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A compassionate Ottawa supports and empowers individuals, their families and their communities throughout life for dying and grieving well.

Brief History of Compassionate Ottawa

Almost three years ago, four dozen representatives of a wide cross-section of community and healthcare provider organizations met to explore the idea of Ottawa becoming a compassionate community for palliative care—a grass roots community-based model of care for those facing life threatening illnesses.

There was a broad consensus that there would be much to gain for the city to work towards this.  To help us become established, The OutCare Foundation, a charitable organization that raises funds for palliative care, agreed to be our host.

By March 2017, the feedback from health, social service and community organizations was very clear—there was a real need for what was being proposed and all organizations expressed a desire to be part of the venture.

At the same time, research was undertaken on compassionate community initiatives elsewhere.  While the movement was at an early stage of development in Canada, other counties, such as the United Kingdom, had well-developed programs through the residential hospice movement.

By April 2017, a vision, mission and initial priorities had been drafted by the volunteer group.  A second community meeting gave it broad support. The Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF) provided a grant to assist with some start-up expenses, and an anonymous donor came forward to provide additional funds to allow the hiring of a part-time staff member to support the work of the volunteers.

Over the course of the next two years, the volunteer group developed programs with workplaces, schools and faith communities and workshops in advance care planning. A second OCF grant assisted with the school project and additional funding supported part-time staff who helped the volunteers in their work.

Our Vision for Ottawa

A compassionate Ottawa supports and empowers individuals, their families and their communities throughout life for dying and grieving well.

Attributes of our Vision for Ottawa are:

By ‘Ottawa’ we mean the rich diversity of our city as well as its rural and urban settings
By ‘supports’ we mean access to services when needed which are equitable and of high quality
By ‘empower’ we mean the ability of everyone to take action to help their family, friends and neighbours and make a difference in their communities
By ‘throughout life’ we mean that we are open to discussing death and dying as a normal part of life and that we prepare properly for it

The Mission of Compassionate Ottawa

Compassionate Ottawa is a volunteer-facilitated, community-led initiative which will improve the quality of life for the frail elderly and those who face life threatening illnesses by raising awareness about the importance of the topic, engaging and empowering individuals and communities to act and facilitating education and training.

Raise Awareness

Contribute to changing the narrative around dying, death and bereavement
Acknowledge the value and importance of citizens’ supporting their families, friends, neighbours and workmates who are experiencing dying and grief

Engage and Empower

Engage Ottawa’s many and diverse communities and provide support, where requested, as they develop their own approaches to becoming compassionate communities
Develop a shared understanding in the broad community of the need to work together to help Ottawa become a compassionate community

Education and Training

Affirm the power of stories for a better understanding of the individual, family and community experience of dying, death and bereavement
Facilitate the development of a flexible curriculum to support community , volunteers, families and individuals through the dying and bereavement process


We recognize that organizations and individuals have been active in this field for many years. Our aim is not to duplicate these resources but to complement and to build upon them to create more capacity in the community.

Our Organization

Compassionate Ottawa is a volunteer-driven organization with a lean structure.  For the first two years, our oversight activities were carried out by a small five-person Steering Committee led by two co-chairs.

As the initiative grew, the need to strengthen the governance and formalize became necessary.  In early 2019, Compassionate Ottawa became a legal not-for-profit organization, with a nine-person board of directors.

The work of the organization is carried out by our volunteer group, the Advisory Council, assisted by two part-time staff. The Advisory Council consists of individuals who have agreed to undertake specific tasks, based on the vision, mission, and priorities of the organization.  They meet two to three times a year to review program and organizational priorities, to explore new initiatives and to engage in learning forums to build our knowledge base.

Financial support from the Ottawa Community Foundation, an anonymous donor, and others have allowed us to engage our two part-time staff to support the work of the volunteers. Compassionate Ottawa continues to benefit from the assistance provided by the OutCare Foundation.

Join our mailing list to stay up to date

By subscribing to this mailing list you agree to receive our newsletter and information on events from Compassionate Ottawa.

Become a donor

If you would like to support the Compassionate Ottawa initiative please complete the OutCare Foundation form and select Compassionate Ottawa from the drop down menu under "Fund". Your donation will go towards supporting our initiatives for advance care planning, workplaces, schools, and faith communities, as described in our priorities page.  We thank you in advance for considering to make a donation to Compassionate Ottawa.

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