Dying With Dignity Canada is now a registered human-rights charity

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is celebrating the return of its charitable status, setting the stage for the organization to become an even stronger defender of Canadians’ end-of-life rights.

DWDC recently learned that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had approved its application to become a human-rights charity. As a result, DWDC can now issue tax receipts for donations made in support of its activities. The decision is retroactive to January 1, 2018.

DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool shared the news with the organization’s supporters during a live webcast on Monday afternoon. “With charitable status in hand, Dying With Dignity Canada can now support and empower more Canadians than ever before. We would not be in this position were it not for the vision, the generosity, and the persistence of our supporters.”

“For decades, you believed that Canadians had a right to choice in the face of intolerable suffering,” she said. “Because you believed, medical assistance in dying is now a right in Canada, and defending your Charter rights is a charitable purpose according to the laws of our country.”

A 'sensible and just decision'

The organization’s board chair, retired Senator Jim Cowan, thanked the CRA for its “sensible and just decision” to grant DWDC charitable status. “We thank the CRA for recognizing that we are in the business of educating Canadians, defending their human rights, and supporting them in their greatest time of need,” he said. “This decision sends a powerful message: that civil-society organizations have an integral role to play in uplifting Canadians and upholding their constitutional rights.”

Cowan also thanked Susan Manwaring and her team at the law firm Miller Thomson LLP for their work on DWDC’s charitable application. “Your leadership, experience and attention to detail were instrumental in achieving this outstanding outcome.”

DWDC structured its application to the CRA upon the four pillars of the organization’s work, which developed in the wake of the legalization of assisted dying in 2016. Those pillars are: 1) Defending Canadians’ right to medical assistance in dying in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; 2) Upholding Canadians’ right to medical assistance in dying and exposing unfair barriers to access; 3) Educating Canadians about their end-of-life rights and options, including the right to medical assistance in dying; and 4) Providing information and emotional support to suffering Canadians exploring their end-of-life rights, and to their loved ones and clinicians.

“When assisted dying was legalized in 2016, Canadians came to us looking for information and support,” Gokool said. “Our supporters made it possible for us to answer the call. And by stressing the importance of putting the person first, you transformed Dying With Dignity Canada into a beacon of justice and hope for Canadians whose rights are at stake.”

This announcement comes at a moment when the need for DWDC’s work is intensifying. For example, the organization is in the midst of preparing a campaign in honour of the late Audrey Parker. In the weeks leading up to her death on Nov. 1, the Halifax businesswoman spoke out in the media about how a provision in Canada’s assisted dying rules forced her to choose between ending her life too early and potentially losing out on her right to a peaceful death.

“Though this announcement represents a major victory for Canadians, we recognize that thousands of desperately suffering people still face cruel choices at end of life because their rights remain out of reach,” Gokool said. “We invite all Canadians to join us in seizing this invaluable opportunity to empower vulnerable people in their time of greatest need.”