What is a Compassionate Community?

“A community that recognizes that all natural cycles of sickness and health, birth and death, and love and loss, occur every day within the orbits of its institutions and regular activities.”

“Its residents recognize that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.”

“Compassionate Cities are communities that publicly encourage, facilitate, support and celebrate care for one another during life’s most testing moments and experiences.”

Professor Allan Kellehear, author of the Compassionate City Charter, states that dying is not fundamentally a medical event, rather it is an event that happens in a family and community. If dying is about living, loving and working with a life-threatening illness until one can no longer do so, the longer part of that lifestyle occurs outside formal health care institutions.

Compassionate Ottawa

Compassionate Ottawa has followed Professors Kelleher’s Charter for a large part of its work.

We are building a social movement that is based on public health and community development principles.

We are working to change the way we think about living well, dying, death and grief and to strengthen the capacity of the citizens of Ottawa to care for each other in times of serious illness and loss. We passionately believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy wellness and self-respect until the end of life.

We are empowering each one of us to be more informed about dying and death to be able to better look after ourselves, our loved ones and members of our communities.

We work separately but in partnership with health providers to improve health outcomes.

In sum, Compassionate Ottawa is a citizen-led movement using evidence-based approaches, working in collaboration with other community groups, to change the way we think of living well, dying, death and grief, and to strengthen the capacity of people to care for each other in times of serious illness and loss.

Our Vision for Ottawa

A compassionate Ottawa supports and empowers individuals at any age, their families and their communities to live well and to die and grieve well.

The Mission of Compassionate Ottawa

Compassionate Ottawa is a movement that builds the capacity of the citizens of Ottawa to be more capable and confident of helping themselves, their families and their communities to live well and to die and grieve well.

Our goals are to:

Change Attitudes and Behaviour

Change the way we think about dying and death so that we can be better prepared and thus improve our quality of life.

Encourage individuals to prepare their end of life wishes and communicate these to their families and others.

Educate, Support and Empower

Engage Ottawa’s many and diverse communities and provide support 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.

Engage Community Partners

Work with partner organizations with common interests to increase the impact of our collective work.

Engage with health providers, social organizations and other community partners to enhance connections and reduce isolation.

Our Values

Compassion for all

We believe in supporting each other in times of serious Illness and loss and are generous in both giving and receiving.

Living well and dying well

We accept death as part of the continuum of life and human experience and believe that it is possible for each person to live fully in
their situation and die comfortably.

Leadership in an engaged community

We embrace volunteerism and service to individuals, groups and communities.

Building on evidence

We take guidance from research and empirical knowledge, learning from wisdom and experience in the community.


We are relationship based, working in partnerships to build communities and networks.


We are dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion, and through all our work, will contribute to dismantling the systemic oppression, racism and exclusion of all groups that experience discrimination.

Empowering community

We equip people and institutions through conversations, educational resources and connections to good practices.

Our Priorities (2021-2025)

  • Provide knowledge and tools to facilitate difficult conversations around dying, death and grief; offer workshops and learning events.
  • Extend our reach to intentionally include those in the community who experience discrimination of any kind.
  • Research public knowledge and understanding, in Ottawa, about death and grief, so our work can be better informed.
  • Offer a city-wide event in collaboration with others in the community, to mark the passing of covid, mourn those who have died and celebrate the rejuvenation of our city.
  • Enhance bilingual communications through an updated website, social media, presentations and written materials such as op-eds and opinion pieces.
  • Ensure our organization is strong and stable.

Our Board of Directors and Staff

The Board of Directors of Compassionate Ottawa consists of the following volunteers:

Monica Patten,

Monica Patten, former President and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, is well-known for her leadership in Canada’s voluntary sector. She has been actively involved in the development of community philanthropy around the world and has received numerous awards for her work. She is a member of the Order of Canada.

Jack McCarthy,

Jack McCarthy was the Executive Director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, from 1989 to 2016. Passionate about community development, Jack is a former Chair of the National Association of CHCs as well as the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres in Ottawa.

Michelle de Courville Nicol,

Michelle de Courville Nicol was on the Board of trustees of Montfort Hospital from 1990 to 2005 and Chair from 1995 to 2001. She was Chair of the Board of trustees of Montfort Renaissance, a francophone community organization active in mental health, addiction, homelessness and age-related issues from 2006 to 2020.

Charles Barrett,

Charles Barrett is a retired economist, who was actively involved in policy dialogue in North America, and the Asia-Pacific region in international economic relations, human resources development and capacity building. He has broad research experience and has written extensively on Canadian and international policy issues.

Nick Busing,

Nick Busing is a semi retired family doctor who worked for years in community based clinical care, administration and teaching at the University of Ottawa. Prior to retirement, he headed up the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.

Erica Claus,

Erica Claus served with the federal government in several leadership positions internationally. In 2012, she founded a personal property appraisal firm. In 2013, she completed a Graduate Diploma in Mediation. Fluent in three languages, she volunteers as a mediation coach, supports refugees, and is a member of Women for Mental Health.

Louise Hanvey,

Louise Hanvey, RN, BN, MHA, has worked with many national palliative care initiatives. She was the Project Director for the Advance Care Planning in Canada Project with the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. As part of her responsibilities, she launched the campaign “Speak Up: Start the conversation about end-of-life care.”

Graham Mayeda,

Graham Mayeda has been teaching law at the University of Ottawa since 2005. He also does research in twentieth-century Japanese philosophy. He lived for eight years at a Buddhist monastery in the city. He was on the board of the Income Security Advocacy Centre. He is a mentor for professors and students in equity matters.

Hilary Murray,

Hilary Murray is the Canon Pastor at Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa and Chaplain for Cornerstone Housing for Women. She obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work in 1993. She is a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, and has worked in hospitals, mental health services and as a trauma therapist with CFB Petawawa.

Jean-Pierre Soublière,

Jean-Pierre Soublière served as President of Systemhouse Canada and International. Jean-Pierre is also a past Board member of several corporations in the private, public and not-for-profit sector, such as United Way Canada, The Ottawa Hospital, and the Hospice at May Court.

Chandra Vaidyanathan,

Chandra Vaidyanathan, MD, FRCP(C), retired from her work as a Paediatric ER Physician at CHEO in 2020 after 36 years of service. She is an active member of the Association of Indo Canadian Physicians (AICP) and is Secretary of the Indo Canadian Community Centre (ICCC). Chandra is very involved in senior well-being and healthy living.

Jim Nininger,
Chair Emeritus

Jim Nininger, Co-Founder of Compassionate Ottawa, was President and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada from 1976 to 2001. He has served on private sector boards, and has been active in a variety of community organizations.

Jackie Holzman,
Honourary Director

Jackie Holzman, Co-Founder of Compassionate Ottawa, was elected to Ottawa City Council from 1982-1997, the last 6 years as Mayor. Prior and since, she has been a volunteer on a variety of health, hospital, rehabilitation and research organizations.

Our Staff

Jena Davarajah,
Program Coordinator

Jena Davarajah works closely with volunteers on the various program teams, including the Advance Care Planning, Grief and Bereavement, Faith Communities and Workplace Team, to oversee day-to-day program initiatives and projects, including community workshops and presentations.

Paula Campbell,
Operations Coordinator

Paula Campbell ensures that the operations of Compassionate Ottawa flow smoothly. She manages and maintains office procedures and operational activities, including filing and databases, every day financial activities, website and social media maintenance, supports to program evaluation, and supports to the Board of Directors.

Melissa Proulx,
Program Assistant

Melissa Proulx studied Social Media Marketing and Managing at Humber College. Along with her work at Compassionate Ottawa, Melissa owns a successful jewelry business and is a personal trainer. Melissa believes in providing the best possible support for those dealing with grief, loss, and mental health situations.

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