During the 1914 — 1918 World War the organized practice of occupational therapy received its major thrust in Canada and treatment by occupation took on an important role in the military hospitals. In an attempt to restore the disabled soldiers to a useful, independent life, vocational training was started while they were still in hospital; vocational workshops were set up in the military hospitals by the Vocational Branch of the Invalided Soldiers' Commission, Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment (DSCR) and were staffed by men with the expertise to teach the returned soldier a vocation.

At the same time, grave concern was being expressed for the patients who were confined to bed or who were not able to leave the ward. Realizing the need for some type of "bedside occupation" for these men, Mr. Norman Burnette, who was in charge of the workshop at the military hospital in Whitby, Ontario, and Professor Herbert Haultain of the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of Toronto, who had been appointed Vocational Officer for Ontario under the DSCR, proceeded to arrange for a course of training to be given to "suitable young ladies" to prepare them to instruct the men in a wide range of activities, both mental and manual. As well as being used in treatment, these activities were used to assess interests and aptitudes prior to selecting the type of vocational training to be given to the patient.

At the request of Haultain and Burnette, the Council of the Faculty of applied Science at the University of Toronto established short courses to train occupational therapists, more often referred to at that time as "ward aides" or "occupation aides". Professor C. H. C. Wright of the Department of Architecture was appointed Chairman of a Committee of Management which took charge of the courses. Through the efforts of Mr. Thomas B. Kidner, then Vocational Secretary of the Canadian Military Hospitals Commission, Winifred Brainerd, one of the early American occupational therapists, was borrowed from the Sanitarium at Clifton Springs, New York, to help plan the courses and participate in the teaching. She remained for three months after which time graduates of the first course were brought back to assist with the teaching.

The first of these courses commenced in February, 1918, and the classes were held in the basement of the Mining Building at the University of Toronto. The course was originally of six weeks duration, but subsequent courses were increased in length to three months. Each graduate of the prescribed programme received a certificate bearing the signature of the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, and of the Chief Instructor of Occupational Therapy. When these emergency courses were discontinued in the summer of 1919, over 350 young women had been trained as instructors in "bedside occupation" and had been posted to military hospitals across Canada. In 1920, when the peak of the work in the military hospitals had passed, the therapists were gradually demobilized. They moved into general hospitals and tuberculosis sanatoria, thus opening the way for the development and expansion of occupational therapy in this country.

I.M, Robinson, LLD.,B.A.,OT(C)

Muriel Driver Memorial Lecture 1981