Justina Page is a natural storyteller who speaks with a bold and refreshing honesty that touches the hearts of audiences. Her speeches unfold with a combination of humor, insightful observation and wisdom, as well as practical application. Justina is a woman whose faith was tested by fire. She now inspires audiences across the country with a powerful message of hope and triumph.

Her award winning book, The Circle of Fire, tells the story of how Justina's life was changed forever when fire swept through her home, March 7, 1999. The loss of her 22 month old twin son, Amos, the severe and lasting injuries of her other twin son, Benjamin, and her own devastating experience of third degree burns covering 55 percent of her body affected the entire family.

With the support of her husband, James, and their surviving children, as well as her dedicated church family, Justina was able to use the power of faith and love to turn tragedy into triumph. From the ashes of fire a new hope has emerged. She is the Founder and Executive Director of The Amos House of Faith, a non-profit organization, established to provide post-burn support to children and families affected by burn trauma.

Justina was a guest speaker at the last conference in Winnipeg two years ago. Her amazing personality and story was so popular we decided to bring her back to Halifax for this conference. Justina has assured us she will have a fresh new presentation that will be every bit enlightening as her last.


When you see Michael Gaultois enter a room you know that he has a story to tell; it is written all over him. At the young age of 15, Michael was tragically burned in a cabin fire which has forever changed the direction of his life. Although he has many challenges on his road to recovery, Michael’s powerful message of hope and determination will help others to realize that they too can find joy in the journey of life no matter what obstacles they may face.

At school, Michael experienced difficulty. He did not apply himself to his full potential, and being of a small stature, he was bullied which led him to becoming depressed and unmotivated. Later, his recovery from his injuries would result in an extensive absence from class and this, combined with becoming a teenaged father, resulted in him dropping out. Michael realized that his only chance for opportunity and success would be to attain a higher education. He returned to high school and after much hard work, he graduated at the top of his class. From there, he then went on to obtain a Bachelor’s of arts degree in Psychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Today, Michael is a self-employed professional speaker and believes that there is no limit to what we can achieve when we believe in ourselves. Although Michael may look different than most he realizes that it is certainly not a limitation, but an opportunity to educate others. Life will always have its challenges, it is how we choose to deal with them is what really matters.



Dr. Michael Bezuhly is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery and Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He completed his undergraduate degree at McGill University and his medical degree at the University of Toronto. He received his residency training in plastic surgery at Dalhousie. He also completed the Royal College Clinician-Investigator Program, obtaining graduate degrees in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Dalhousie University and Epidemiology from Harvard University. After completing residency training at Dalhousie University, Dr. Bezuhly received additional subspecialty training in pediatric plastic surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada and in craniofacial surgery at the Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades in Paris, France.

Dr. Bezuhly joined the IWK in January 2012 as an attending plastic surgeon. His principal clinical and research interests include craniofacial remodeling, cleft lip and palate repair, and burn outcomes. He is the Plastic Surgery Division Head, lead surgeon on the Cleft Palate Team, and the Team Lead of the multidisciplinary Craniofacial Clinic. He is a member of the American Cleft Palate Association, International Society for Craniofacial Surgery, Plastic Surgery Research Council, the Canadian and American Societies of Plastic Surgeons, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a clinician-scientist, he has over 60 peer-reviewed publications and holds several research grants. Outside of the OR and clinic, he also runs a full-time laboratory where he investigates new approaches for treating abnormal scarring.


A perfect storm is the perfect description of Vance’s life-alternating accident September 24, 2011. Several factors- training, timing, place- combined to determine the ultimate outcome. Sharing the remarkable story of his still ongoing recovery this burn survivor will answer the question, “How did you manage to stay so positive during so much?” Vance will share how drawing on life experience, job skills, and sheer determination he has made progress.

Come and listen to Vance’s story and his decision to live life without a wheelchair. Learn how a simple task like opening a can of coke found a place in Vance’s physio exercise. See how a string of licorice can be a physio tool. Hear how an accident like this one can affect loved ones, friends and caregivers.

Workshop Leaders: Vance Easter, certified welder and June Easter, BBA
Vance Easter,welding shop owner with experience in the construction industry, is a survivor of two life altering, potentially fatal industrial accidents. June Easter has worked in retail, small business and has volunteered in community development, sports and non-profit. Vance and June will share how life skills, common sense and attitude can be key to “Staying Positive Through Rehabilitation.”


Dan Plexman is from Thunder Bay, Ontario and is 44 years old. He has worked across Canada in various positions since the age of 16.In his early “30’s”, Dan started a high voltage electrical apprenticeship , close to his home town, when he was seriously injured at work.

September 30,2008 is the day that Dan’s’ life changed forever. While operating a man-lift in an electrical generating station, the live, 115kilovolt overhead power lines created an electrical arc with the steel “bucket” of the man-lift and a massive fire was the result. Dan received 3rd degree burns to 70% of his body before falling 17 feet to the ground, clinging to life with a 13% chance of survival.

The last 9 years Dan has been having surgeries, medical procedures and therapy but these were not his only focus in life. The physical trauma was extreme but coping with the anger, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been in the forefront of his entire healing process.

Dan believes that this accident was a gift that forced him to look at other issues from his past. “Life” can turn your heart to cold stone and compress your mind into hard rock leaving you unable to feel the warmth of love and respect the feelings of others. Living life with these cold emotions and a hard attitude are sometimes the only coping mechanisms that you learn to rely on. Dan is honoured to share his deepest emotions and sincerest thoughts in hopes that a few people can learn different strategies and develop thought process that can warm "The Coldest of Stones and Soften the Hardest of Rocks".


Dr. Joel Fish specializes in burns and complex wound care and is currently is the Medical Director of the Burn Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and holds the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto.

Fish completed Medical School at McMaster University before beginning his training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Toronto. Following residency, Fish completed a “Travelling Burn Fellowship” program that took him to burn centers in Seattle, Boston, and San Antonio. In 1998, Fish was appointed Medical Director of the adult Burn Program at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Ross Tilley Burn Centre) and held this role for over ten years. During his time at Sunnybrook, Fish treated many patients who had experienced electrical injuries and developed a clinical research program focused on understanding how these injuries are related to muscle fatigue, psychological changes, and pain control.

Fish joined the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in 2007 and served as the Research Director for the Division from 2007-2014. In 2009, Fish was appointed Medical Director of the Burn Program. SickKids has the largest paediatric burn program in Canada with more than 300 new patients treated each year. In addition, it is the only paediatric burn program in Canada that has been verified by the American Burn Association. Fish's clinical practice focuses on the treatment of pediatric burn injuries, and includes the full continuum from the acute injury, rehabilitation, and secondary reconstruction when needed. Fish also specializes in treating severe complex wound conditions from a variety of other causes.

In addition to his clinical role at SickKids, Fish is a member of the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto and currently supervises several graduate students. At present, his research team is focused on evaluating the effectiveness of laser therapy to improve burn scars in children. In addition, the team is also working on several other projects to investigate objective scar measures and develop patient-reported outcome tools for children with scars.


Paul is a former Halifax Regional Police Officer (Rtd), having served in Patrol Division, Mounted Division and as the Employee and Family Assistance Program Coordinator. Paul is presently the Firefighters and Family Assistance Program Manager for the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency.

Over the past 30 years, Paul has developed and implemented policies and programs pertaining to the delivery of Employee and Family Assistance Programs, Referral Agent Programs, Critical Incident Stress Management to emergency service providers such as the RCMP, Emergency Medical Care (EMC) Paramedics, 911 Operators, Children's Aid Society, Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority, Atlantic Support Services Association and the Canadian Coast Guard. As well as for community based trauma response teams such as Strait Area Debriefing Association, Eastern Shore CISM Debriefing Team, Kanesatake Community Trauma Response Team (Quebec), Yarmouth County Community Response Team and the Chippewa's of Georgina Island (Ontario).

Paul has also worked with the Native Community in the Maritimes as the liaison officer between the Regional Police and the Native Community. He continues to work with the Native Community across Canada as well he has served on the Atlantic First Nations Task Force on HIV/AIDS, former healing consultant for Teachings of the Sweet Grass Braid Society (survivors of residential school), a facilitator of the teachings of the Medicine Wheel and an associate counselor for the Eagles' Nest Recovery House. Paul is the former Director of the Spirit of the Eagles' Feather Society.

Paul is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Traumatic Stress Network. He is also currently a member in good standing with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Information & Education Centre, the former Nova Scotia EAP Association (Past President) and the Addictions Intervention Association. Paul is past Vice Chair of the Executive Board of Directors for Alcare Place, an addictions recovery house located in Halifax, NS and recently served as the Atlantic Regional Director on the National Board of Directors for MADD Canada.

SULAYE THAKRAR, B.Sc., MA, Ph.D. Candidate: Clinical Psycology

Sulaye Thakrar is a Private Practice Psychologist (Candidate Register) at Green Leaf Psychological Services who does work with adults and couples. He completed his Masters at the University of Manitoba and is currently in the process of defending his doctoral dissertation on burn survivors’ stories about returning to work. Throughout his PhD, Sulaye has done research with burn survivors, and has volunteered with the Mamingwey Burn Survivor’s Society Burn Camp in Manitoba. Sulaye moved from to Halifax in order to finish his Doctoral Residency at QEII. He has decided to settle in Halifax and is very happy to connect with the local burn survivor community to help present at the Canadian Burn Survivors Conference again.

Sulaye’s presentation will share psychological techniques from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which Burn Survivors may draw upon to address challenges with pain, scarring, and mental health inherent to the healing process. This therapy focuses on helping people draw on their values to set goals which are achievable, and also ways which may help burn survivors come to terms with the difficult thoughts and feelings that may get in the way. In this presentation, Sulaye will first review the limited relevant research related to psychological therapy with burn survivors, he will then ask his audience practice several mindfulness techniques, and lastly, he will have his audience concentrate on the values which are important to promote hopefulness and guide their coping behaviors in the future.


Starr Cunningham is the President & CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. An acclaimed journalist, best-selling children’s author, and dedicated community volunteer, Starr holds an Honours Journalism Degree from the University of King’s College.

Starr is the Co-Chair of the Minister’s Panel on Innovation in Mental Health & Addictions. She is a National Recipient of Difference Makers 150 Canadians Leading for Mental Health Award from CAMH – Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She recently received the 2017 Halifax Business Awards Business Person of the Year Silver Award and the Northwood Foundation 2017 Live More Advocacy Award. She was named the Rising Star Award Winner at the 2015 Maritime Philanthropy Awards. Starr currently serves on the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund Advisory Committee – Atlantic Region.

Starr writes a monthly column for "Senior Living" and is a regular contributor to "Our Children" magazine. She also serves on the Nova Scotia / Prince Edward Island St. John Ambulance Board of Directors and the Moore Suites Advisory Board.