Shanaaz Gokool has been a life-long human rights activist since she began her career advocating for racial justice, equity and meaningful inclusion as a teenager in Halifax-Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She is the current Executive Director of Leadnow, one of Canada’s leading progressive advocacy organizations.
She has over 30 years of leadership experience in the non-profit and private sectors and is an emerging governance expert on systemic racism and discrimination. She is the former CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, and in 2016, she ushered in a new national human rights movement supporting medical assistance in dying. Under her leadership, DWDC emerged as a key player in Canada and internationally on the assisted-dying file with successful court interventions, strategic government relations, legislative advancements, public mobilization campaigns, $5-6 million in earned media, and national fundraising recognition with the Moe Davies Award for fundraising excellence.
In the fall of 2019, Ms. Gokool launched a wrongful dismissal and systemic racism and discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. In doing so, she became the first Canadian immigrant, woman of colour and former CEO of a national charity, to go public with a systemic discrimination lawsuit.
As a mixed-race immigrant, woman and person with disabilities, Shanaaz brings both a human rights lens and an intersectional framework to interrogate and challenge systems of power, discrimination and oppression.
What’s something about you that would surprise others to know:
I was once “on-stage” with U2
Your Organization: LeadNow
Mission & Mandate
This is currently being re-worked:
Leadnow organizes campaigns that build and defend a just, sustainable, and equitable Canada.
Leadnow’s power comes from our community. We use digital tools and proven organizing techniques to help hundreds of thousands of people take action at the times and in the places that matter most. We take direction from our community and look for moments to match their values with an opportunity to make a difference. We’re always striving to find new ways to have an impact.
We are independent from party politics. We know that smart ideas are necessary, and we need organized people-power to win lasting change. That’s why we strive to reach new people and create deep campaign journeys to unite a broad community around a shared vision.
Leadnow is driven by the belief that democracy is both an ends and a means. We want a more open, accountable, and representative democracy because decisions should be driven by the people whose lives they affect. We also believe that an engaged public can overcome the influence of corporate power and partisan self-interest, enabling us to thrive in a more just, sustainable, and equitable society.
Who is your audience? Who are you trying to influence and engage?
Various communities with the progressive movement
A win you’re celebrating with your organization
The Canadian Disability Benefit, Bill C-22 passed this summer.
A challenge you’re working through with your organization
Our role in the upcoming federal election.