Keynotes and Plenaries


This year, we're excited to present some incredible speakers, including our Opening Keynote, presented by Splashables Inc., Simon Whitfield, Canadian Olympic Gold and Silver Triathlon Champion, who will speak on high performance sport and the influence it had on his life, and Joey Rusnak, founder of the Lifeguard Authority, who will highlight the importance of connecting aquatic porfessionals with their inner superheroes.

Learn more about the inspiring Keynote and Plenary presentations below.

Wednesday, November 13

Opening Keynote, presented by Splashables Inc.: Simon Whitfield

Opening Keynote, sponsored by  Splashables Logo 2016   |  9:15 am — 10:15 am

In Pursuit of the Mastery of Sport — A Life's Journey

Presented by Simon Whitfield

Simon Whitfield will speak on high performance sport, the impact the pursuit of excellence has had on his life, mistakes made, lessons learned and how he applies this in his day-to-day having retired from professional sport. He will speak about where sport fits into his life now, from the obsession required of Mastery, to a focus on social connection, fulfillment and joy. This is a story of sacrifice and obsession, of achievement and consequences, of adulation and isolation, and ultimately the realization that life is about relationships, a sense of belonging, and the people we meet along the way.

Simon Whitfield

Simon Whitfield is a retired Olympic gold (2000) and silver (2008) triathlon champion who is recognized as one of the most influential Olympians in Canada. He was Canada’s flag bearer during the 2000 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony in Sydney, and at the Opening Ceremony in London 2012, making him one of the few athletes to be honoured twice as Canada’s Olympic flag bearer. Simon is well known for his leadership, advocacy and mentorship. Since retiring from competition in 2013, he has become an ambassador for sport and healthy living, frequently visiting schools to talk to students about finding their passions and setting goals. He is currently a certified guide with PaddleCanada, and owner of Velofix mobile bike shop. During his competitive career, Simon has amassed a total of 12 national championships and 14 world cup wins, in addition to his gold and silver Olympic medals. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, the International Triathlon Union Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Canadian Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014. In 2016, he was also honoured with honorary doctor of laws from both the University of Guelph, and the University of Victoria.

Closing Plenary: Dr Steve Beerman, Lisa Hanson Ouellette, and Chris Wagg

Closing Plenary|  3:15 — 4:15 pm

Drowning Prevention — Global to Local

Presented by Dr. Steve Beerman, Chris Wagg, and Lisa Hanson Ouellette

This interactive, multimedia session, presented by three aquatic experts from the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition, will leave you energized with ideas for drowning prevention initiatives in your region, community, backyard…yes, even your bathtub. You will hear about new, innovative strategies from a world-renowned expert on drowning prevention and highlights from the 2019 World Conference on Drowning Prevention (WCDP). First-hand experience will be shared with you from one of your recreation peers on how to implement a drowning prevention framework in your own community! Understand how a presentation at a WCDP influenced her to develop a highly successful community-based drowning prevention coalition made up of more than 18 multi-sectoral stakeholders who are making a real difference. Plus, tap into the most recent edition of the Canadian Drowning Prevention Plan with simple guidelines on how to create your own plan to address and prevent fatal and non-fatal drownings in your area. It is time to think outside the box – drowning prevention is more than a recreation issue. It’s a public health issue that affects your community, your family, friends, and you! Finish Day 1 of Ripple Effects with a new understanding of how you can contribute to the prevention of drownings in Canada.

Dr Steve Beerman

Dr. Steve Beerman has been a family physician in Nanaimo since 1997. He has a busy clinical practice and participates in research, teaching and community service. He is the principal investigator of a Grand Challenges Canada, Stars ofGlobal Health Research Project to reduce child drowning in low income nations. He was also a contributor and advisor for the WHO World Report on Child Injury Prevention (2008) and the WHO Global Report on Drowning (2014). Dr. Beerman was President of the International Lifesaving Federation from 2008-2012 and President of the Lifesaving Society Canada from 1990—1993.

Lisa Hanson Ouelette

Lisa Hanson Ouellette, M.A, is the Project Manager for the Canadian Drowning Prevention Plan and the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition. She has more than 21 years of experience in the recreation & aquatic industry; 19 years of management experience; and 15 years conducting research, completing program evaluations and measuring performance. She has made presentations at local, national, and international conferences.

Chris Wagg

Chris Wagg is an aquatic professional working for the City of Ottawa for over 35 years. Her dedication to the prevention of drownings has taken her outside of her day job to hold many positions within the Lifesaving Society, Ontario Branch, where she is now Vice President of Public Education. She is also on the steering committee for the newly formed Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition. Chris was one of the founding members of the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition.

Thursday, November 14

Opening Plenary: Gary Sanger

Opening Plenary  |  9:15 am — 10:15 am

The Greater Impact of Drowning on Communities and Families

Presented by Gary Sanger

We all know that swimming pool accidents can lead to tragic human suffering and loss and expose a municipality/organization to the most serious civil claims they will ever face. But have you really thought about the true impact and deep lifelong loss that is felt by family and friends of those who have drowned? This session will take a thought-provoking and hard look at real life and death cases and the impact these incidents have had on communities and families. For those of us who manage pools, this is a message that all aquatic staff should hear in order to truly understand the importance and their responsibility to remain vigilant, attentive and alert at all times while supervising swimmers, and the implications if they fail to do so.


Gary Sanger has been employed by the City of Toronto for many years and is Supervisor of Aquatics in Toronto & East York District of the Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division. He is the current Vice-President of Safety Standards with the Lifesaving Society and Past President of the Aquatic Branch of Parks and Recreation Ontario. He has travelled extensively across Canada delivering sessions on the topic of aquatic risk management and the real-life aftermath of dealing with catastrophic incidents.

Closing Keynote: Joey Rusnak

Closing Keynote  |  3:15 pm — 4:15 pm

Inspiring Superheroes

Presented by Joey Rusnak

Joey Rusnak, founder of Lifeguard Authority, poses the question: What defines a hero? Are heroes people that save lives and stop bad things from happening? We recognize military personnel, firefighters, and police officers as heroes, but why not lifeguards and aquatic professionals? Participants will learn to connect themselves with their superhero within. If we can’t see ourselves as heroes how can we ever expect our communities to celebrate our lifeguards as heroes? How we talk, walk and look are all factors that affect our image to ourselves and our communities. Lifeguards are heroes and it is imperative that we, as an industry, better recognize this and start celebrating it!

Joey Rusnak Joey Rusnak, founder of Lifeguard Authority, began his recreational career in the aquatics industry in his teen years. After completing studies in hospitality management, he quickly realized his heart was in recreation and returned to school to study Recreation and Leisure Services. Over the course of his career in aquatics, he has had the privilege to lead many teams in various recreation departments for indoor/outdoor/waterfront aquatic operations, general community programs, community development, fitness, camps, preschool, skating and sports. He stays connected and actively collaborates with recreation professionals internationally, always seeking new and innovative ways to engage communities, teams, and to prevent and eliminate drowning. Joey is committed to continual self-development and learning and can be found attending various aquatic and recreation conferences across sectors. His personal mantra is connect, collaborate, and contribute.
2019Re Programguide Cover Final View the Program Guide to learn more about the sessions and Extra Workshops.