The Evolution of Bridge C-14: A Lasting Commitment to Enhancing Peer Support Through MAiD
I’ll be honest, I’ve been struggling with putting my thoughts down on paper. It’s not that I have nothing to say, in fact the words are piling up in my head. Putting things down in a way that feels right is my challenge at this point. How is it possible to summarize five years of amazing-ness?
I suppose I should start at the very beginning and work my way through the years. It all started in early 2017 when I first met Jan Ditchfield. Jan and I were asked to speak together at a conference and when we met in my office at The Ottawa Hospital to talk through our ideas for the conference, I instantly felt a connection to her. Aside from sharing her heartbreaking story of supporting her mum through illness and the challenges of accessing assisted dying, she also spoke about the concept of establishing an organization that would focus on delivering peer support services to those grieving a MAiD loss and her goal of bringing together like-minded individuals to form a Board of Directors to see this vision through.
In the beginning, our Board of Directors focused on determining the scope of our work, establishing our mission and values, as well as completing all of the administrative tasks required to satisfy the requirements for non-profit status in Canada. Those initial meetings with the Board members were productive and engaging. We were starting to navigate the uncharted waters of MAiD support. How did we envision the work we would do? How would we carry this out? What would we call ourselves?
When it came to the name, the "Bridge" of the organization was seen as a connection between the medical aspects of MAiD and the ongoing need for a compassionate community of support from peers in this space. As Bridge C-14 was launched shortly after Bill C-14 received Royal Assent, "C-14" was included in our name as a way to tie our branding with the legislation that legalized MAiD in Canada.
At the launch in November 2017, I remember watching with pride as the website went live and the first social media posts went up. We started slow and steady, beginning with providing resources and information, as well as offering in-person meet-ups in Ottawa (the home base for all of the initial Board members), ensuring that we took the time necessary to see our vision come to life.
In June 2019, Jan and fellow Board members made the difficult decision to step away from the day-to-day operations due to their own personal and professional commitments. There was, admittedly, a moment of hesitation about the next steps. A few things rang true – the work that we had started in the MAiD community was important and it was making a difference. Knowing this, combined with my relentless commitment to following the path that we had established, I made the decision to stay and to continue to grow and enhance the organization. In doing so, I moved into the role of President & CEO, a title bestowed upon me by Jan. I’ll admit it – I was nervous yet excited. Taking the lead of a national non-profit organization was new territory for me, but I knew it was a role I was meant to fulfill.
Throughout my tenure the organization has grown beyond my wildest dreams, and far exceeds what we had envisioned in the early days. I am truly fortunate to have brought on an extraordinary group of individuals to form the Bridge C-14 Advisory Committee - these individuals have helped to shape and guide the direction of our organization . I am also surrounded by an incredible group of volunteers with lived experience who deliver these much-needed supports to our participants. Ideas have flowed, and collaborations and partnerships with individuals, outside organizations and institutions have developed. All the while, we have ensured that the voices of those who access our supports are at the forefront of our decisions, programs and services.
We have expanded the services and programs available, have opened the doors to access our supports to those who reside outside of Canada and have been recognized as key players in the MAiD space. We are more committed than ever to bridging the gaps and delivering enhanced peer-based programs to meet the needs of all individuals who have been touched by MAiD (including individuals considering or choosing MAiD, individuals supporting someone choosing assisted death, individuals grieving a MAiD loss or professionals and volunteers on the front-lines).
While the future of MAiD is unknown, one thing is for sure: the future of Bridge C-14 looks bright. We remain steadfast in ensuring that anyone touched by MAiD feels supported, heard, seen and part of this pretty incredible community. We couldn’t do it without all of you, though, and for that I say thank you.
President & CEO | Bridge C-14