Dying With Dignity Canada 2019-2024 Strategic Plan

1. Setting the Stage

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is a human rights charity focused on advocating for choice in end-of-life care and dying. Established in 1980, DWDC has a number of ongoing important purposes in its history including:

  • Defending the rights of all Canadians who choose medical assistance in dying (MAID);
  • Educating Canadians about their legal rights with respect to end-of-life choice;
  • Supporting people who are suffering from a medical condition and wish to die on their own terms and extending support to the families and caregivers of these people; and
  • Supporting health care professionals who assist individuals wishing to die on their own terms

DWDC is a leader in the dynamic assisted dying landscape. The environment changed significantly in February 2015 when the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) issued its unanimous decision on the Carter v. Canada case. The justices of the high court decided that current federal law violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal government, under the newly elected Liberal regime responded with new legislation, Bill C-14. DWDC continues to focus on ensuring that Canadians are eligible for and have access to assisted dying in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

DWDC relies on a strong network of chapters, councils, volunteers and supporters to achieve its mission throughout the country, allowing it to have a growing national footprint. Furthering of the advocacy, support and education in all parts of the country and reaching all demographics is key to the success of its work.

As an organization, DWDC is looking ahead with respect to its role and leadership, acknowledging key internal and external drivers of its vision and its work. Internally, the following factors will help shape strategic priorities:

  • Talent Management: DWDC’s talented staff needs to be supported with quality tools and resources and have opportunities to nurture their talents or grow into new roles
  • Legacy Gift: a transformational legacy gift has enabled the organization to undertake more strategic, impactful work

Externally, developments in the legal, political, and health care landscapes are shaping both current and future priorities:

  • Court challenges to Bill C-14: current cases such as Lamb v. Canada, Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu v. Attorney General (Canada) and Attorney General (Quebec), and Christian Medical and Dental Society v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CMDS v. CPSO) are making their way through courts in BC, Ontario, and Quebec, which may impact MAID legislation and regulations in Canada. DWDC involvement further builds on established strategic partnerships with other key organizations.
  • Health Canada Reviews: Bill C-14 mandated that a review be conducted with respect to three areas not included in current legislation: assisted dying with respect to mature minors, mental illness as the sole reason and advance requests. The reviews (without recommendations) were delivered by the Council of Canadian Academies in December 2018. All three reports are comprehensive, thoughtful and can serve DWDC as launching pads politically and legally to advance our key strategies over the next five years.
  • Political and Regulatory Landscape: government changes at the federal and/or provincial/territorial levels are being monitored as possibly impacting on access to MAID. DWDC is also monitoring the health care regulatory landscape for developments which may impact access and care regarding training, standards and practices.

The demand for DWDC’s leadership in the assisted dying space has increased alongside its capacity for deeper investments in its strategic areas of work. DWDC’s leadership has identified these four strategic pillars of work:

1) Eligibility: Ensuring that assisted dying legislation complies with the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

2) Access: Ensuring that Canadians can access medical assistance in dying in compliance with the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

3) Support: Supporting people, their families and caregivers and health care providers as they explore end-of-life options including medical assistance in dying

4) Education: Leading education on advance care planning, patient rights and end-of-life options including medical assistance in dying

These pillars of work will be fortified and facilitated by strategic operational activators:

1) Talent Management: Investing in DWDC’s talent, capacity and capabilities, including staff, board, and volunteers. Providing current tools and continued development for our team of talented, knowledgeable and caring staff and volunteers to ensure excellence for the community of people accessing DWDC support

2)  Governance: Ensuring DWDC’s effectiveness and accountability

3)  Brand, Marketing and Communications: Supporting and amplifying

DWDC’s advocacy and programs, and fundraising efforts

4) Fundraising: Optimizing DWDC’s fundraising streams to ensure organizational sustainability and future growth

This five-year Strategic Plan sets out the goals and directions for the period 2019- 2024. It is an evergreen document, intended to guide, track and fortify the organization’s ability to deliver impactful, quality results that advance Canadians’ end-of-life rights.

2. Mission, Vision, Values


Through advocacy, public education and personal support, Dying With Dignity Canada ensures Canadians have access to quality end-of-life choice and care.


All Canadians have the right to choose their good death.


The values of DWDC are to be Person-Centred, have Compassion, Integrity and Courage, and foster Collaboration.

  • Person-Centred: DWDC believes the person, be it the patient, the family and friends, or the interdisciplinary health care team, must have a safe and accessible experience with MAID. The context will differ, but DWDC’s goal of facilitating that experience remains the same—to ensure the person feels heard, to ensure that family members and friends have the opportunity to access help for their loved ones, including grief supports and to ensure that health care team members are system supported.
  • Compassion: DWDC strives to support people through the physical, mental and emotional pains and struggles that often come with grievous and irremediable medical conditions. The end of life is a time when people, their families and caregivers need warmth, kindness and support; the very principles that drive DWDC’s programming. Compassion motivates staff, board and volunteers to alleviate suffering by working to overcome barriers to choosing a good death.
  • Integrity: DWDC is committed to be a leading voice for protecting and advancing human rights for those seeking a dignified death. Integrity embodies the honesty, accuracy and consistency in advocacy and programming. DWDC is motivated by the principle that Canadians should have access to high quality, timely end-of-life choices and care.
  • Courage: As a human rights organization, DWDC confronts challenging issues and advocates for the right to choose a good death. At times, its work has faced opposition, but the organization has persevered, guided by the understanding that the right to choose must be protected and human rights must be upheld. DWDC will continue to promote safe spaces for people to make the choice right for them and to support health care workers who are willing to help patients have the good death they desire.
  • Collaboration: As the leading human rights organization for MAID in Canada, DWDC knows that the cause must be the priority and at times other concerned groups will have more visibility or influence. As a grassroots organization, DWDC values organizations who share this space and pledges to work in collaboration with them to protect the rights of Canadians, while seeking to work with partners across the health and legal systems to ensure a safe, accessible experience for people, families and care providers.

3. Value Proposition

A good death. Your right to end-of-life choice.

Dying With Dignity Canada champions end-of-life rights through advocacy, awareness, education, support and systems change.

4. The Big Strategic Goal

Dying With Dignity Canada will leverage its experience as the national human rights organization to be the leader for assisted dying and end-of-life choice.