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An important milestone in Canadian diabetes history coincides with diabetes awareness month: Austen McDonald - the first Canadian with pre-existing diabetes to be granted a commercial pilot license - will fly his first commercial flight from Calgary to Saskatoon with his employer, Jazz Aviation, on November 5.

Earlier this year, Transport Canada removed barriers by amending their practice to allow individuals living with pre-existing diabetes to apply for the medical certificate needed to obtain a commercial pilot license. This action removed an important barrier for those living with diabetes and supports basic human rights to allow those living with the disease a chance to pursue career goals rather than discriminate due to living with a chronic illness.

“This groundbreaking time in our history represents a successful collaboration between citizens who are passionate about their rights, organizations willing to support, and governments ready to listen and enact policy change,” says Dr. Jan Hux, president & CEO for Diabetes Canada.

Up until recently, pilots who already had their commercial license when they became insulin-dependent could apply for a medical certificate to keep flying, but no one who already was living with diabetes and insulin-dependent could do the same. Individuals living with diabetes have the right to be eligible for employment in any occupation for which the person is individually qualified. Diabetes affects people in different ways and can be well managed with education and supports, diet, exercise, and medication. Thanks to the dedication of many individuals including Canadian country music singer George Canyon who also lives with type 1 diabetes and Austen’s father who is also a commercial pilot, Canadians living with type 1 diabetes with aspirations of becoming a commercial pilot is now a reality.

“Jazz believes in equal opportunities for employment and career advancement to all persons in accordance with their abilities and qualifications,” said Captain Steve Linthwaite, Vice President, Flight Operations, Jazz Aviation. “The change in Transport Canada’s regulations earlier this year enabled us to further support a workplace that honours progressive policies. We congratulate Austen for charting an important path for all those living with diabetes.”

“My dream is finally a reality and I hope it helps inspire others living with type 1 diabetes to keep pushing for their dreams because you never know how high you will be able to soar,” says Austen McDonald, type 1 diabetes commercial pilot.

November is Diabetes Awareness month. Through collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnerships, we can work to End Diabetes together. We can do so by educating and building awareness to help improve quality of life, by investing in research and advocating for a comprehensive nation-wide diabetes strategy (Diabetes 360°).

About Diabetes Canada

Diabetes Canada is the registered national charitable organization that is making the invisible epidemic of diabetes visible and urgent. Diabetes Canada partners with Canadians to End Diabetes through:

  • Resources for health care professionals on best practices to care for people with diabetes;
  • Advocacy to governments, schools and workplaces; and
  • Funding world-leading Canadian research to improve treatments and find a cure.

For more information, visit or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).

Category Tags: Advocacy & Policy;

Region: National

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