Our CEO Helen Long joined Dying With Dignity Canada in March 2020 and the team has had a great time getting to know her (though most of our time together has been virtual!). Here’s a chance for you to learn a little more about Helen, her background, and what she’s bringing to her work fighting for end-of-life rights at DWDC.
How did you become passionate about end-of-life rights and choice?
I volunteered with the ALS Society for quite a few years prior to MAID being legal. I met and lost a number of people who had ALS. Seeing the suffering and loss of control they had over their choices and ultimately their lives, despite all their efforts was both distressing and inspiring. Last year a very close friend was diagnosed with ALS and it really ignited my interest and awareness of MAID and the significant challenges that those looking for end of life choice still face.
Helen and her children, Katherine and Michael
Tell us about your journey prior to joining DWDC.
I followed a bit of a winding path to get to DWDC. After progressive roles in retail, sales and distribution companies, I stopped working to raise my children. You can only have so much conversation with a two year old, and I started volunteering and then working with a number of charities and not-for-profit groups in the social services sector – mainly in roles focused on operations and governance. Ten years ago, I took the role as President of a national trade association and during that time significantly expanded my experience and my skills in those areas but also in advocacy and media relations. When the role at DWDC came up, I knew I was the perfect match.
What's your favourite thing about leading Dying With Dignity Canada so far?
The passion. And the people. The two go hand in hand. It’s so inspiring to talk, connect and work with a group of individuals – our volunteers, supporters and staff - who feel so passionately about the work that we all do and are so committed to being part of it.
How do you fill your time outside of work?
I work. Just kidding. I love to be outside – gardening, skiing, long walks. Spending time with my family and of course my cats, is also important to me. And I’m a voracious reader – I’ll read pretty much anything.
Spot and Magnus, Helen's family cats
What kind of music do you like? Do you have any favourite artists?
I have some pretty eclectic musical tastes. I have to say, having had my formative years during the 80s, I still love 80s music. Too many favourites – I couldn’t possibly pick.
The summer is coming up — do you have any favourite summer activities or memories?
Summer for me means the cottage and getting some time in the sun. I like to go for walks, cycle and paddle board. Or just hanging around with friends and family – usually over a meal.
Helen and her husband Steve enjoying some outdoors time
What do you hope the future of Dying With Dignity Canada holds?
I hope that the future of DWDC holds great success for our pillars of eligibility and access through amended legislation that allows all Canadians to access medical assistance in dying. And that we’re so successful that we exist only to provide support and education to those making choices around end-of-life care and choice.
Thank you to Helen for sharing! If you'd like to receive Helen's regular email updates, please enter your email address and postal code at the bottom of the page.