Shanaaz Gokool is the CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada.
Shanaaz is a life-long human rights activist. She began her campaigning career in the 1980s in Nova Scotia, where she worked on promoting racial equality and inclusion as a youth leader in a number of community organizations. She holds undergraduate degrees in political science and human rights and equity studies.
She has led numerous grassroots initiatives in the Greater Toronto Area, and was chair of Amnesty International Toronto Organization (AITO) between 2009 and 2014. She was a member of the Amnesty International Speaker's Bureau and has been a public spokesperson on various human rights issues, including Guantanamo Bay, the incarceration of Omar Khadr, child soldiers, and the arms trade. In 2009, she led a successful campaign to have the sitting mayor David Miller declare Toronto a “City against the Death Penalty.”
Shanaaz has also held leadership roles in the private sector and has a proven track record in business management and marketing. She brought her diverse skillset over to the non-profit sphere, working at organizations such as Amnesty International Canada, Innocence Canada (formerly The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted) and Leadnow.ca.
Under her direction, Dying With Dignity Canada has become the leading national organization defending Canadians’ end-of-life rights and a go-to authority on medical assistance in dying. Shanaaz is a sought-after national media commentator and has testified before parliamentary committees at the federal and provincial levels. She has spoken at numerous public and private events, with appearances at the prestigious Empire Club of Canada and the Ramsay Talks in Toronto, as well as international conferences in Belgium, South Africa, and the USA.
Death is inevitable. Suffering at the time of death does not have to be.
Legislated and regulated end-of-life choices are as much about the celebration of an individual’s life lived as it is about the grief associated with their inevitable passing.
The concept of dignity is intrinsic to how the vast majority of us define a good life, and certainly deeply embedded within the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dignity at the time of death is our final expression of what must be recognized as a fundamental human right. To not provide legislated choice is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment for those of us who wish to determine the conditions in which we will spend our last days.