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John Robarts

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Title: John Robarts  
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Subject: Bill Davis, Leslie Frost, John White (Ontario politician), Frank Miller (politician), 1967 in Canada
Collection: 1917 Births, 1982 Deaths, 20Th-Century Lawyers, Canadian Politicians Who Committed Suicide, Canadian Queen's Counsel, Chancellors of the University of Western Ontario, Chancellors of York University, Companions of the Order of Canada, Jurists Who Committed Suicide, Lawyers in Ontario, Leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, London, Ontario City Councillors, Members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Osgoode Hall Law School Alumni, People from Banff, Alberta, Premiers of Ontario, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Mpps, Royal Canadian Navy Officers, University of Toronto People, University of Western Ontario Alumni
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John Robarts

The Honourable
John Parmenter Robarts
The Hon. John Parmenter Robarts
17th Premier of Ontario
In office
November 8, 1961 – March 1, 1971
Monarch Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor John Keiller MacKay
William Earl Rowe
William Ross Macdonald
Preceded by Leslie Frost
Succeeded by Bill Davis
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for London
In office
November 22, 1951 – June 9, 1955
Preceded by Campbell Calder
Succeeded by District abolished
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for London North
In office
June 9, 1955 – October 21, 1971
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Gordon Walker
Personal details
Born (1917-01-11)January 11, 1917
Banff, Alberta
Died October 18, 1982(1982-10-18) (aged 65)
Toronto, Ontario
Resting place St. James Cemetery
Political party Ontario PC Party
Spouse(s) Norah McCormick
Katherine Sickafuse

John Parmenter Robarts, PC CC QC (January 11, 1917 – October 18, 1982) was a Canadian lawyer and statesman, and the 17th Premier of Ontario.


  • Early life 1
  • Early political career 2
  • Joins Frost cabinet 3
  • Becomes premier 4
  • Post-political life 5
  • Legacy 6
  • Biographies 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Robarts was born in Banff, Alberta, making him the only Ontario premier not to have been born in Ontario. As a young man, he moved to London, Ontario with his family, where he studied at Central Collegiate (today, London Central Secondary School) and at the University of Western Ontario in Business Administration. While attending Western, he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity.[1]

He enrolled to study law at Osgoode Hall Law School, but his education was interrupted by service with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He served as an officer on HMCS Uganda. After the war, he returned to law school and graduated in 1948.

Early political career

He practiced law in London, Ontario, and was elected a city alderman / councillor in 1948. In 1951, he was elected as a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from the city. In that era, MLAs not in cabinet were essentially working part-time, due to relatively light legislative duties. Roberts commuted by train from the legislature Queen's Park in Toronto to his family and law practice in London, effectively combining his legislative work with career. His wife Norah disliked Toronto and remained at home in London for most of their marriage. The couple raised two children.[2]

Joins Frost cabinet

He entered the cabinet of Leslie Frost in 1958 as minister without portfolio, and was promoted to Minister of Education in 1959. The province was in the midst of a major building phase with its education system, to accommodate an enormous increase in enrollment following the Baby Boomer generation of the post World War II era, and Robarts played an important role as Education Minister, with the establishment of new campuses such as York University.[2]

Becomes premier

In 1961, he became the 17th Premier of Ontario, and served in that capacity until 1971. A popular and well-respected leader, Robarts epitomized power and dignity. He was an advocate of individual freedoms, and promoted the rights of the provinces against the centralizing initiatives of the federal government. He also promoted national unity against Quebec separatism, and hosted the 1967 "Confederation of Tomorrow" conference in Toronto in an unsuccessful attempt to achieve an agreement for a new Constitution of Canada.

He initially opposed Canadian Medicare when it was proposed, but later endorsed it fully following NDP candidate Kenneth Bolton's upset by-election victory on the issue in the London-area riding of Middlesex South.

As a civil libertarian, and a strong believer in the promotion of both official languages, Robarts opened the door to French language education in Ontario schools. In 1972 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Remembered for his steps to promote and improve education, he was responsible for the construction of York University, the Ontario Science Centre, the expansion of numerous teacher colleges, and launching the Ontario Scholarship fund.

Post-political life

After retiring from office, John Robarts co-chaired the Task Force on Canadian Unity with Jean-Luc Pépin, and joined the boards of directors of several major corporations.

Later in his life, after suffering a series of debilitating strokes, he committed suicide on October 18, 1982.[3]

He is buried in St. James Cemetery in Toronto.


The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University was founded in 1982 in his name. The John P. Robarts Research Institute (renamed The Robarts Research Institute in 2005) at the University of Western Ontario was officially opened in 1986. He served as Chancellor of UWO from 1971 to 1976. He served as Chancellor of York University from 1977 to 1982. Also in London is the Robarts School for the Deaf, and the John P. Robarts elementary school. The 14-storey John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto is also named in his honour.


University of Western Ontario professor A.K. McDougall authored the first full-length biography: Robarts, in 1985. Steve Paikin wrote a biography, Public Triumph, Private Tragedy: The Double Life of John P. Robarts (Viking, 2005).


  1. ^ Delta Upsilon UWO alumni
  2. ^ a b Robarts, by A.K. McDougall, 1985
  3. ^ Gallagher, Noel (2001-11-29). "'"Robarts 'A man for his time. The Life And Death Of John Robarts. Archived from the original on 2011-07-02. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 

External links

  • Ontario Legislative Assembly Parliamentarian History
  • Order of Canada citation
  • Reference on John Robarts Death
Academic offices
Preceded by
Albert Trueman
Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario
Succeeded by
J. Allyn Taylor
Preceded by
Walter L. Gordon
Chancellor of York University
Succeeded by
John S. Proctor
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