Advocacy

Serving the profession since 1926, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) is the professional organization that gives voice to the more than 16,000 occupational therapists who work or study in Canada. With our national office located in Ottawa and regional chapters in British Columbia and Quebec, CAOT engages in advocacy initiatives that position our professional community to better serve Canadians. Working closely with federal, provincial and international affiliates and partners, CAOT promotes occupational therapy and advances leadership within the profession by addressing priorities and plans that are guided by its membership.

See CAOT’s Position Statements.

Meet CAOT’s Advocacy Partners.

Review CAOT’s Advocacy Framework.

Advocacy focus

CAOT aims to improve the health and well-being of Canadians by supporting its members in having a rewarding, fulfilling occupational therapy career that recognizes the profession’s scope of practice and employs their unique skills, holistic client-centred approach, evidence-based interventions and collaborative work ethic. By engaging with stakeholders in the public, private and allied health care sectors, CAOT promotes the profession of occupational therapy as an essential component of an efficient and effective Canadian health care system.  The focus is on:

  • Extended Health Insurance:  Continue meetings and activities that set the building blocks to inclusion of occupational therapy services in public and private insurance plans as part of extended health benefits.
  • Occupational therapy value: Initiate and respond to relevant opportunities to address pressing health and societal concerns such as opioid use and misuse, quality end-of-life care, older driver safety, mental health strategy, home care and seniors’ aging in place with evidence-based messaging that educates and promotes the value of occupational therapy to key stakeholders.
  • Federally-administered health programs: Continue strategic outreach to federal departments to increase the complement of occupational therapists employed in federally administered health programs and departments such as Armed Forces, Veterans Affairs and First Nations.
  • Interprofessional health care teams:  Engage with government nationally, and provincially in British Columbia and Quebec, to influence legislation and policy in areas related to population health, health care funding and health system transformation in order to see more occupational therapists included and funded on interprofessional health care teams.

Key messages

CAOT believes that optimal care results from an occupational therapist being on the health care team. Including occupational therapists in relevant conversations regarding Federal health transfers and the health care system will bring about more robust solutions for the allocation of scarce health care dollars.

  • Occupational therapists remove barriers to everyday living so that people can live their lives to the fullest. 
  • Occupational therapy is a high impact, low cost health service that supports Canadians to stay well, remain in their homes and continue to be engaged and active in their workplace and community.
  • Occupational therapy is both client-centred and holistic – serving the mental, physical, spiritual and environmental needs of Canadians.
  • With a unique mix of education and skills training addressing all age groups across many care settings (acute, home, community), occupational therapists provide superior value to the Canadian health care system through early assessment and intervention, preventive strategies and rehabilitation.
  • Occupational therapy interventions are both cost effective and clinically effective contributions to the positive health and well-being outcomes for Canadians. These interventions:

-          accelerate recovery from illness or injury,

-          improve management of illness and disability through personalized care strategies,

-          regain independence through rehabilitation,

-          decrease the risk of illness recurrence or need for hospital readmission,

-          decrease the risk of disability through preventive strategies, and

-          reduce absenteeism in the workplace that can result from illness 

Recent initiatives

Preparing occupational therapists for work with the military

Occupational therapists provide a valuable high-impact, low-cost role in federally administered health plans. A current advocacy focus is to increase the complement of occupational therapists serving in these departments.  In support of this:

Read “A Message from the Canadian Armed Forces

Read “A Message from Veterans Affairs Canada”

Addressing the opioid crisis

In response to a call from the Federal Minister of Health, CAOT has joined other health professionals to help address opioid misuse in Canada and identify potential ways forward. To date CAOT has:

with a prioritized list of actionable items that CAOT commits to delivering as an association and as part of the coalition,

  • proposed three specific non-pharmacological OT interventions as alternatives to opioids, and
  • developed two policy options for the Canadian health system that could reduce the impact of opioid use.

Protecting tax-exempt status of health benefit programs             

CAOT joined health care partners in implementing the ‘Don’t Tax my Health Benefits’ campaign to lobby against the federal government including taxation of employer-sponsored health and dental benefits as part of the 2017 federal budget. By February, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the taxation plan would not proceed. CAOT:

  • helped to establish the “Don’t Tax my Health Benefits” coalition,
  • participated in multiple lobbying meetings with influential MPs, and
  • supported campaign communications and outreach to generate almost 160,000 letters to federal government officials voicing opposition to the proposed taxation plan.

Delivering key messages at parliamentary reception

During occupational therapy month, a group of 30 CAOT members, board and staff co-hosted a well-attended parliament hill luncheon with 3 MPs; Mark Warawa, Alistair MacGregor and Bruce Stanton. The focus was on our aging population and seniors’ care. MPs and Senators in attendance learned that occupational therapists:

  • are a cost effective and clinically effective part of integrated health care teams that ‘improve lives and save money’
  • have many stories and examples to share of how their interventions are a smart use of scarce public resources
  • work in family homes, community care settings, residences, and hospitals where they reach seniors with personalized solutions that been proven to:

-          reduce the number and length of hospital stays;

-          reduce the number of falls that require medical care;

-          decrease medication use; and

-          increase mobility to stay active and engaged

Lobbying for change

  • CAOT has been a visible and active advocate for occupational therapy at public and private sector meetings and conferences at: Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Research (CIMVR), the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the Canada 2020 Healthcare Summit, the Opioid conference, the Assembly of First Nations’ Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program, the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), the McMaster Health Forum and more

Advocacy resources

For sharing:

  • Occupational therapy ad


  • Student video, “Because of Occupational Therapy” 

Copyright 2016 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
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