Advance Care Planning

People who engage in ACP are more likely to have their wishes known, and followed, at end of life.

10 ACP Resources

Grief and Bereavement

Compassionate Ottawa has responded to the issue of people feeling helpless in supporting their friends, neighbours and family when their loved ones die.

Showing Up for Grief

6 Grief and Loss Resources

Conversations with Leaders

Our Conversations with Leaders series provides an excellent way of keeping informed on current and emerging topics impacting compassionate communities.

End of Life Care is Everyone’s Responsibility
(October, 2020)

This virtual event featured a conversation between Dr. Allan Kellehear and Dr. Mary Lou Kelley. Their conversation included the reasons why end-of-life care is everyone’s responsibility, the use of language in compassionate communities, what we have learned from the pandemic, and more.

Watch here

Compassion and Action: How Ottawa’s Front-line Workers are Dealing with Dying, Death, Loss & Grief
(November, 2020)

Hosted by Jack McCarthy, former Executive Director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre and current Vice-Chair of Compassionate Ottawa, this virtual event featured a conversation with Wendy Muckle and Anne Marie Hopkins of Ottawa Inner City Health. They talked about how the pandemic and the opioid crisis are having a devastating impact on Ottawa’s most vulnerable residents and how front-line workers are dealing with the ensuing dying, death, loss and grief. Are the necessary social and health supports in place to bring compassion to the most vulnerable among us?

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Health, Social Services and the Community Working Together: Better Outcomes for All
(January, 2021)

This virtual event featured a conversation between Dr. Julian Abel, physician and Director of Compassionate Communities UK, and Dr. Nick Busing, retired family physician and Compassionate Ottawa Board member. Together they explored a model of care that demonstrates the essential role of the community in improving the health of its residents in partnership with health care providers. The conversation described how working together helps build compassionate communities, and also included findings from studies that highlight the benefits of compassionate communities.
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Illness, Suffering and Spirituality: The Path to Hope and Healing
(March, 2021)

In this conversation, Lorraine M. Wright talked with Marion Rattray about practical and thoughtful ways that we can engage with each other when neighbours, friends, or patients are experiencing serious illness or loss in their lives, or are caring for a family member. Lorraine drew on her own life experiences, told stories, included humour and offered her perspective from her experience as a leader in the field of family nursing, as an academic with the University of Calgary, and as an author.

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Palliative Care and Grief during the Pandemic
(April, 2021)

In this conversation, Johanne de Montigny talked with Jean-Pierre Soublière about the impact of grief and how the losses caused by the pandemic have contributed to it. They also discussed palliative care, including what it is, when it comes into a person’s life, and how someone with a life-limiting illness can move towards acceptance. Johanne drew on her thirty years of professional experience with the McGill University Health Centre and its palliative care network, as well as her university teaching on the relational phenomena surrounding death and grief.

Watch here (In French Only)

Strength and Compassion: Footsteps on the Path of Indigenous Ways of Living with Dying and Death
(June, 2021)

In honor of National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada on June 21, 2021, Compassionate Ottawa was honored to host this month’s Conversations with Leaders with two Indigenous Elders. For many Indigenous peoples, dying and death are a transition rather than a finite “end-of-life”. With one foot in the living world and one in the spiritual world, the ideology of morbidity is not present, yet the approaches to it vary significantly from one community to another. There is a constant negotiation for life through ceremony which involves an ongoing relationship with ancestors.

In this virtual event, Erica Claus, Secretary of the Compassionate Ottawa Board of Directors, had a conversation with two Indigenous leaders, Elder Stephen Augustine and Elder Annie Smith St-Georges, who shared their ways to inspire and inform us. Together, we discovered how traditional, thriving and compassionate Indigenous communities support one another. We also learned how some Indigenous communities handle the last days’ transition to the spirit world, and then how to let the departed go, through emotions and memories.

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Trust in Compassionate Communities
(October, 2021)

This conversation featured The Right Honourable David Johnston, Canada’s 28th governor general, and Mr. Lewis Auerbach, Compassionate Ottawa volunteer. Drawing on Mr. Johnston’s latest book, entitled “Trust,” they discussed the link between empathy and trust; what it means to be a compassionate community; and what we can do as a community to build trust and to support one another.
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Compassionate Communities: Learning From International Experience
(January, 2022)

This conversation between Dr. Kerrie Noonan and Dr. Pam Grassau touched on compassionate communities in Australia, the successes and challenges of building a compassionate community, and a way to understand more about a community’s skills, experience, social actions, and knowledge surrounding death, dying, caregiving and loss.

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A Conversation with André Picard
(February, 2022)

This conversation between André Picard, one of Canada’s top health & public policy observers and commentators, and Louise Hanvey, Compassionate Ottawa Board Member, explored André’s journey and approach to journalism; his thoughts on the community’s role in palliative care, caregiving, and home care; his suggestions for how public policies should be reshaped to better support Canadians; and more.

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At the Heart of the Passage:
From Support at End of Life to Self-Care
(April, 2022)

An inspiring conversation between two leaders! Many people are uncomfortable around people who are dying and their loved ones. They ask themselves: What to do? What to say? Myriam LaVoie and Lise Beauchemin talk about end-of-life care and the importance of taking care of oneself, even when it seems impossible for caregivers. Myriam and Lise have more than 45 years of professional experience in palliative care for adults and children. They have trained and accompanied numerous teams of volunteers and professionals in Ontario and Quebec.

Watch here (in French only)

Caregiving in Canada
(December, 2022)

This event featured a conversation between Kelli Stajduhar, professor in the School of Nursing and Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria, and Janet Dunbrack, former Executive Director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and an active volunteer with Compassionate Ottawa. Together, they talked about what is happening (or not) in Canada regarding caregiving and what role Compassionate Ottawa, and others, might play in tackling this ongoing and worrying crisis.

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Compassion on the Streets of Ottawa
(January, 2023)

This event featured a conversation between Dr. Jeff Turnbull, local physician and Medical Director of Ottawa Inner City Health, and Jack McCarthy, Vice-Chair of Compassionate Ottawa. Together, they will talked about compassion on the streets of Ottawa and the conditions that some of the most vulnerable in our community live in.

Watch here

Montfort Renaissance, an Organization to Discover!
(May, 2023)

Mental health, substance abuse, housing support, seniors’ services: many people are looking for help in these areas, but don’t really know who to turn to.

Jeanne-Hélène Tardivel, who has been Executive Director of Montfort Renaissance for over seventeen years, talks with Compassionate Ottawa volunteer Michelle de Courville Nicol about the programs and services offered by Montfort Renaissance, a francophone non-profit organization celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It now has some 160 employees serving over 7,000 clients, and offers a continuum of community services in both official languages to improve the health and well-being of its clients. Its growth and the success of its services are a fine story of teamwork and collaboration between its clients and partners.

Watch here (in French only)

Are you ready for unexpected life transitions?
(March, 2024)

Our speaker, Marc Séguin, is the author of “Advocacy in Aging”, which focuses on wealth management and health care planning for the end-of-life years. He was inspired by real-life stories.

We’re all living longer, which increases the likelihood of living with reduced abilities, due to natural aging, events or illness. By planning for the unexpected and building a support team, it is possible to ensure continuity and consistency in the management of financial, physical and mental affairs.

The concepts described in Advocacy in Aging apply to all those planning for their own or a relative’s aging, whatever their financial means or context. There’s no denying that we’re all living longer, and that many of us will see our abilities diminish.

Author Marc Séguin defines five pillars of planning that bring together fundamental concepts: financial planning, powers of attorney, downsizing, living wills and gradual transitions.

  • How do we plan for the future?
  • How can we facilitate transitions?
  • How do you ensure that the people who represent you respect your wishes, your values and your wisdom?
Watch here (in French only)

Exploring Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs)
(May, 2024)

This virtual event, facilitated by Compassionate Ottawa volunteer Mary Lou Kelley, featured a conversation with Sue Garvey and Vince DePaul. Together they discussed the fast-growing pan-Canadian Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) movement and spotlighted Ottawa’s own Ambleside Oasis Program as an exemplary case. Oasis is an older adult-driven model of aging in place originally co-designed with older adults living in a Kingston apartment building, and has now spread to NORCs across Canada. Vince serves as co-Principal Investigator of the Oasis Project, while Sue plays a key role as an active volunteer in the Ottawa Oasis.

Watch here

Let’s Talk About Later Life

Faces of Help

A collection of short, personal, impactful stories that tell the experiences of 7 storytellers reflecting on giving and receiving help when dealing with aging, caregiving, dying, and grieving. We invite you to view the stories; discuss them with family, friends and neighbours; and share them wherever you work, volunteer, learn, pray, or play.

Viewers’ comments

Endearing; beautiful; warm; inspiring; personal; intimate; hopeful; rich; real.

“The videos are all real. They brought tears!”


“I see these as conversation starters that might be used by groups or individuals to open discussion and to explore the issues which impact people.”


“Authentic – a real treasure these days!”


“They pass the goose bump test! The first thought I had was how much death has to teach us about how to live. I look forward to sharing these with my students.”


The Open Door – Sue Simonson

Susan tells us of the importance of really listening, as she helps a teenager deal with a personal conflict.

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Dancing With Lucy – Marvin Bedward

Marvin, having experienced life-threatening medical challenges, used and transformed these emergencies through music, art, and relationships important to him.

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Dying is Part of Living – Karin Scheerder-Tesser

Karin reflects on the deeply meaningful experience of caring for family members at the end of life, and having been inspired to offer help as a hospice volunteer.

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Last Wishes – Ann Barkley

Ann provides us with a story of keeping her father’s wishes for no family or public expression following his death, and tells us of the consequences of doing so.

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Listening to the People Behind the Numbers – Martha Fair

Martha invites us to go beyond the numbers, recognizing a person’s needs, then providing practical support.

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Lost In Translation – Michelle de Courville Nicol

Michelle, as a caregiver, reveals the challenges of receiving language appropriate end-of-life services.

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The Dressing Room – John Cosgrove

John describes the support he received from male friends following the loss of his wife.

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Discussion Leader’s Guide

Book Chats

Book chats help us think about and talk about our values and wishes for end-of-life. Download our resources and organize one now!

Participants’ comments

“Hearing other people’s experiences was very useful.”

“I found the book thought provoking, practical and compassionate.”

“The book chat started me thinking about how to approach these subjects with family.”

“The book chat prompted me to realize that I need to think about the planning BEFORE death.”

“I think I am better prepared now to talk about dying.”

Host’s Guide

Participants’ Guide

Interview with Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller

On “Real Life Talks,” Yvonne Heath interviews Kathy Kortes-Miller about her book “Talking about Death Won’t Kill You.”

Watch here

Kathy Kortes-Miller TEDxKanata


An unconventional death educator with an equal parts wry and wise delivery style, Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller is committed to showing her audience that talking about death and dying won’t kill you. Using stories and research, Kathy extends an invitation to view death as not a taboo subject – but rather a shared life experience. Audience members walk away with shifted perspectives and a deep understanding that talking about death, without knowing or needing all the “answers”, actually brings us closer to our loved ones than we ever imagined possible.

Watch here

Compassionate Ottawa Story

Our story uses a short video and an accompanying handbook to describe our journey, including lessons we learned along the way.  The discussion guide offers suggestions on how to use our material to initiate a discussion on becoming a compassionate community.

Participants’ comments

“You could feel the passion of the presenters – why they believe in their work.”

“There are a lot of people who need compassion from us. There are lots of ways to show compassion.”

“We are reactive as a community and not proactive. We are not preparing people for the inevitable.”

“That is what compassionate communities are all about, giving people options. You give people a voice.”

“I like how they have included the whole community, culturally relevant, inclusive of all parts.”

I love they are thinking that way. It is so important to have the different approaches.”

“That is what compassionate communities are all about, giving people options. You give people a voice.”

The Compassionate Ottawa Story Video

Watch here

Discussion Guide


We need to more effectively support school children and others experiencing loss and grief, including their families.

6 School Resources on Dying, Death, Grief & Loss


Research indicates that 1 in 4 people are grieving at work right now, and the death of one person has an impact on at least five other individuals.

6 Resources for Workplaces

Faith Communities

Compassionate Ottawa decided early on to make faith communities a priority area for program and network development, along with schools and workplaces.

4 Faith Communities Resources

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