Opened in 1988 during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Casey House has a long and proud history in Toronto. Founded by a group of intrepid volunteers led by journalist and activist June Callwood, Casey House was Canada’s first stand-alone treatment facility for people living with HIV/AIDS, and Ontario’s first free-standing hospice.

At the time of our founding, the average life expectancy for people living with AIDS was nine months. Many people were dying alone, cut off from the support of family, friends, and the medical community because of stigma. Guided by the strong conviction that when a person is dying, they should do so according to their own wishes, surrounded by loving caregivers, June Callwood’s goal was to create a place of medical excellence in HIV/AIDS treatment and, most importantly, a place of love and compassion. When the first client arrived at our front door he was greeted with a hug – it was the first time he’d been touched in months.

Our founders believed that everyone deserved to be cared for with dignity and compassion. They created new approaches to palliative care, and played a leading role in both end-of-life care and HIV/AIDS health care, delivered in a welcoming and homelike environment.

We wanted Casey House to be a place where people who were dying would feel loved, and get hugged.” – Margaret McBurney, co-founder of Casey House

Over the years Casey House evolved from a hospice to a specialty hospital, providing care and support for people living with and at risk of HIV. Today, Casey House remains a warm and welcoming place, where we provide compassionate, judgment-free and socially-just health care.

June Callwood (1924-2007) was a renowned journalist, author and activist known as “Canada’s conscience”. For more than six decades she inspired Canadians through her words and actions, with pragmatism, grace and style, and never without a sense of humour. She is responsible for starting numerous charities in Toronto, including Casey House which was named after her late son Casey Frayne.

As a journalist, June Callwood wrote about the injustices she learned of, but was not content to stop there; she felt compelled to roll up her sleeves and help, leading to her activism which spanned numerous social causes from poverty, to women’s and children’s rights, to health care. She had a knack for exposing the tears in Canada’s social fabric, and envisioning ways to mend them. Her social activism once led to a brief arrest and jail time in 1968, after siding with homeless youth in a battle with police.

Her deep belief in humanity and commitment to social justice led her to receive numerous honours and awards, including the Order of Ontario and all three ranks in the Order of Canada.

To learn more about June Callwood, read her biography provided by the City of Toronto.

Casey House was named for Casey Frayne, son of June Callwood and Trent Frayne. Casey was killed by an impaired driver in 1982 at the age of 20 while riding his motorcycle home from university. Having experienced the terrible tragedy of losing her youngest child, June Callwood was incensed by the way society was shunning young men dying of AIDS and committed to creating a place where they could die with support and dignity.

Casey House Milestones and History Timeline