Message from the CEO: A new phase of leadership for Dying With Dignity Canada

Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Wanda Morris announces exciting upcoming changes as the organization doubles down on fighting for the best possible legislation for physician assisted dying.

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Dear supporters of Dying With Dignity Canada,

Five years ago, when I took the helm at Dying With Dignity Canada, I had a wish list.

I wanted to spark a new national dialogue on physician assisted dying. I wanted to entrench choice in dying as a right for sick and dying Canadians. And I wanted to establish Dying With Dignity Canada as the foremost organization fighting for compassionate choice for desperately ill patients across this country.

I still remember the first presentation I made as a spokesperson for Dying With Dignity. It was October 2010, and physician assisted dying was not part of the national conversation. I appeared before a parliamentary committee whose members didn’t want to hear me and couldn’t wait for me to finish.

What a difference five years has made. With the support of an incredible Board, hard-working staff, generous donors and inspiring volunteers, it’s been a tremendous journey. Public support for assisted dying is overwhelming, the Supreme Court has recognized end-of-life choice as a right for all Canadians, and Dying With Dignity Canada has become a respected and effective political advocate.

I am so proud to have brought DWDC and our cause to a historical turning point and am determined to play a continuing role in advancing end-of-life rights and changing Canadian history. But as the organization’s role transitions from raising awareness about broad principles to fighting word by word for the best possible legislation, it’s time for me to transition, too. Last May, a few months after the Supreme Court’s momentous decision, I advised the Board that I would be leaving early this year. That time has now come.

While I’m sad to leave, I’m delighted to announce that I will be ably replaced by our current COO and National Campaigns Director, Shanaaz Gokool. With over 15 years’ experience in operations management in the private and not-for-profit sectors, she has been instrumental in stewarding DWDC’s growth over the past 18 months. With more than two decades in frontline human rights advocacy, Shanaaz brings with her the organizational smarts and political savvy to lead us to victory.

Shanaaz enjoys the full confidence of the Board and staff and will take over as CEO effective February 15. To ensure a smooth transition, I will continue to work closely with her and the rest of our staff until the end of March, at which time I will join DWDC’s Board and support the organization in a governance role.

As for my pursuits outside DWDC, new challenges await. I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a position with a likeminded advocacy organization. In this new role, I will be called upon once again to shine a light on quality-of-life issues that matter to older Canadians.

Please know that DWDC’s work is anything but over. Meaningful access to physician assisted dying won’t materialize unless we continue to apply intense pressure on lawmakers, both federal and provincial. Even when legislation is in place, we will need to continue to fight to ensure our hard-won rights aren’t eroded.

With your support, and with Shanaaz and her able team at the helm, I am confident that more and more Canadians will realize their right to die with dignity in the months and years to come.

Sincerely,

Wanda Morris,
CEO, Dying With Dignity Canada

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