Pre-conference workshop

Examining privilege and oppression in the context of reconciliation and Indigenous rights: Directions for occupational therapists and other health-service providers

Presenters: Angie Phenix, Kaarina Valavaara, Janna MacLachlan and Stephanie Nixon 

May 6, 2020 8:30-16:30
Hilton Garden Inn (Garden Centre)

To illuminate and reflect critically on the Western underpinnings of practice, education, research and regulation in order to set the stage for health-service providers’ future learning and unlearning toward reconciliation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice call on non-Indigenous people (i.e., settlers) and Indigenous Peoples in Canada to reflect on their role in reconciliation and assurance of human rights. As the occupational therapy profession * is primarily comprised of settler therapists, and prominent occupational therapy models and texts are grounded in Western values and assumptions, paths toward reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination within the profession are urgently needed. This workshop will support therapists to reflect on their positionality and role in reconciliation and rights promotion related to occupational therapy education, practice and research. 

* This workshop will consider examples and norms from the occupational therapy profession but will also be relevant to professionals from other health-service professions.

Learning objectives

  1. Settler privilege: Be introduced to how privilege and oppression related to colonization impact occupational therapy practice

  2. Colonial forces cause harm: Have an awareness of how the ongoing legacy of colonization in Canada impacts occupational therapy service delivery, including relationships between therapists and clients and communities; that is, recognize how colonial forces can manifest in barriers to meaningful and beneficial OT service delivery posed by institutions, policies, oppressive social forces and practice norms. Recognize the unique experience of colonialism in Indigenous lives (including socio-economic impacts, etc.), and the responsibility of all Canadians to understand this

  3. Eurocentric orientation of OT: Develop the capacity to recognize how Eurocentric values and assumptions underlie everyday OT practice (e.g., in assessment forms, best-practice guidelines, intervention approaches, documentation norms)

  4. Toward allyship and solidarity: Understand the urgency for settlers to practice allyship, act in solidarity with Indigenous clients, health service providers, and communities with attention to Indigenous rights and self-determination

  5. Action planning: Develop concrete action plans to taking appropriate action within their spheres of influence for resisting colonial practices and promoting Indigenous rights and self-determination, following principles of cultural safety and cultural humility
Kaarina Valavaara, OT Reg. (AB), and Angie Phenix, OT Reg. (SK)., are both Métis women and occupational therapists. They co-chair the CAOT Occupational Therapy and Indigenous Health Network and CAOT Truth and Reconciliation Task Force. They both act as advocates to transform the practice of occupational therapy, promoting Indigenous rights and equity for Indigenous Peoples.
Janna MacLachlan, OT Reg. (Ont.), is a PhD Candidate in the Social and Behavioural Health Sciences Division of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto. Her career has significantly focused on generalist practice in under-resourced settings, including employment in Nunavut and volunteer work in South India. Janna’s research employs Indigenous and critical social science approaches to addressing issues of health equity, power and privilege, and settler-Indigenous reconciliation within rehabilitation. From her position as a white woman of settler descent, Janna is examining in her doctoral dissertation work how rehabilitation services can provide meaningful space and respect for Indigenous knowledge.
Stephanie Nixon, PT, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, cross-appointed at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She has been an HIV activist and global health researcher for 20 years. She completed her PhD in Public Health and Bioethics in 2006 at the University of Toronto, and a post-doc at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa from 2006-2008. Stephanie is co-founder and Director of the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation. Stephanie is a straight, white, middle class, able-bodied, cisgender female of settler descent who tries to understand the pervasive effects of privilege. In particular, she explores how systems of oppression shape health research, education and practice, and the role of people in positions of unearned advantage in disrupting these harmful patterns.

Copyright 2016 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
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