Incorporation of CCDS took place in April 1995 under the official name, The Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Incorporated. The Centre came into being through a unique set of circumstances.
In October 1993 a Steering Committee was established to develop the concept of a disability studies centre. Members of this steering committee included people from the disability and university communities. Dr. Don Fuchs from the Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba, coordinated the activities and Henry Enns who received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree at that year’s fall convocation chaired the committee. Discussions had taken place for many years regarding the idea of such a centre. The conferring of the Honorary Doctorate provided the catalyst to bring people together.
The Steering Committee worked for over a year to develop a mission statement and set of principles.
During the summer of 1994, the centre (still unnamed) received a grant to hire a summer student to consult with the disability community regarding the concept on which to build the centre.
Some forty letters of support were received from various organizations. A formal proposal was developed and work began on a set of by-laws. This work was done by what was later known as the Governance Committee, Art Braid, Al Simpson and Laurie Ringaert.
Meetings took place in January 1995 with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, to discuss an Endowment Fund, which would assist the financial viability of the Centre. The initial response was supportive for the centre’s concept, but funding for an endowment did not look likely. In March of the same year, Dr. Don Fuchs visited Ottawa and was informed by Minister Axworthy that the centre would receive $65,000.00. The pendulum had begun to swing. In Ottawa two weeks later, Henry Enns was given the news that the centre would receive $1 million for the establishment of its Endowment Fund.
Henry Enns was the driving force behind the establishment of CCDS in 1995. In his role of Executive Director, Henry led CCDS to many tremendous achievements in Canada and around the world, including:
At CCDS, Henry built upon twenty years of experience in international development work. Henry was instrumental in forming Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) in 1980/81 and during the United Nations Year of the Disabled (1981) assisted the organization in gaining a significant presence on the world stage.
He travelled the world, visiting more than 80 countries during the UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), serving DPI as President and Executive Director.
In the years previous to that, Henry was active with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) as well as the Association of Independent Living Centres. In the early 80s Henry was on the ground floor of the founding of the Winnipeg and Kitchener Independent Living Resource Centres. During the 80s he also acted as a disability consultant for the Mennonite Central Committee.