At Dying With Dignity Canada, our volunteer Board of Directors is made up of a diverse group of people committed to protecting end-of-life rights and ensuring Canadians have access to quality end-of-life choice and care.
Each one brings their own unique expertise and personal reason for giving their time to our charity. We asked them to answer a few questions so we could showcase some of the folks working behind the scenes on our dedicated board.
- Pictured from left to right: Daphne Gilbert, Chantal Perrot, Bev Heim-Myers, Susan Desjardins, Jonathan Reggler, Sherry Moran
- Not pictured: Ryan A. Webster, Fancy C. Poitras, Wayne Cochrane, James Cowan, Roslyn Goldner, Eva Kmiecic, Tammy Pham
What motivated you to get involved with DWDC?
Daphne Gilbert - My entire career has been devoted to equality rights research and activism. For me, limitations on end-of-life choices need to be assessed through an equality-rights lens. Working with the Board is a natural extension of my academic work. I also chair the Board of an international reproductive health and rights organization, “Women Help Women”, and I sit on the board of International Planned Parenthood Canada. All of my volunteer work dovetails with my academic research and teaching, and combined it reflects my passion for equality and justice.
Dr. Chantal Perrot - I approached DWDC in the fall of 2015 when I was starting to explore the idea of providing MAID. The outgoing CEO was very welcoming and helped connect me with clinicians in B.C. who were also interested in providing MAID. Back then, DWDC sponsored educational seminars for clinicians, this was extremely helpful and supportive to those of us starting to assess and provide MAID. The support and encouragement were key to my start, and I wanted to give back and help advocate for more effective and fair legislation to allow more suffering Canadians to have access to MAID.
Do you have a personal story or experience that motivated you to get involved with DWDC?
Bev Heim-Myers - Several years ago, I sat with my father as he endured intolerable suffering during his last moments of life. He had no choice but to suffer without relief. It was an unnecessary cruel end to the magnificent life of a man who was accomplished, respected and admired by so many. Given the option he would have made a different end-of-life choice.
Susan Desjardins - I experienced the excruciating death of a loved one from cancer - despite being diagnosed with no more than a few weeks to live - my loved one had to suffer until their last breath. I want a regime where no one else I care for must live through this terrible end of life experience.
What progress has DWDC made for end-of-life choice that you are most proud of?
Dr. Jonathan Reggler - Audrey’s Amendment, which permits the patient to sign a Waiver of Final Consent so that they do not need to give consent on the day of their assisted death. Too many people either chose to die earlier than necessary, or lost the right to MAID, when the law required consent on the day. I believe that if DWDC had not argued for this, and helped Audrey Parker to get her message out, Bill C-7 would not have included that change.
Susan Desjardins - I was very proud to stand outside the Supreme Court with our Ottawa volunteers as the Carter case was heard, and to be present within the Supreme Court when the Carter decision was rendered. I am proud of the work our Ottawa volunteers did to raise awareness of DWDC and of MAID, and of contributing to DWDC's mission as both a volunteer and a board member.
What priority are you focused on now for Canadians’ end-of-life choice?
Dr. Chantal Perrot - I am focused on expanding the eligibility criteria to allow for MAID by advance directive, MAID for people whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness, and for mature minors, and improving the access to MAID, which is still very uneven across the country.
Daphne Gilbert - I am focused on the Parliamentary Review of the legislation, and I am closely monitoring cases of forced transfers from faith-influenced institutions that will not assess and/or provide MAID.
What skill set or expertise do you bring to the Board of Directors?
All - MAID provider, human resource management, policy and legislative law, advocacy, governance, business experience, communications, leadership, empathy.
Anything else you would like to add?
Susan Desjardins - Volunteering with DWDC gave a new focus and purpose to my life in retirement; it called upon the skills and expertise I had developed over my career in a very wholistic manner.
Sherry Moran - Once my term as a director is complete, I will continue to work with my local Chapter's advocacy group. DWDC is a wonderful organization, with talented and passionate staff and volunteers, so I am happy to stay involved. And our work is far from done.