Retrieved from the Dalhousie University website


The history of occupational therapy on Prince Edward Island really begins to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s. At this time, there were up to three occupational therapists providing services to residents of the island. After completing a combined diploma in both Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, Elizabeth Baglole (Townsend) arrived in Prince Edward Island to join Judy Irwin and Mari Basiletti. Shortly after her arrival, the three therapists began to realize the importance of developing a professional identity and soon devised a plan to begin the Prince Edward Occupational Therapy Society. Agreeing to meet regularly at one another's homes, the society was formed and their activites became central to legislating and regulating occupational therapy practice in the province.

Contributed and described by Judy Irwin herself, the following timeline gives a wonderful and articulate account of the events in Prince Edward Island that shaped the identity and regulation of occupational therapy in this province.

The 1970s

In the early spring of 1973, Liz Baglole and Judy Irwin presented a copy of the first draft of a Licensing Act, to govern the practice of Occupational Therapists on Prince Edward Island, to Bruce Stewart, Minister of Health.

Liz and Judy were in a MVA on the way to that memorable appointment when they were broad-sided and driven into a tree by a man running a stop sign. Both were stunned in the accident and the documents strewn on the floor of Judy's brand new Volkswagen van. Liz managed to get to a nearby house, find a phone, and call ahead to the minister's office to say they would be late. She then coerced the local police to drive the two of them to the appointment instead of the ER. The copy of the Act draft was wiped off and then presented to the Minister smudged with Island mud. 

Although the meeting was a bit of a blur, the presentation was well received! Liz and Judy were checked out in the ER after the meeting and returned to work thereafter.

By 1974, the first draft of the “Registered Occupational Therapists” Act was brought before the Prince Edward Island Legislature and would be passed a year later in 1975. In the meantime, a handful of occupational therapists, friends and patients hosted the second annual Atlantic OT Conference, “PEI Sampler”, in therapists’ homes.

With the Act and Regulations in place, the Prince Edward Island Association of Occupational Therapists (PEIAOT) was formed in 1975 as a licensing board for all Occupational Therapists practicing on the Island. Contributing to occupational therapy on a national level, Judy Irwin became the first Director from PEI on the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists' (CAOT) Board of Directors making this board truly 'national'.

In 1978, PEI hosted the OT Atlantic Conference again with an appearance by the “Bandaids”. This time, the conference was held at The Rehabilitation Centre and Hillsborough Hospital with about 40 conference delegates. There were 55 attendees at the social evening at Judy Irwin’s home.

In 1979, the provincial government took over the Community Occupational Therapy Demonstration Program (Project) while the PEI Department of Health began a community mental health program. 

The 1980s

In April 1982, the Occupational Therapy Department of the Rehabilitation Centre moved to become a part of the Physical Medicine Department at the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. The therapists employed at the Rehabilitation Centre had some input with the planning of the new department.

With regional growth, the OT Atlantic Conference was held again on the Island at the Rodd Motor Inn in Charlottetown in 1982. With over 70 attendees, Dr. Hamilton Hall was the invited guest speaker.

During this same year, Liz Townsend (Baglole) joined the staff of the School of Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was appointed Director of the School on July 1, 1997 for a 5-year term and reappointed on July 1, 2002 for a second 5-year term.

The remainder of the decade saw growth in the number of therapists representing and working on the Island. In 1983, Judy Irwin was appointed a founding member of the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation. By 1985, there were 18 Occupational Therapists employed on Prince Edward Island and in May, two Islanders became members of the first graduating class of the School of Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University. Dawna Clow, from Kensington, PEI and Denise Johnston, from Murray River, took positions as staff therapists at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (PEI). Also in May, the PEIOTS became an affiliate member of the CAOT.

More opportunities to host the OT Atlantic Conference came in 1986, when it was held at the Charlottetown Hotel, and in 1989, when it was held at the CP Prince Edward Hotel. Throughout the years in between, more recognition was noted for Island therapists. In 1988, as the Registered OT Act was revised and proclaimed in the Provincial Legislature, Gladys MacMillan received a CAOT/PEIOTS citation for her contribution to and support of the profession. A year later, Kaye Reynolds received a CAOT/PEIOTS citation for her efforts in the field of rehabilitation as would Judy Irwin in 1990, Liz Townsend (Baglole) in 1991 and Mari Basiletti in 1999. The citations recognized years of service, contributions to occupational therapy and dedication to the profession.

The 1990s

This decade saw a lot activity that would affect occupational therapy pratice in PEI. Another successful OT Atlantic Conference was held at McLaughlins Hotel in Charlottetown in 1994. In 1995, the PEIOTS awarded the first Life Membership to Jackie Beacom who was retiring from her work as a therapist at Hilsborough Hospital. 

In 1996, a major revision to the Occupational Therapists’ Act was proclaimed on July 1, 1996 in the Provincial Legislature. The Registered OT Act RSPEI 1988 was repealed. The licensing body of occupational therapists in PEI, known as the PEI Association of Occupational Therapists, changed its name during this year and would now be known as the PEI Occupational Therapists Registration Board (PEIOTRB). The registration board had its first Lay Person in Nora Jenkins, Manager of Volunteer Services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She served the Board from March 1995 to June 1999 and was involved in the rewriting/revision of the Act and Regulations.

The 2000s

Four years before her retirment in 2004, Judy Irwin received a Life Membership Award in the CAOT during the national CAOT Conference in Toronto, 2000. In 2001, the Island hosted yet another OT Atlantic Conference at Shaws Hotel in Brackley. By 2004, with 33 therapists practicing on the island, the PEIOTS co-hosted the National CAOT Conference at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown from June 22 – 26. The host committee represented 54% of the OTs on PEI! In attendance at this national event were 400+ registrants, of which 226 attended the Friday night social. A resounding success! This was the first ever national conference to be co-hosted with CAOT. During the Awards Ceremony at this conference, Heather Cutcliffe was awarded the CAOT Innovative Practice Award. 

Also in 2004, a third revision of the Occupational Therapy Act, which involved a major rewriting regarding the licensing of occupational therapists on PEI, went to the fall sitting of the Provincial Legislature and was given Royal Assent.

By 2005, 35 therapists were registered and liscensed to practice in the province. In October, Nora Jenkins was awarded a CAOT/PEIOTS Citation during National OT Month, at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, for her “exemplary commitment to the health and quality of life of residents of Prince Edward Island" as the Manager of Volunteer Services for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the first Lay Person for the PEIOTRB. This same year, Judy Irwin was awarded a Life Membership in the PEIOTS. And finally, in September 2006, the province, once again, played host to the OT Atlantic Conference which saw well over a hundred therapists from PEI, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia attend. For the first time, the School of Occupational Therapy's Kelly Bang Lecture series was held in conjuction with the conference as a pre-conference seminar and welcomed Mary Ann McColl as the invited guest speaker.

Contributed by Judy Irwin, PEIOTS Archivist, courtesy of PEIOTS and personal collections.