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2018 EARN Conference to focus on inclusion and mental health in the workplace

Keynote speaker is Invictus Games athlete and gold medalist Natacha Dupuis

Natacha Dupuis at the 2017 Invictus Games
Natacha Dupuis at the 2017 Invictus Games

As society’s perception of mental health continues to evolve, it’s important for employers to keep pace.

Now, more than ever, employees suffering from mental illness are entitled to support and, if necessary, special accommodations in the workplace. Though most employers are aware of this need, many still have gaps in their knowledge of best practices around inclusion.

With this in mind, the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN) is preparing to host its sixth annual EARN Conference, titled Opening Doors to Inclusion – Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

EARN is an initiative of United Way Ottawa, and focuses on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and promoting inclusive and accessible workplaces.

This year’s event is being held on Wednesday, June 6 at Ottawa City Hall, and will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A keynote worth hearing

The 2018 EARN Conference keynote speaker will be Natacha Dupuis, a Canadian Forces veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While deployed in Afghanistan, Dupuis witnessed the deaths of two of her fellow soldiers after an improvised explosive device detonated under their armoured vehicle. Dupuis was travelling in another vehicle and was among the first people to arrive on scene.

“That was the end, pretty much, of my career,” says Dupuis.

Upon returning to Canada, she was diagnosed with PTSD, a common mental health condition among veterans.

Since then, Dupuis has dedicated immense time and effort to her recovery. In 2016, she attended her first Invictus Games in Orlando and came home with two gold medals in track and field as well as a bronze in  powerlifting. At last year’s games in Toronto, Dupuis attended as Team Canada’s co-captain, and earned three gold medals in track and field alongside a silver in indoor rowing.

In addition to her athletic career, Dupuis is also forging ahead with a new career path as a public servant with Veterans Affairs Canada.

“The most important thing for me is not to feel judged.”

A large part of her success in returning to work has been the support she receives, both from her colleagues and supervisors.

“The most important thing for me is not to feel judged. Judgment is the worst,” says Dupuis. “It’s very destructive.”

In honour of her fallen friends and in the hopes of helping other Canadians suffering from mental health conditions, Natacha has chosen to share her story.

Valuable lessons

Attendees of the EARN Conference can expect to leave with a better understanding of how to help employees with mental health afflictions feel included at work.

The day will feature a host of speakers, including Michael Allen, United Way Ottawa’s president and CEO. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce will present numbers describing workplace mental health in the province and Ottawa Public Health will provide employers with tools and resources to support them in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

The agenda for the day also includes networking time. During breakout sessions, attendees will have the chance to meet with Ottawa residents with disabilities who are currently looking for work. This session is intended to offer first-hand accounts of the challenges many Ottawans with disabilities face both in finding work and maintaining a job.

The 2018 EARN Conference will also feature a panel of speakers with experience handling mental health and disability in the workplace.

The day’s events will wrap up with the keynote speech from Dupuis.


Though the 2018 EARN Conference will focus on mental health in the workplace, the Employment Accessibility Resource Network has a broader focus. Its member’s clients include those with both physical and
mental disabilities.

As a community initiative focused on improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities, EARN has a formidable task at hand. While 76 per cent of the general population in Ottawa is employed or looking for work, approximately 45 per cent of locals with disabilities are active in the labour force.

Additionally, one in six people with disabilities lives below the poverty line.

With this in mind, the focus of EARN’s work is two-fold. First, the network hopes to make the city more inclusive by educating employers and connecting them with prospective employees. Second, EARN is focused on lowering the poverty rate among Ottawa residents with disabilities by enabling them to find employment opportunities.

Save the date

Opening Doors to Inclusion – Workplace Strategies for Mental Health

presented by the Employment Accessibility Resource Network

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Ottawa City Hall

More info & tickets at: