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Shirley Douglas

Shirley Douglas Television and film actress from Canada

Television and film actress from Canada
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Television and film actress from Canada
Was Actor Stage actor Film actor
From Canada
Type Film, Television, Stage and Radio
Gender female
Birth 2 April 1934, Weyburn, Canada
Death 5 April 2020, Toronto, Canada (aged 86 years)
Star sign AriesAries
Father: Tommy Douglas
Spouse: Donald Sutherland
Children: Kiefer SutherlandRachel Sutherland
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art 1954
Officer of the Order of Canada  
Canada's Walk of Fame 2004
The details

Shirley Jean Douglas OC (April 2, 1934 – April 5, 2020) was a Canadian television, film and stage actress and activist. Her acting career combined with her family name made her recognizable in Canadian film, television and national politics.

Early life

Douglas was born April 2, 1934, in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, the daughter of Irma May (née Dempsey; 1911–95) and Tommy Douglas (1904–86), the late Scottish-born Canadian statesman, Premier of Saskatchewan and the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party. She attended high school at Central Collegiate Institute (now closed) in Regina. Douglas attended the Banff School of Fine Arts at the age of 16.


Douglas's acting career began in 1950 with a role in the Regina Little Theatre entry at the Dominion Drama Festival, where she won the best actress award. In 1952 Shirley graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and stayed in England for several years, performing for theatre and television, before returning to Canada in 1957.

She continued to act; and her career encompassed several memorable roles on stages in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. She portrayed prominent feminist Nellie McClung, family matriarch and business woman May Bailey in the television series Wind at My Back, Hagar Shipley in Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel, and even characters in popular science fiction series like The Silver Surfer and Flash Gordon. In 1997, Douglas appeared on stage with her son Kiefer Sutherland at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and at the National Arts Centre in The Glass Menagerie. In 2000, she performed on stage in The Vagina Monologues. In 2006, she portrayed former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the ABC mini-series The Path to 9/11.

In 2003, for her contributions to the performing arts, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Personal life and death

Douglas was the mother of three children: Thomas Emil Sicks from her marriage to Canadian prairie brewery heir Timothy Emil Sicks in 1957 and twins Rachel Sutherland and Kiefer Sutherland from her second marriage to Canadian actor Donald Sutherland (1966–70).

Our jobs, we move around a great deal … and that is the reality that my children grew up with – is being left, and not happily.

By 2009, Douglas was in a wheelchair due to a degenerative spine condition that caused her severe pain.

Douglas died on April 5, 2020, due to complications from pneumonia.


Douglas moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967 after marrying actor Donald Sutherland. She became involved in the American Civil Rights Movement, the campaign against the Vietnam War, and later on behalf of immigrants and women. She helped establish the fundraising group "Friends of the Black Panthers". In 1969, she was arrested in Los Angeles, for Conspiracy to Possess Unregistered Explosives, after she allegedly attempted to purchase hand grenades for the Black Panthers. She claimed that the FBI was trying to frame her and spent five days in jail. Subsequently, the U.S. government denied her a work permit based on this incident. Douglas, by then divorced from Sutherland, was forced to leave the U.S. in 1977. She and her three children moved to Toronto. The courts eventually dismissed the case and exonerated her.

Douglas’ co-founded the first chapter in Canada of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament.

As the daughter of Tommy Douglas, who brought Medicare to Canada, she was also one of Canada's most prominent activists in favour of the publicly funded health care system over privatized care. In the 2006 Canadian federal election, Douglas campaigned on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party. In 2012, she supported Brian Topp for that party's leadership.


  • (2000) Gemini Award for her performance in the 1999 TV film Shadow Lake.
  • (2000) Honorary doctorate from Ryerson University
  • (2000) "Diamond Award" for her volunteerism, by the Variety Club an international charity for children in need
  • (2003) Order of Canada
  • (2004) awarded a space on the Wall of Fame at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa
  • (2004) received the "Distinguished Canadian Award" by the Seniors’ Education Centre at the University of Regina, an award first presented to her father almost 20 years before
  • (2004) inducted with a star, on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto
  • (2005) Honorary degree from Brandon University
  • (2006) In November, Shirley gave an honorary lecture at Trent University
  • (2009) Shirley Douglas was awarded the International Achievement Award at the 2009 Crystal Awards presented in Toronto by Women in Film & Television - Toronto, November 30, 2009
  • (2012) Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal – Toronto, February 28, 2012
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 06 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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