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.

Moderator: Lisa Diamond Burchuk, University of Manitoba


Jordan Friesen: National Director, Workplace Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)

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.

Breakfast with a Scholar

Karen Whalley Hammell

Saturday, May 9 
Salon C|D 7:00-8:00

The prevalence of mental health concerns among Canadians and occupational therapy’s role in addressing the occupational concerns of people living with mental health problems is well established. However, despite the criminalization of mental illnesses also being well-established, the role of occupational therapy in addressing occupational concerns related to criminal justice involvement is largely overlooked. Drawing on examples from her research, Crystal will critically appraise the ideological and structural contexts that have shaped occupational therapy’s silences around criminal justice involvement of people living with mental health concerns, the taken-for-granted ideas and habitual practices of our profession that reinforce processes of criminalization, and the untapped potential of occupational therapy for improving and expanding the occupational opportunities and choices of people subject to both mental health and criminal justice systems. Ticketed event. 

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.

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