CAOT Conference Guest Speakers


Opening keynote speaker

CAOT President Catherine Backman

Wednesday, May 6 
Salon C|D 19:00

CAOT’s current president, Catherine Backman, will share her thoughts on ‘Nurturing Our Creativity. ‘ Creativity is often cited as a defining characteristic of occupational therapy. It’s easy to recognize the need for creative solutions to both routine and complex problems, and relatively common to experience a ‘dry spell’ when we’re too busy to think creatively. What are some of the ways to nurture creatively and the art of occupational therapy practice?

Plenary: Common aims, uncommon words: The language of mental health 

Friday, May 8 
Salon C|D 10:00-11:00

Occupational therapists use everyday engagement in meaningful activity to improve mental health and increase participation in daily life. In other areas of health care, the terms social prescriptions and behavioural activation are used for this but as occupational therapists, we know this as occupational engagement.

This panel will discuss the benefits of occupational therapy and mental health support in diverse practice settings and how the profession is best suited and positioned to assume this role broadly in health and social systems.


Lisa Diamond Burchuk Lisa Diamond Burchuk: Lisa graduated as an occupational therapist in 1989 from the University of Manitoba and completed her Master in OT degree in 2017. Since that time she has practiced in Manitoba( primarily) and BC with all ages in a wide variety of practice areas and clinical settings, across the health continuum . Lisa has developed a passion for the role of OT in Primary Care and wants to spread the word about all of the skills in the OT toolbox which enable OT’s to support individuals and communities. She teaches skills and approaches such as Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Coping Skills, Behavioral Activation, Complex Pain Management, Cultural Safety, Harm Reduction, Self-Management, and effective Goal Setting. Lisa has been an instructor at the University of Manitoba for 15 years and provides OT services at Northern Connections Medical Centre a primary care clinic serving clients from northern remote communities and members of other underserved individuals and groups.



Jordan Friesen: National Director, Workplace Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
Jordan Friesen is a National Director with the Canadian Mental Health Association, currently leading their nationwide efforts to create psychologically healthy and safe work environments. As Canada’s most established, most extensive community mental health organization, CMHA provides millions of Canadians with the knowledge, tools, and skills they need to thrive. Jordan’s experience includes many non-traditional roles within the mental health field including direct clinical service, education, organizational and program development, non-profit leadership and consulting. He holds a master of occupational therapy degree from the University of Manitoba. With a broad range of experience and a nationwide vantage point, Jordan understands the unique role occupational therapy and occupation-centred interventions can play in mental health promotion.


Karen Rebeiro Gruhl: Karen is an occupational therapist who obtained her BSc and MSc in OT from the University of Western Ontario, and her PhD in Interdisciplinary Rural and Northern Health from Laurentian University. Karen has practiced as an OT in mental health since 1985 and has been involved in clinical research since 1997. Her research focus has been on the development of an occupation-based mental health program in northeastern Ontario, on how occupation serves as means to mental health and well-being, as well as equitable access to employment supports and services. Karen is currently teaching at three Universities and remains actively engaged in research. Karen’s passion lies in ensuring that persons with mental illness have access to the supports and services they require to participate in meaningful occupations within their community.


Muriel Driver Memorial Lecturer 

Deborah Laliberte Rudman

Friday, May 9
Salon C|D 16:30-17:30

The Muriel Driver Memorial Lecture is given by the previous year’s Muriel Driver Memorial Award recipient. The Memorial lecture provides an opportunity to reflect on the current and future state of the profession, the way it is practiced and the way it could be practised.

Deborah is recognized for her extensive contributions to occupational therapy and occupational science, for her support of students and researchers, and for her ongoing contributions to CAOT. Her scholarly work exploring the broader socio-political systems and structures that shape occupational possibilities, particularly for marginalized populations, has brought a fresh perspective to understanding occupation – one that challenges us to apply a critical lens to the use of power and privilege that influences opportunities to engage in occupation.

Deborah has authored 23 book chapters, 88 peer reviewed articles, made 173 presentations at national and international conferences and has shown leadership in embracing innovative methods of disseminating her learnings, including through virtual conferences. She is a trailblazer at Western University, where she was pivotal in the creation of the Occupational Science field in the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences graduate program and is admired by peers and students as an exceptional, inspiring role model. Deborah has successfully put her work into practice at Western by developing a strategy to support the academic success of Indigenous students, directly enabling their occupation through her support and leadership. Deborah’s contributions have been widely recognized, including by CAOT - as a past recipient of the CAOT Award of Merit, a CAOT Certificate of Appreciation, and as the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation’s Lunch with a Scholar.

Karen Whalley Hammell

Breakfast with a Scholar

Karen Whalley Hammell

Saturday, May 9 
Salon C|D 7:00-8:00

The choices we make depend on the choices we have: The contextually-embedded nature of occupational choice
The concept of “choice” is central to occupational therapy’s theoretical tradition, which maintains that people can positively impact their health and wellbeing through wise occupational choices. This emphasis on “choice” - which reflects and reinforces dominant Western neoliberal ideology - renders people vulnerable to blame for their negative life circumstances. Moreover, research evidence indicates that within Canada, and around the world, occupational choices are inequitably distributed among people of different socioeconomic classes, castes, gender identities, races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexualities, citizenship statuses and experiences of colonialism, such that “the choices we make depend on the choices we have” (Venkatapuram, 2011). Using examples of this research, Karen will examine how social determinants effectively structure and shape people’s occupational choices, and will critically review the ideology of “choice” in occupational therapy theory, and the implications for practice of promoting and perpetuating this ideology.

Karen Whalley Hammell is Honorary Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She was the 2016 recipient of the Muriel Driver Memorial Lectureship Award, and was a keynote lecturer for the 2018 World Federation of Occupational Therapists’ Congress, held in Cape Town, South Africa. She is an internationally renowned and award-winning author, committed to critically examining the evidence on which occupational therapy’s assumptions, assertions, models and theories are based. Her research and writings encompass issues pertaining to the experience of spinal cord injury, to client-centred practice, occupational injustice, belonging, empowerment and human capabilities. In particular, Karen has challenged the arbitrary and restrictive categories into which occupational therapy’s theorists have divided the concept of occupation, has explored occupation as a determinant of health and wellbeing, and has asserted the inherent right of all people to engage equitably in occupations that contribute positively to their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their communities. A book based on this work - Engagement in living: Critical perspectives on occupation, rights, and wellbeing - is being published by CAOT.


Neil Kewistep

Featured speaker   

Neal Kewistep

Closing lunch: Saturday, May 9
Salon C|D 12:30 – 14:00

Neal Kewistep will address conference delegates as our Featured Speaker at this year’s conference closing luncheon.  Neal is a proud member of Fishing Lake First Nations and fled from a residential school as a boy – never to return.

Mr. Kewistep is currently finishing up a term as the Executive-in-Residence at his alma mater the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), which is part of the University of Saskatchewan, and is the former Interim Director of the Population Public Health (PPH) in the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

Moving forward on the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action (2015) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) is a shared responsibility and one that aligns with our profession’s core values and our current reflections – reflections that can guide and transform occupational therapy practice to be more culturally safe and to provide space for Indigenous views, knowledge and self-determination.  Mr. Kewistep will remind us of this responsibility and support our change. His address is sure to be compelling, humbling and personal.

Copyright 2016 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
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