the parliament building in ottawa, the capital of Canada

Our history

Defending access to quality end-of-life choice and care for over 40 years.

Home / About Us / Our History

For over 40 years, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) has been defending access to quality end-of-life choice and care. The road to choice has been long and winding – full of challenges and setbacks, progress and triumphs. Who we are today is the result of years of persistent and passionate advocacy by pioneers from coast-to-coast.

  1. 2022

    Bill 38 was tabled in Quebec to allow people with severe and incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s to give prior consent to medical assistance in dying.

  2. 2022

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Cowichan Chapter is established.

  3. 2022

    The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying is reestablished and begins work on the Statutory Review of the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to Medical Assistance in Dying and their application (the Parliamentary Review).

  4. 2021

    The Parliamentary Review of medical assistance in dying – initiated in June to study issues such as advance requests, mental illness, and mature minors after the passage of Bill C-7 – ended when Parliament was dissolved as a result of the federal election.

  5. 2021

    An expert panel on MAID and Mental Illness was announced in August to establish and consider protocols, guidance and safeguards for those whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness and request MAID.

  6. 2021

    Bill C-7, an act to amend the criminal code (medical assistance in dying) received Royal Assent. This amendment removed the reasonably foreseeable death requirement, and allowed for waiver of final consent (Audrey’s Amendment), among other changes. 

  7. 2021

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Greater Toronto Area Chapter is established.

  8. 2020

    In February 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-7, an act to amend the criminal code (medical assistance in dying). They requested and were granted several extensions to bring the federal medical assistance in dying law into compliance with the provincial ruling in Quebec. In August 2020, parliament prorogued and Bill C-7 died on the Order Paper – but it was reintroduced in October 2020.

  9. 2020

    DWDC conducted a national survey through IPSOS that found 70 per cent of Canadians strongly supported removing the requirement that a person’s death be ‘reasonably foreseeable’ for them to be eligible for MAID.

  10. 2020

    DWDC celebrated its 40th anniversary. It was a busy year for the organization navigating COVID-19 restrictions, moving all work, programming and, most notably, Independent Witnessing online. 

  11. 2019

    Jean Truchon, living with cerebral palsy, and Nicole Gladu, living with post-polio syndrome, launched a constitutional challenge to the reasonably foreseeable death requirement in Bill C-14. Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that restricting eligibility for medical assistance in dying to people whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  12. 2019

    Dying With Dignity Canada served as an intervenor in support of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) at the Superior Court level, arguing that the effective referral rule is critical to upholding Ontarians’ right to access assisted dying, as well as their dignity and privacy rights. 

  13. 2019

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Prince Edward Island Chapter is established.

  14. 2018

    Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman who spent the last weeks of her life raising awareness about the challenges facing Canadians who had been assessed and approved for MAID, died with medical assistance. A flaw in Canada’s assisted dying law led her to end her life earlier than she would have wanted. In the final weeks of her life, Audrey called on federal lawmakers to amend the country’s assisted dying rules, so that no other Canadians become faced with the painful choice she had to make.

  15. 2018

    The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDSC) v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO): The CPSO created a policy that required medical assistance in dying (MAID) providers to make an “effective referral” for MAID. The CMDSC claimed that this policy violated their freedom of religion. The Supreme Court of Ontario found that it was a violation of freedom of religion but that the infringement was justified. This ruling only applied in Ontario. 

  16. 2018

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Halton Chapter is established.

  17. 2016

    Julia Lamb, a 25- year-old woman living with spinal muscular dystrophy, launched a constitutional challenge to the reasonably foreseeable death requirement in Bill C-14. The Attorney General found evidence that Julia’s death would be reasonably foreseeable once she refused preventative care and care for resulting pneumonia. The case was adjourned in September 2019. 

  18. 2016

    On June 17, 2016, Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), received Royal Assent. Bill C-14 legalized and regulated medical assistance in dying with strict eligibility criteria, legal safeguards, and a 10-day waiting period. 

  19. 2016

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Niagara Region Chapter is established.

  20. 2015

    Gloria Taylor, living with ALS, and Kay Carter, living with spinal stenosis, brought forward a constitutional challenge to argue that their Section 7 right to liberty and security of person were infringed. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed and declared that s. 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code of Canada were invalid. 

  21. 2014

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Victoria Chapter is established.

  22. 2014

    Bill 52 – An Act Respecting End of Life Care passed into law, allowing adult residents of Quebec suffering unbearably with an incurable or terminal illness to receive physician assistance at end-of-life.

  23. 2014

    Members of Parliament Steven Fletcher and Manon Perreault tabled two private member’s bills on assisted suicide. The first bill sought to allow doctors to help people end their lives under certain circumstances. The second bill would set up a commission to monitor the system.

  24. 2014

    Quebec’s Bill 52, which would have legalized assisted dying in Quebec, died without becoming law when the government called an election.  

  25. 2014

    The Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the appeal of the Carter case by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA). 

  26. 2014

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Ottawa and Winnipeg Chapters are established.

  27. 2014

    Dying with Dignity Canada commissions Ipsos to conduct a public perceptions study around the issue of assisted dying in which 84% agreed that a doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die.

  28. 2013

    Dying With Dignity Canada’s Edmonton and Vancouver Chapters are established

  29. 2013

    The BC Court of Appeal overturned the BC Supreme Court decision in the 2012 Carter Case, stating that the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1993 decision in Rodriguez was binding.

  30. 2013

    Quebec tabled right-to-die legislation in the National Assembly. The legislation would require the patient to state their intention to die in writing, have a doctor agree, and then have a second doctor confirm medically aided death is the only way to end the patient’s suffering.

  31. 2013

    Dying With Dignity Canada launched the Clinicians’ Advisory Council with 13 founding members

  32. 2012

    The BC Supreme Court ruled that the right to die with dignity is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This decision was appealed by the federal government.  

  33. 2012

    Three pilot Chapters were established in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta, and Grand River, Ontario.

  34. 2011

    The Royal Society of Canada released a report titled End-of-Life Decision-Making in Canada: The Report by the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision-Making, saying that euthanasia should be made legal in Canada and that Canadians should have more discussions with their families about their wishes at end-of-life. 

  35. 2011

    The BC Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit to challenge the laws that make it a criminal offense to assist seriously and incurably ill individuals to die with dignity. The challenge sought to allow seriously and incurably ill, mentally competent adults the right to receive medical assistance to hasten death under specific safeguards. 

  36. 2009

    The Quebec legislature mandated a Select Committee on Dying with Dignity to consult the public in that province on the topic of dying with dignity. 

  37. 2009

    Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-384, which was identical to Bill C562. It was defeated on April 21, 2010, by a vote of 228 to 59. 

  38. 2008

    Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-562, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity). Bill C-562 died on theOrder Paper with the dissolution of Parliament. 

  39. 2005

    Bill C-407, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity) was introduced by Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde. It was given one hour of debate in the House of Commons and died on the Order Paper in November 2005 with the dissolution of Parliament 

  40. 2005

    A pilot project for the DWDC Client Support Program was completed, and the Board of Directors decided to make it a permanent department.

  41. 2000

    The Senate Subcommittee studying developments with respect to the unanimous recommendations made in Of Life and Death in 1995 submitted its report, entitled Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian. 

  42. 1995

    The Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide issued its report entitledOf Life and Death.

  43. 1994

    A Special Senate Committee was established to examine and report on the legal, social, and ethical issues relating to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

  44. 1993

    In a five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by Sue Rodriguez –a BC woman living with ALS –  in which she challenged the validity of the Criminal Code prohibition on assisted suicide under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  45. 1982

    Dying With Dignity was incorporated as a registered Canadian Charity.

  46. 1980

    Along with a handful of fellow advocates, Marilynne Seguin, a registered nurse, co-founded the grassroots organization, Dying With Dignity (“Canada” was added to the name years later).

Two older ladies petitioning on a sunny day.

Current issues & priorities

Dying With Dignity Canada advocates for assisted dying rules – and other end-of-life options – that respect the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Empower. Inform. Protect your rights.