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Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley Passes Away

By Adam Riley Jan 14, 2023 | 10:09 PM

Ontario's 28th Lieutenant Governor David C Onley during a speech at Queen's Park in July of 2014

Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor, David Onley, has passed away at the age of 72.

The journalist turned vice-regal served for seven years in the role, making him the third longest serving viceroy behind current Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, currently in her 9th year, and Albert Edward Mathews who served from 1937 to 1946.

At the age of three Onley battled polio which resulted in partial paralysis, but as a result of extensive physical therapy he was able to regain the use of his hands and arms, and partial use of his legs. Which he compensated for by use of braces, crutches or an electric scooter.

Additionally Onley was a strong advocate for the disabled, being one of the first on-air television personalities in Canada with a visible disability.

“Early in his media career, camera shots often focused only on his upper body, but Mr. Onley insisted that he be shown in his mobility device. Not content to simply lead by example, he was an active advocate on disability issues, particularly in the area of making the economic case for improved access to employment for people with disabilities.” read a statement from Dowdeswell, who called Onley a valued friend and colleague, and emphasized his advocacy.

“As Ontario’s first Lieutenant Governor with a physical disability, he adopted accessibility as the overarching theme of his mandate, just as he had made breaking down barriers a mission earlier on in his life.”

Onley was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor in 2007 and in addition to his agenda of accessibility, he continued with his immediate predecessor’s First Nations literacy initiatives. Aiming to put computers on every student’s desk in northern schools.

During his time he also represented then Queen Elizabeth II and Canada during the opening ceremonies 2008 Summer Paralympics in China.

Following his time as Lieutenant Governor, Onley later became a special advisor on accessibility within the provincial government and a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

In 2017 he was appointed to the Order Of Canada.

“Mr. Onley believed so deeply in the goodwill and firm practicality of Ontarians that he saw no reason why we could not lead the world in transforming society so that everyone is able to contribute something of value.” continued Dowdeswell’s statement. “And there is no doubt that his legacy has positively impacted the lives of people across Ontario.”


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