosthetics, healthy living and issues such as phantom limb pain, as well as amputation levels and important technical terms. Additionally, the website is an essential tool for the public to learn more about The War Amps programs, order key tags or make a donation.

1998: Compensation granted to former Far East PoWs

In 1987, The War Amps began an 11-year battle seeking compensation for Canadian veterans who had endured the atrocities carried out under the direction of the Japanese government during the Second World War.

The Association explored several avenues to secure compensation. The Japanese government evaded the request, arguing that the signing of the 1952 peace treaty between Canada and Japan nullified the claim. In 1987, the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations (UN) concluded the issue was outside its jurisdiction.

In 1993, Association Solicitor Brian Forbes then went before the UN Human Rights Committee with a petition – this time seeking compensation from the Government of Canada. The strategy was to trigger “an organization of shame” to compel the Japanese and Canadian governments to recognize the claim by exposing their failure before an international tribunal to acknowledge the serious breaches of the Geneva Convention and the maltreatment, torture and gross violations of human rights suffered by Hong Kong veterans.

In its 1993 claim, The War Amps argued that the Canadian government violated international law by failing to protect the interests of the PoWs and was neglectful in its refusal to support the claim against the Japanese government. Consistent with the Japanese government, the Canadian government maintained that the dispute was settled by the 1952 peace treaty signing. The UN committee ultimately ruled it could not act on the claim because all possible domestic solutions had not been explored.

Accordingly, The War Amps made a number of submissions to parliamentary committees. Ultimately, in 1996, the Foreign Affairs committee took a leading role. The committee then reported to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, recommending the government pay the claim and seek reimbursement from Japan.

On December 11, 1998, the Canadian government paid the claim – $24,000 to each surviving Hong Kong veteran or their widow – on a humanitarian basis. Of the 1,300 PoW survivors, about 350 veterans and 500 widows were alive at the time.

In 2011, Canada’s Far East PoWs received a long-awaited apology from the Japanese government for the abuse and violations of human rights it administered during the Second World War.

1999: The War Amps National Amputee Centre is formed

The covers of the “Licence to Drive” and “Daily Living Aids” booklets.

With decades of experience supporting Canadian amputees, The War Amps formally established the National Amputee Centre to provide reliable, accessible and current information to amputees and their families.

Information is free-of-charge, practical and easy to comprehend. It is gathered at prosthetic conferences, through direct contact with manufacturing companies, prosthetic and orthotic professionals, and from medical journals and books.

As a centre of excellence in the field of amputation and prosthetics in Canada, The War Amps expertise is also vital to government and other agencies that provide care and services to amputees. These agencies rely on the Association’s insight as instrumental to their decision-making process.

As neither a prosthetic company nor medical professionals, The War Amps adds a unique and unbiased perspective to issues concerning living with amputation that truly represents the needs of individuals. The War Amps provides a strong voice for all amputees in Canada and advocates for their best interests.

2000: Merchant Navy veterans granted recognition payment for years of lost benefits

During the Second World War, members of the Canadian Merchant Navy delivered troops, ammunition, fuel and other essentials. Along with the dangers inherent in sea travel, Merchant Navy vessels were targeted by enemy submarines, destroyers, aircraft and armed raiders. Casualties were high: one in seven merchant mariners died in the line of duty.

Members of the Canadian Merchant Navy on a ship.

Despite making statements acknowledging that the contributions of the Merchant Navy during the Second World War were equal to that of the Armed Forces, the Canadian government did not recognize merchant mariners as veterans once the war was over, withholding benefits from them as a result.

While former members of the Merchant Navy were finally granted official veteran status – along with the accompanying benefits – in 1992, this did nothing to account for the loss of benefits between 1945 and 1992.

Following extensive negotiations with the government and major veteran stakeholders, in 1997 The War Amps made a submission to the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs demanding that the Merchant Navy veterans be fully compensated for the benefits they should have received from 1945 to 1992.

Although full compensation was not granted, in 2000 and 2001, the government announced payments totalling more than $100 million for Canada’s Merchant Navy veterans and surviving spouses as recognition of their years of lost benefits.

2001: War Amps steps up for widows of seriously disabled veterans

Recognizing amputation as affecting the whole family, especially the spouse of an amputee veteran, The War Amps long argued that the widow of a seriously disabled veteran who was in receipt of maximum pension and allowances under the Pension Act should receive the same monthly income her husband would receive if he had outlived her. At the time, such a widow would see a drastic drop in her income – brought on by a reduced basic rate and the disappearance of her husband’s allowances – imposing considerable financial strain.

A group of widows of war amputees sitting around a table meeting with Cliff Chadderton.

While the war amputee is the one with the disability, the spouse spends much of his or her life as the caregiver. As such, The War Amps brought the issue to Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Ontario superior courts. The War Amps next move was to launch a countrywide petition calling for Parliament to address this inequality.

Following this long track through the judicial system, The War Amps began extensive negotiations with VAC and ultimately, in 2003, the Minister of Veterans Affairs announced that the surviving spouses of war veterans who died on and after May 13, 2003, would have entitlement in their own right from the Veterans Independence Program, providing housekeeping and groundskeeping. Widows whose veteran husbands died before that date, though, would not receive the same support. The War Amps strongly opposed this two‑tier system, having fought for equal support for wives and widows of seriously disabled war veterans. Ultimately, the lobbying efforts were successful when the House of Commons adopted an amendment to this motion in October 2003, removing the clause that excluded some surviving spouses.

2002: War Amps files UN claim on behalf of Indigenous veterans

At least 4,000 Indigenous persons in Canada volunteered to serve in the First World War, more than 3,000 in the Second World War and several hundred in the Korean War. Of these enlistees, more than 500 lost their lives during those conflicts. These numbers do not account for the Inuit, Métis and other non‑status Indigenous persons who contributed to the country’s war efforts.

Despite earning potential access to post‑war rehabilitation programs by serving alongside their non‑Indigenous comrades, the rehabilitation measures did not take into consideration the circumstances of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, which prevented them from taking advantage of benefits such as vocational training, land ownership, post‑secondary education, preferential hiring and bonuses tied to business ownership.

On June 21, 2002, Veterans Affairs Canada offered a $39‑million compensation package for about 1,800 people with status under the Indian Act who had returned to reserve land after their war service during the Second World War or the Korean War. This package did not include Métis, Inuit and other non‑status Indigenous persons, leaving about 3,000 without compensation.

As the federal government’s compensation package only applied to those with status still living on a reserve, The War Amps, in conjunction with the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada (NCVA), filed a claim with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations seeking comprehensive compensation.

Prepared by Association Solicitor Brian Forbes, The War Amps claim argues that the Canadian government was discriminatory by offering rehabilitation benefits while not including any legislation, regulations or procedures that took into account the unique situation of Indigenous veterans. The claim called for special grants of $7,500 per year for periods of service in Canada only and $15,000 per year for periods of service in a theatre of war.

In 2006, The War Amps approached representatives of Parliament and the Senate in hopes that a settlement could be arranged after some 15 years of petitioning on behalf of Indigenous veterans.

Today, it remains an ongoing mission of The War Amps – with the support of the NCVA – to continue to support Indigenous veterans.

2009: Cliff Chadderton retires

After 44 years of service leading The War Amps and decades as a tireless advocate for Canada’s veterans, Cliff Chadderton retired at age 90.

Determined that the programs started by returning war amputees would endure, Chadderton had the foresight to begin many years prior to develop a strong team to continue the “amputees helping amputees” philosophy well into the Association’s second century. As such, in 2005, the National Board of Directors established an Executive Committee consisting of Chadderton, Brian Forbes, Association Solicitor since 1975, and David Saunders, who has been with the Association since 1979 in the capacities of Director of Finance and (currently) Chief Operating Officer.

Portrait of Cliff Chadderton.

On his retirement in 2009, the Board of Directors adopted Chadderton’s proposed operational plan by continuing Forbes and Saunders as the Executive Committee, with Forbes taking on the responsibilities of Chairman in relation to the governance and administration of the charitable programs of the Association. Forbes, who had the privilege of working closely with Chadderton for almost 35 years and is a leading expert in veterans legislation, continues to act as Association Solicitor for The War Amps and also holds the position of Chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada. The Executive Committee is supported by an Executive Subcommittee consisting of Danita Chisholm, Executive Director of Communications and CHAMP; Lorraine Cornelius, Executive Director of Public Awareness; and Darlene Quesnel, Executive Director of Internal Operations. The Quebec Operations continues to be managed by Marlène Girard, Executive Director.

In addition, having local representation across the country has always been a significant part of The War Amps structure, as established in the constitution. Since the Association’s start, war amputees, through their regional branches, have taken on the important work of reaching out to fellow amputees and providing support at the community level. As we look ahead to the future, The War Amps coast-to-coast representation will continue through the Regional Representatives, all of whom are CHAMP graduates who have a long-standing involvement with and a dedication to the Association. As War Amps ambassadors, they will help to continue the Association’s mission.

Today, the legacy that was started by war amputees following the First World War continues to grow and evolve to meet the unique needs of war, adult and child amputees. The War Amps work now covers a breadth of issues for amputees, from financial assistance for the artificial limbs they need for independence, to providing a voice for amputees’ rights and much more.

The covers of “The Fragment” and “At your service.”

2010: War Amps magazine The Fragment becomes At your service…

The covers of “The Fragment” and “At your service.”

After almost nine decades, The Fragment magazine for war amputee veteran members and their families became At your service… The publication continues to connect members across the country and provide them with essential information on pensions and veterans legislation, as well as other topics of interest.

A special edition of The Fragment, retaining its original name to commemorate its long and rich history, was published to mark the Association’s 95th anniversary in 2013. This edition was comprised of a collection of past articles that illustrate the important role the magazine played during the Association’s fledgling years and beyond.

2014: Advocacy Program is launched

Since its founding at the end of the First World War, The War Amps has fought to protect the rights of amputee veterans and address the inequities they face. Over the years, the Association has taken on many important battles in support of amputees and our veterans. In 2014, the collective efforts and resources dedicated to these ends were expanded with the creation of the Association’s Advocacy Program in order to give a voice to all amputees in Canada.

Through Advocacy, The War Amps supports individual amputees who have encountered discrimination or red tape in accessing important financial benefits and/or legal rights. Effecting change to improve the lives of war, adult and child amputees in Canada is another function of Advocacy, as the Association identifies and addresses inequities and gaps in areas such as insufficient prosthetic coverage; insurance (both public health care and private insurance); legal and human rights issues; and government benefits.

2014: Working relationship with DND formalized

In order to share the Association’s expertise on all aspects of living with amputation and provide war amputees with assistance prior to their military release, The War Amps and the Department of National Defence (DND) formalized a collaborative partnership to ensure still-serving war amputees receive health care, including artificial limbs, that is current, evidence-based and best suited to their specific needs.

The War Amps National Headquarters building in Ottawa.

2014: NHQ rededicated as H. Clifford Chadderton Building

The War Amps National Headquarters building in Ottawa.

To commemorate the life and contributions of The War Amps late CEO Cliff Chadderton, the Association’s National Headquarters in Ottawa was rededicated as the H. Clifford Chadderton Building.

2014: The War Amps calls for reform of the New Veterans Charter

Introduced in 2006, the New Veterans Charter changed the way the Canadian government issues financial support to veterans. The charter has been criticized by veterans’ groups since its enactment. Despite frequent calls for reform, many of the charter’s shortfalls remain.

The War Amps had been reaching out to modern-day amputee veterans from Afghanistan and various other conflicts for many years, helping them access the benefits and services to which they were entitled by informing them of what was available and acting as a navigator to simplify and speed up the bureaucratic application process.

Through these years of experience assisting modern-day war amputees under the New Veterans Charter, as well as many decades of assisting traditional veterans under the Pension Act, including those from the First World War, Second World War and Korean War, the Association became uniquely qualified to apply its in-depth knowledge of each legislation to identify disparities and inequities between the two.

In 2014, after years of negotiation and consultation with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to improve the charter, the National Council of Veteran Associations (NCVA), of which The War Amps is a founding member, presented a landmark submission to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs that charged the government with failing to fulfil its commitment to update the New Veterans Charter as gaps and other issues became apparent. The promise of reform, evident in the government’s description of the document as a “living charter,” was integral to the veterans community’s initial acceptance of the legislation. The submission contained 10 recommendations to address the issues in the charter.

Following the 2014 submission and scrutiny from other veterans’ groups, the Canadian government announced a number of adjustments to the charter. These changes amounted to “half measures,” as the recommendations made by the NCVA, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and other advisory groups were not fully implemented.

Again, in 2015, NCVA, chaired by War Amps Chairman of the Executive Committee Brian Forbes, presented in comprehensive detail the recommendations to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs with regard to the incomplete nature of Bill C-58/59 which was, at that time, before Parliament, and described the flaws in the charter, which remain outstanding.

The Association, with the support of NCVA, continued to pressure the government to address the remaining voids and inequities in the charter. In addition to participating in Veterans Summits, The War Amps is also represented on four of the six ministerial advisory groups to VAC, including the Policy Advisory Group, for which Forbes is co-chair.

In 2018, the government tabled Bill C-74, Part 4 – the long-awaited re-establishment of lifelong pensions for veterans. However, this announcement has failed to live up to the government’s 2015 election promise and has not satisfied veterans’ expectations regarding this fundamental, mandated commitment.

In effect, the “pension for life” simply converts the amount of the lump sum disability award into a form of lifetime annuity as an option for those disabled veterans who are eligible. Additionally, the announcement of two new benefits (which replace existing benefits) will have limited applicability and will not materially impact the majority of disabled veterans.

It is clear that the financial disparity between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter – the elephant in the room that the government continues to ignore – will be perpetuated for this significant cohort of disabled veterans in Canada.

If the “one veteran – one standard” philosophy advocated by VAC has any meaning, the government must seize the moment and improve the charter to ensure that no veteran under the New Veterans Charter receives less compensation than a veteran with the same disability or incapacity under the Pension Act. The arbitrary two-tier system of treatment for veterans injured before 2006 and those injured after 2006 must be eliminated. This remains a fundamental issue of concern to Canada’s veterans. With the support of NCVA and the Policy Advisory Group to the Minister of VAC, correcting this disparity to ensure all disabled veterans receive equal compensation remains The War Amps ongoing mission.

2015: Collaborative partnership with VAC announced

Following contributions to Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC)'s revised prosthetic policies and 16 prosthetic education sessions hosted by The War Amps for VAC staff in 2014, The War Amps formalized its collaboration with VAC in 2015. As the centre of excellence for living with amputation, The War Amps is able to share vital information and expertise to better serve the needs of war amputee veterans.

2015: Collaboration with Orthotics Prosthetics Canada formalized

Continuing The War Amps commitment to raising the standards of amputee care, a collaboration with Orthotics Prosthetics Canada (OPC) was formalized in 2015. OPC and The War Amps work collaboratively to ensure that amputees receive the most appropriate, evidence-based and timely health care.

2016: Launch of “Crusade for Reform”

The War Amps ongoing Advocacy work for amputees revealed a number of gaps in prosthetic funding, both from public health care and private insurers. Most Canadians would be shocked to find out that those who suffer the loss of a limb are not adequately covered by their provincial or private health insurance plans for artificial limbs, and that several provinces provide no funding at all.

A male amputee receiving adjustments to his prosthetic leg by a prosthetist.

The War Amps fills the gaps in funding where it can but as a charitable organization that relies on public donations, these funds can only go so far. As a result, the “Crusade for Reform” was launched to improve the standards of financial support offered by provincial governments and the insurance industry.

An appropriate, medically prescribed artificial limb is an investment in the health of the amputee that has been shown to reduce long-term issues and their associated costs, such as repetitive strain injuries, falls, broken bones, and so on.

The “Crusade for Reform” educates government and funding agencies on the medical necessity of artificial limbs so that amputees will be able to receive the limbs required for their independence, safety and security.

As The War Amps moves into its second century, just as the Association has fought the battle for veterans since 1918, this modern-day battle still must be fought to ensure that the needs of all amputees are met.

2018: Celebrating 100 years

Today, there is still much to do to ensure amputees have the artificial limbs they need to lead independent and active lives. The CHAMP Program, which is unique in the world, and the Association’s many other vital programs, serve more amputees than ever. Thanks to the public’s continued support of the Key Tag Service, The War Amps legacy will carry on long into the future.

A young double leg amputee wearing his water legs while playing at a splash pad.
A young boy wearing his artificial leg sitting on a  bench between two war amputee veterans.
A boy and girl, both wearing artificial arms sitting on a stone ledge in a park.
The cover of the book, With Courage and Determination: The Story of The War Amps 100 Years of Service.

With Courage and Determination:
The Story of The War Amps 100 Years of Service

The cover of the book, With Courage and Determination: The Story of The War Amps 100 Years of Service.

In 1918, when First World War amputees formed The War Amps, never could they have imagined that their legacy would still be going strong 100 years later. In honour of this milestone, we compiled our century-long history into a book, With Courage and Determination: The Story of The War Amps 100 Years of Service. In it, you’ll also find photographs and testimonials from people impacted by the Association over the years.

Cost: $15 (includes shipping)

To order, please contact:
1 800 250-3030

2020: The War Amps Advocates for Veterans During Pandemic

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had wide-reaching implications for veterans, including financial and emotional concerns for those struggling with mental and physical injuries. While the Government fast-tracked millions of funding claims for the public, modern-day veterans’ disability claims were stuck in a backlog at a time when support was needed most.

With doctors’ offices closed or appointments significantly reduced, the medical reports required by Veterans Affairs Canada to support disability claims were almost impossible to obtain. The War Amps and NCVA advocated that veterans’ claims should be taken at face value and decisions be based on the reasonable evidence provided by the veteran and his or her family, with the proviso that individual files could be monitored over time and “spot audits” carried out to address any potential abuses.

VAC’s policy statement in July 2020 adopted several of The War Amps and NCVA’s proposals but ultimately failed to fix the claim backlog crisis, which had been intensified by the pandemic. After our submission to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in November 2020, the committee later issued a report in December calling for urgent and dramatic change in department protocols to relieve the backlog and turnaround times.