The Arthritis Society, BC & Yukon

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years, and is dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis. Founded in British Columbia in 1948 by Mary Pack and Dr. Wallace Graham, The Society is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. The Society’s mandate is to improve the quality of life for people living with arthritis and this is done through the support of our mission through quality education programs that elevate one’s knowledge base about the disease. Some key positive outcomes of our program include improved pain and stress management, increased mobility and greater ability to navigate the healthcare system. The Society recognizes the critical need in BC and continuously tailors and adapts programs through client evaluations, addressing the needs and gaps of those affected by arthritis. The Society’s ongoing partnerships between The Society, community leaders and health agencies create sustainable health programming with greater outreach and impact.

Our Impact Why We Exist

The Society has been the largest non-government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing more than $195 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. Investments also support the recruitment and development of rheumatology clinicians, investigators and other health professionals, expanding the capacity of arthritis-related expertise available to support Canadians. The Society conducts research to better understand the impact of arthritis, advocates for progressive arthritis policies, works with stakeholders to promote appropriate standards of care, and delivers educational programs to empower those living with arthritis to self-manage their disease.

Our Story What We Do

Arthritis is a devastating disease that has impacted people of all ages for many years. Until the late 1940s, support was not available for those suffering from arthritis in Canada; a staggering 600,000 cases at the time. Dedicated funds were not available for arthritis research. People were bedridden for years without help that was so desperately needed. Treatments that were available were often delayed until joint damage was too severe and irreversible.

Dr. Wallace Graham, one of the only four rheumatologists in Canada in the ‘40s and Mary Pack, a home schooling teacher who witnessed students suffer from the effects of arthritis, made it their mission to help those who were suffering and work to find the causes of and a cure for this debilitating disease. An organization with this as its mission needed to be created.

Both Dr. Graham, Ms. Pack and other pioneers stirred up considerable political interest in arthritis and developed strong relations with the Minister of Health at that time, the Honorable Paul Martin Sr.  Mary Pack, in her book, Never Surrender, reported that “Dr. Wallace Graham presented the case so well that there was no doubt it would be acted on.”

These efforts culminated in a 1947 national conference in Ottawa celebrating some breathtaking medical advances in that era's 'Renaissance of Rheumatology.' 

The Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society (CARS)

In 1948, thanks to the tireless efforts of Mary Pack, and Dr. Graham, the Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society (CARS) was created, now known as The Arthritis Society (TAS). Dr. Graham became its first volunteer president and in British Columbia, Mary Pack became their first Executive Director.

CARS got a foothold in the health care industry in 1949 with its platform Arthritis - Plan for Attack. It was the first in a series of five-year strategic plans that would help keep the organization focused on the job at hand - a concerted effort to combat arthritis.

The plan initiated various programs to support clinical and basic science research projects, and to attract and educate the medical manpower necessary to address arthritis in Canada. It played a major role in increasing the number of rheumatologists (arthritis specialists) in Canada to over 350 now - compared to only four in 1949.

Plan for Attack also helped launch the first of CARS' annual fundraising campaigns. Eventually September was declared arthritis month in Canada.

The first lupus clinic was established in the 1960s and CARS was officially renamed The Arthritis Society in 1977.

In 1997, an initiative by The Arthritis Society – Arthritis 2000 – brought researchers, politicians and the public together to discuss the need for more research.  As a result of this conference, the Canadian Arthritis Network was formed.

Advancement in arthritis treatment

Plan for Attack and all those plans that followed have helped The Arthritis Society remain steadfast in its vision. And while the cures for arthritis have not yet been found, much has been accomplished in treatment and control:

-Gout, rheumatic fever and infectious arthritis can now be effectively controlled;

-Improved diagnostic skills have been developed especially in diagnosing lupus and fibromyalgia;

-Hospital stays for the severely ill have been reduced from months to weeks;

-Artificial joints have been developed to replace those totally destroyed by arthritis;

-More effective medications are now available; and

-Rheumatologists are available in just about every province in Canada.

Thanks to a tradition of overwhelming volunteer support and determination, the road ahead looks bright for people with arthritis.

Our Programs How We Do It

The Arthritis Society (TAS) was founded in British Columbia in 1948 by Mary Pack and Dr. Wallace Graham, The Arthritis Society is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.7 million Canadiansliving with arthritis. The society’s mission is to provide leadership and funding for research, advocacy and solutions to improve the quality of life for Canadians affected by arthritis.

The Arthritis Society, BC & Yukon Division has three regional learning centres located throughout the province in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna that help serve over 650,000 children and adults living with arthritis in BC and the Yukon.

The Society plays an active role in supporting our mission through our activities in BC that include:

- Education Programs:

The Society conducts over 300 educational workshops and public forums in close to 100 communities in BC, which directly impacts about 6,500 people in British Columbia to help them understand arthritis, manage their pain and learn aboutexercise to be confident self-managers of their arthritis conditions. TAS consistently reviews and revises its programs based on participant feedback to ensure the most pertinent and impactful information is communicated.

Education programs and forums are offered to the public free of charge and supplement the medical system by providing patients with information access while they wait for referrals or treatment to self manage their conditions. Programs aredesigned to target the newly diagnosed, close family members and caregivers who assist the affected individuals with arthritis. Evidence has shown that a proactive approach through education in self-care leads to positive health outcomes and a higher quality of life. Participants are further supported through the society’s online resources and via our toll free answers line.

- Answers Line: TAS maintains a toll-free Arthritis Answers Line, which helps thousands of patients annually with their arthritis questions.

- Online Resources: A comprehensive website at  provides the public with all the necessary medically reviewed information resources about arthritis.

- Research Funds: TAS has invested in more than $195 million in breakthrough research projects)

What You Can Do

There are three main ways people of the South Okanagan can assist people with arthritis:


Together, we can make a difference!  Volunteer with The Arthritis Society, British Columbia & Yukon Division.

The Arthritis Society exists only with the dedicated support of our volunteers.  They come from many walks of life and they all have one thing in common; they make a huge difference in the lives of Canadians who are fighting arthritis and discovering a new quality of life.

Ways you can help in the fight against arthritis.

You can help educate and empower people living with arthritis. We offer many challenging and rewarding volunteer opportunities that allow you to share your skills, talents and knowledge.

These include:

§  Education facilitators: to lead workshops and classes to empower others living with arthritis.

§  Speakers: volunteers living with arthritis to present information to the community

§  Special Event Volunteers: To help organize and to participate in our events.

§  Administrative support: to help with special projects

Get in touch with us for more information on how you can develop and explore new skills by volunteering in your community. Please fill out our Volunteer Contact Form, or contact us at or call 1.800.321.1433.

Champion - The Arthritis Society works hard to try and improve the lives, treatment and care for over 4.6 million Canadians diagnosed with arthritis. We need your help to convince the politicians, health policy planners, and others decision-makers of the seriousness of the disease.  People with arthritis are fighters! As a champion you can help in the fight for policies that will reduce the impact of arthritis on the lives of Canadians and on Canadian society.

Donate - Your donation directly impacts people with arthritis in the South Okanagan through the various arthritis education programs run in the region.  To learn more visit:


Lynnea Westlind
Coordinator, Community Engagement - Interior Regional Office
Charitable Number: 108071671RR0003

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Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 1,597,042