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2016 Convention Speakers

Heather Thiessen

Heather Thiessen

A self-described “ICU frequent flyer,” Heather has been in and out of the health care system for over 20 years to receive care for two chronic conditions: MS and Myasthenia Gravis. Seeing both the good and bad in health care, Heather decided to become more active in her care and uses these experiences to help illustrate how to improve the patient experience.

In her sixth year as an advisor in the Saskatoon Health Region, Heather has helped in numerous improvement events, sitting on the Brain Health, Critical Care and Steering Committee Advisory Councils.  She speaks to nursing and medical students as well as mentors first year medical and pharmacy students in a Patient Partnership Program.

Heather has been invited to speak at numerous conferences both nationally and internationally about her journey in health care and how that voice of the patient should be front and centre. Most recently she has been part of a Canada wide initiative with The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement serving as a coach to two different health care facilities, to help them to incorporate the Patient Voice in Healthcare Improvement.

Heather is a strong advocate for Patient and Family Centred Care, working tirelessly to make sure the patient and family voice is not only heard but fully integrated in health care to improve the patient experience.


Curtis Weber


Curtis Weber comes from Battleford Saskatchewan, where he has been inspiring and influencing change in safety behaviours across Canada/US for over 10 years. Working in safety as a Trainer, Consultant, Officer and Speaker, following a near fatal workplace incident, Curtis has been able to develop a unique way of challenging audiences to change the way they perceive safety. Curtis believes that before we can develop or change a safety culture, first we must understand and influence human behaviours towards safety. Using his own personal experience of a near fatal workplace incident, let Curtis take you on his journey and challenge you on the way you think about safety.

Curtis begins this presentation by leading his audience through the early years of his life, through to his teenager years, where the young teen from small town Saskatchewan had his life heading exactly where he had always dreamed it would take him, with an opportunity to play Jr Hockey. Instead on his third day of a new job at the age of just 17, Curtis found himself in a battle of life or death as over 40,000 volts of electricity surged through the young teens body. Curtis creates an emotional connection, as he takes his audience through a personal journey from the early days in hospital where doctors gave him “no hope” for survival, to a six and a half month initial recovery in Saskatchewan, followed by a 6 year complete recovery of hospital trips to Chicago and Toronto.  Let Curtis take you on his emotional journey that you will never forget and that Curtis will forever remember.

Larry Brown

Larry Brown

With degrees in political science and law, Larry Brown, the newly elected National President of one of Canada’s largest unions, has a wide range of experience to draw on, having spent over 30 years honing skills in government, public administration, labour relations, teaching and legal issues.

Born in southern Saskatchewan and raised on a farm there, Brown began his interest in social issues while at the University of Saskatchewan, where he served as secretary to the student union and president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Students.

While articling with a Saskatchewan law firm, Brown was hired by the provincial Department of Labour as executive secretary to the Task Force on Workers’ Compensation. He later became executive assistant to the Deputy Minister of Labour. While working with the government, he drafted precedent-setting Canadian legislation protecting workers against imminent danger – the right to refuse dangerous work. He also contributed his expertise and talents to the first Occupational Health Act in Canada.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour was his next stop. As the chief staff officer, he led the provincial organizing team for the national day of protest against wage controls in 1976 and was labour’s representative on both the provincial task force examining Workers’ Compensation and the government’s Commission reviewing rent controls.

He later became the chief executive officer of the Saskatchewan Government Employees Association (Union), a component of the National Union and the province’s largest union, where he led one of the first public service-wide strikes in Canada. He served the SGEU for seven eventful years during which the Association adopted the union name and the demeanour of one of Saskatchewan’s most active unions.

In 1986, he was elected as NUPGE’s National Secretary-Treasurer and then in 2016 as National President.

Brown is the President of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s leading progressive research/policy organization.

He also chairs the Public Sector Working Group of the 10 million strong Public Services International.

He has written and spoken extensively about public finances, debt and deficit issues, the changes in federal provincial financing, public sector restructuring and the resulting changes in the economic and political structures of Canada that have occurred in the last decade.

Brown chairs the National Union’s Pensions Committee where he is leading the push to expand the control by unions of their members’ pension funds, and the use of those funds to better the condition of workers through ethical screening, shareholder activism and social investment.

A sessional lecturer at Carleton University, teaching in the Masters of Public Administration program, Brown is married to television journalist Tricia MacDonald. The father of three children, he and his family reside in Ottawa.

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