Shirley Douglas, the passionate Canadian activist and seasoned actress who was the mother of actor Kiefer Sutherland and the daughter of medicare founder Tommy Douglas, has died.
She was 86 years old.
Sutherland announced the death of his mother on Twitter, claiming that she succumbed to complications surrounding pneumonia on Sunday morning.
“My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life,” said Sutherland.
“Unfortunately, she had been fighting for her health for a while and we, as a family, knew that day was coming. “
A native of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Douglas worked with famous directors, including Stanley Kubrick (“Lolita”) and David Cronenberg (“Dead Ringers”), and won a Gemini Award for his performance in the 1999 TV movie “Shadow Lake “
She also tirelessly supported a variety of causes throughout her life, including the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers and the struggle to save public health care, launched by her political father.
In 1965, Douglas married Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, with whom she had two children before their divorce – the twins Rachel, production director, and Kiefer, who became a full-fledged film and television star.
Douglas also had another son, Thomas, from a previous marriage.
In a 2009 interview with The Canadian Press, she admitted that being away from home for long periods of time to continue playing was difficult for her children, but said that she knew it would make her a better mother. at the end.
“Our jobs, we move around a lot … and this is the reality with which my children grew up – is left behind, and not happy,” said Douglas, who has used a wheelchair in recent years due to a spine degenerative condition which caused him severe pain.
“You must either decide that you are going to be guilty and not do it, or that you are going to do it and that you will be ultimately – and I hate to use it as an excuse – but that you will be a better mother than be bitter at home that you are not allowed to go out. “
Born April 2, 1934, Douglas expressed an early interest in the arts and politics as he traveled the campaign trail with his father, who became Premier of Saskatchewan, leader of the federal NDP and socialist icon .
She attended the Banff School of Fine Arts and continued her studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England, where she performed in theater and television and participated in anti-nuclear marches.
In the 1960s and 1970s, while living in California, Douglas campaigned against the Vietnam War and protested for various political and social causes.
She also helped establish a fundraising group called Friends of the Black Panthers. Her support for the group has been controversial, however – she was denied a US work permit and arrested in 1969 for conspiring to possess unregistered explosives. Courts ultimately dismissed and exonerated the case.
Douglas’s other activism included co-founding the first Canadian chapter of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament.
She said she never cared if defending what she believed in – even during the so-called Hollywood blacklist – would hurt her acting career.
“I think that to live your life, you must live it, and if you see something that offends you morally or in any other way, you must follow that and take it back,” said Douglas to The Canadian Press, noting that she also had the support of many comedian and filmmaker colleagues.
“I know a lot of McCarthy-ite victims. It was difficult for them but really they had no choice. And when you don’t have a choice and you see something, it’s like you see a child being run over by a car – – you catch the child.
“And to me, a lot of things that I see badly are as obvious as catching a child and then what else would you do?” “
Douglas, who had lived in Toronto since 1977, was nominated for two other Geminis: in 1998 for his lead role in the series “Wind at My Back” and in 1993 for starring in the film “Passage of the Heart”.
She was also an Officer of the Order of Canada, inducted into the Walk of Fame of Canada and an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the University of Regina.
Her other screen credits included the film “Nellie McClung”, in which she starred as the famous Canadian activist. Other television series in which she appeared include “Street Legal”, “Road to Avonlea”, “Corner Gas”, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” and “Robson Arms”.
In 1997, Douglas was able to work on stage with his son Kiefer in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
Perhaps his most important role, however, was that of champion medicare.
Douglas would speak about the importance of a universal health care system on almost every occasion and lobbied officials and raised funds for the cause.
She was also a national spokesperson for the Canadian Health Coalition lobby group and participated in the Toronto Health Coalition and the Friends of Medicare Toronto.
“Let us never forget that the federal government is the custodian and the respect of the five principles of the Canada Health Act: universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration”, she declared in a press release on behalf of the Canadian Health Coalition during the 2011 Federal Election Campaign.
This Canadian Press report was first published on April 5, 2020