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Bill Graham
Bill Graham by Rod Brito.jpg
Graham in 2007
Leader of the Opposition
In office
February 7, 2006 – December 2, 2006
Preceded by Stephen Harper
Succeeded by Stéphane Dion
Interim Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
March 18, 2006 – December 3, 2006
Preceded by Paul Martin
Succeeded by Stéphane Dion
Minister of National Defence
In office
July 20, 2004 – February 6, 2006
Prime Minister Paul Martin
Preceded by David Pratt
Succeeded by Gordon O'Connor
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
January 15, 2002 – July 19, 2004
Prime Minister
Preceded by John Manley
Succeeded by Pierre Pettigrew
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Toronto Centre
(Toronto Centre—Rosedale; 1997–2004)
In office
October 25, 1993 – July 2, 2007
Preceded by David MacDonald
Succeeded by Bob Rae
Personal details
William Carvel Graham

(1939-03-17)March 17, 1939
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died August 7, 2022(2022-08-07) (aged 83)
Political party Liberal
Catherine Curry
(m. 1962)
Residences Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Legal scholar
  • lawyer
Military service
Allegiance  Canada
Branch/service  Royal Canadian Navy Reserve
Years of service 1960–1970
Rank Canadian RCN OF-1b.svg Sub-lieutenant
Unit University Naval Training Division
Alma mater
Scientific career
Institutions University of Toronto

William Carvel Graham PC OC QC (March 17, 1939 – August 7, 2022) was a Canadian lawyer, academic and politician. Graham served as the minister of foreign affairs, minister of national defence, leader of the opposition and interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. After leaving politics, he was the chancellor of Trinity College at the University of Toronto.

Early life

According to his birth certificate, Graham was born on March 17, 1939 in Montreal, Quebec, to Loring and Helen (née White) Bailey. He was the youngest of four siblings: Arthur, Loring Jr and Helen. His parents divorced five months before he was born. On June 9, 1940, his mother married Francis Ronald Graham Sr, a wealthy widower over twenty years her senior with ten children of his own. Shortly after the wedding, his mother and step-father moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, and Bill and Helen were raised by their maternal grandparents in Toronto, Ontario. In 1943, when Bill was four, he joined his mother and step-father in Vancouver. Graham Sr. died in 1963; at his funeral, Graham learned that his step-father was actually his biological father. His paternal grandparents were Protestant Irish immigrants.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, Trinity College at the University of Toronto, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (where he was an editor of the Law Review and the gold medalist of 1964), and the University of Paris. As a student, he travelled in the Middle East and Europe. While at university, he served in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve under the University Naval Training Division (UNTD), obtaining his commission as a Sub-Lieutenant in 1960.

He married the former Catherine Curry in 1962, and they have a daughter, Katherine ("Katy", born in 1964) and a son, the freelance writer Patrick Graham (born in 1965).

Early career

After his graduation from law school, Graham went to Paris to pursue a doctorate of laws, with a focus on international law, as well as to improve his French. He received his Docteur de l'université (DU) in 1970. He also represented a Toronto law firm, Fasken and Calvin (known as Faskens) (where he had articled), in Europe. Upon returning to Toronto in 1968, Graham remained at Faskens until 1982 working with Walter Williston in litigation and on his own in an international trade and commercial law practice.

He also became active in civic affairs, particularly the promotion of bilingualism. He served as a director and, from 1979 to 1987, president of Alliance Francaise de Toronto. In 1975, Graham was appointed by Ontario Attorney General Roy McMurtry to an advisory committee on the implementation of bilingualism in provincial courts.


Graham moved from the practice of law to academia in 1981, when he took a faculty position at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, teaching EEC law, public international law, and international trade law until 1993. Graham became president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association, where he was strongly critical of Joseph Rotman's donation to the then-Faculty of Management in 1995. The donor agreement included several clauses that could limit the university and faculty of management's academic freedom. The agreement required that “U of T [rank] the faculty of management as one of its ‘highest priorities’ for the allocation of university funding, ensuring to its ‘best efforts’ that business education receives continuing focus.” Graham noted “the unqualified support for the ‘vision,’ and it talked about non-qualified support for and commitment to the values and principles underlying the ‘vision’ by the members of the faculty of management, as well as the central administration". As a result, the donation agreement underwent some substantial revisions.

Graham also held visiting lectureships at McGill University and the Université de Montréal. In 1999, he endowed a chair in international law at the law school.

Political career

William Graham and Julian Hunte
Graham (left) and Saint Lucia foreign minister, Julian Hunte (right)

Graham twice sought election unsuccessfully to the House of Commons as a Liberal in the riding of Toronto Centre-Rosedale, losing in 1984 to the Progressive Conservative incumbent, former Toronto Mayor David Crombie, and very narrowly (by 80 votes) in 1988 to Progressive Conservative candidate David MacDonald. He defeated MacDonald in the 1993 federal election, and was reelected in 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2006.

He served as a member, and for six years as Chair, of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT). Under his chairmanship, SCFAIT produced public reports on the role of nuclear weapons in world politics, Canada and the circumpolar world, the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), hemispheric free trade, and Canadian relations with Europe and the Muslim world. Graham also promoted "parliamentary diplomacy" and was active in the creation or operation of many international fora for parliamentarians, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which he was Treasurer, and the Canada-US Parliamentary Association. He was also the Liberal Party of Canada's representative to Liberal International (of which he was Treasurer) and the first elected Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas.

While his attention as an MP was directed largely to foreign affairs, in domestic politics he strongly promoted same-sex rights. This issue was of considerable importance in his riding, which contains Canada's largest gay neighbourhood. He supported same-sex pensions and the admission to Canada of gay refugees facing persecution for their sexual identity, and he was an early proponent of legal recognition of same-sex marriage. He was voted Toronto's best MP several times by the readers of the city's 'Now' Magazine, and he was the recipient of Pride Toronto's lifetime achievement award in 2007.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

In January 2002, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Graham as Minister of Foreign Affairs. His tenure was largely dominated by the changes to world affairs flowing from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the increased unilateralism of American foreign policy. In the months leading up to the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, Chrétien and Graham articulated a position of opposition to military action without either an unambiguous authorizing resolution by the United Nations Security Council or clear evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime was in violation of the obligations to disarm that it had accepted after the 1991 Gulf War. A Canadian compromise allowing additional time for weapons inspections, but with a firm deadline for Iraqi compliance, elicited strong American opposition and little enthusiasm from other Security Council members. After a resolution (sponsored by the US, the UK, and Spain) that explicitly authorized military action was withdrawn in the face of likely failure, Canada declined to take part in the subsequent invasion.

Canada did support important elements of the US-led War on Terror, and Canadian troops participated in the UN-sanctioned invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime in October 2001. In the summer of 2003, Chrétien and Graham committed Canada to assume the lead role in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO mission in Afghanistan. ISAF was initially responsible for securing Kabul and its environs, but an October 2003 Security Council resolution authorized its extension through much of the country.

Some aspects of Canadian–American cooperation in the War on Terror worked smoothly, but there were instances of misunderstanding or miscommunication. Perhaps the most widely noticed came after American authorities deported a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, to Syria, where he was imprisoned for a year and tortured, apparently on the basis of intelligence quietly relayed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Unable to get RCMP support for Arar's release, Graham urged Prime Minister Chrétien to intervene. Following Chrétien's representations, Arar was released and a judicial inquiry conducted into his case. Graham testified that he was unaware at the time that the RCMP had passed information to the American authorities. Graham also unsuccessfully urged his American counterpart, Colin Powell, to consent to the release of Omar Khadr, a Canadian national taken prisoner by American forces in Afghanistan while a minor and held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Despite these differences, Graham and Powell had good relations and cooperated effectively on a number of issues, including the despatch of 500 Canadian Forces personnel to Haiti as a short-term stabilization force after the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Minister of National Defence

When Graham's former law school classmate Paul Martin succeeded Chrétien as Prime Minister in December 2003, Martin left Graham at Foreign Affairs, but after an election in June 2004 reduced the Liberals to a minority, Martin moved him to National Defence. This would normally be regarded as a demotion, but Martin had promised during the election campaign to increase defence spending, and he indicated to Graham that he would enjoy prime ministerial backing in his efforts to rebuild the Canadian military after the economies resulting from the deficit-reduction program that Martin had implemented in the early 1990s as Minister of Finance.

In Graham's first months as Defence Minister, one of the most pressing issues was the Canadian response to the George W. Bush administration's invitation to take part in its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program. Graham offered qualified support to Canadian participation, in part because he feared that nonparticipation would marginalize the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD) within continental defence arrangements. But opposition to BMD and Bush administration policies generally was strong in Canada, and Martin did not provide energetic backing for Graham's efforts to convince his Cabinet and Caucus colleagues. In February 2005, Graham informed his American counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, that Canadian participation was politically impossible.

In July 2005, as part of a tour of Canada's arctic defense installations, Graham visited Hans Island, the sovereignty of which was disputed by Canada and Denmark. Denmark publicly protested the visit, but subsequently entered into negotiations to settle the island's status.

Perhaps Graham's biggest success as Defence Minister was implementing a new doctrinal and budgetary framework for Canadian defence policy. He persuaded Martin and Finance Minister Ralph Goodale to accept a $13-billion increase in defence spending, the largest in a generation, as part of the 2005 budget. This entailed significant capital expenditures, including the acquisition of Hercules aircraft to provide the Canadian Forces (CF) with tactical airlift capability. In addition, the CF command structure was overhauled to improve the capacity to respond to either domestic disaster or terrorist threat, including the creation of a new Canada Command.

Graham and General Rick Hillier, whose 2005 appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) he recommended, sought to transform the CF into a more mobile force, capable of conducting armed "peacemaking" and humanitarian interventions. This broke with both the Cold War emphasis on preparation for large-scale conventional hostilities across defined international borders, and the recent Canadian tradition of lightly armed peacekeeping under UN auspices. Restoring security and order to the failed or failing states that served as bases for terrorists was placed at the centre of CF doctrine. This conception of the CF's future role was set out in a Defence Policy Statement that fed into the Martin government's broader review of Canadian foreign policy.

Graham and Hillier persuaded Martin to make Afghanistan a laboratory for the new doctrine; in the spring of 2005 the Canadian government announced that the 1,200 Canadian troops in Kabul would be transferred to Kandahar province. Canada assumed a major role in Southern Afghanistan, with 2,300 personnel there by early 2006. Graham and Hillier supported a "3D" or "whole of government" approach, based on the concept of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), in which diplomats, military, police, development and reconstruction specialists work together to provide security and rebuild societal institutions. During Graham's tenure as Defence Minister, Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) provided emergency relief to Sri Lanka after the 2005 tsunami.

In the weeks leading up to the January 2006 federal election, Graham oversaw the negotiations of an agreement, signed by Hillier and the Afghan Defence Minister, governing the treatment of Afghan detainees captured by Canadian personnel and turned over to Afghan authorities. After revelations in 2010 that some detainees had been tortured, Graham appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the matter. He conceded that the agreement had been imperfect, lacking as it did a mechanism for monitoring the treatment of prisoners after they were placed in Afghan custody, but pointed out that its omissions were more readily apparent in retrospect than they were at the time, and that it had been developed on the best available advice to meet unprecedented circumstances.

Interim Liberal leader

After the Liberals were defeated in the 2006 election, and the Conservatives formed a minority government under Stephen Harper, Graham served as interim Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition, until the December 2006 leadership convention that elected Stéphane Dion as Leader. Two highly charged issues debated in the House of Commons during his leadership were the recognition of Quebec as a "nation" and the extension of the mission in Afghanistan until 2011. Graham was neutral in the race to choose a new leader. On February 22, 2007, he announced he would not be a candidate for reelection in the next federal election. On June 19, he announced that he was stepping down as an MP, effective July 2. This freed up the seat for former Ontario Premier and leadership contender Bob Rae (who, like Graham, would later become interim Liberal leader) to run as the Liberal candidate in the resulting by-election.

Electoral history

Canadian federal election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Bill Graham 30,874 52.23 -4.30
New Democratic Michael Shapcott 14,036 23.74 -0.01
Conservative Lewis Reford 10,763 18.21 +3.42
Green Chris Tindal 3,080 5.21 +1.30
Communist Johan Boyden 120 0.2 0.00
Independent Michel Prairie 101 0.2 0.00
Animal Alliance Liz White 72 0.12
Marxist–Leninist Philip Fernandez 66 0.11 -0.01
Total valid votes 59,112 100.00
  Liberal hold Swing -2.1

Template:Canadian federal election, 2004/Electoral District/Toronto Centre

Toronto Centre—Rosedale, 1996–2003

Canadian federal election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Bill Graham 26,264 55.27 +6.08
Progressive Conservative Randall Pearce 8,150 17.15 -2.13
New Democratic David Berlin 5,398 11.36 -9.22
Alliance Richard Walker 5,057 10.64 +2.83
Canadian Action Paul Hellyer 1,466 3.09 +2.44
Natural Law David Gordon 224 0.47 -0.11
Communist Dan Goldstick 121 0.25
Marxist–Leninist Philip Fernandez 116 0.24 -0.11
Total valid votes 47,518 100.00

Note: Canadian Alliance vote is compared to the Reform vote in 1997 election.

Canadian federal election, 1997
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Bill Graham 22,945 49.19 -0.80
New Democratic David MacDonald 9,597 20.58 +9.80
Progressive Conservative Stephen Probyn 8,993 19.28 -1.96
Reform John Stewart 3,646 7.82 -4.65
Green Jim Harris 577 1.24 +0.30
Canadian Action Anthony Robert Pedrette 303 0.65
Natural Law Ron Parker 270 0.58 -1.01
Marxist–Leninist Steve Rutchinski 166 0.36 +0.25
Independent Ted W. Culp 145 0.31
Total valid votes 46,642 100.00

Rosedale, 1993–1996

Canadian federal election, 1993
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Bill Graham 25,726 50.00 +8.78
Progressive Conservative David MacDonald 10,930 21.24 -20.12
Reform Daniel Jovkovic 6,413 12.46
New Democratic Jack Layton 5,547 10.78 -4.28
National Martin Lanigan 1,091 2.12
Natural Law Doug Henning 817 1.59
Green Leslie Hunter 483 0.94 +0.22
Independent Linda Dale Gibbons 350 0.68
Marxist–Leninist Steve Rutchinski 57 0.11
Abolitionist Yann Patrice D'Audibert Garcien 40 0.08
Total valid votes 51,454 100.00
Canadian federal election, 1988
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Progressive Conservative David MacDonald 22,704 41.36 -11.44
Liberal Bill Graham 22,624 41.21 +15.08
New Democratic Doug Wilson 8,266 15.06 -2.77
Libertarian Chris Blatchly 411 0.75 +0.09
Green Frank de Jong 397 0.72 -1.14
Rhinoceros Liane McLarty 265 0.48
Independent Mike Constable 102 0.19
Independent Harry Margel 91 0.17
Commonwealth of Canada Paul Therrien 33 0.06 -0.27
Total valid votes 54,893 100.00
Canadian federal election, 1984
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Progressive Conservative David Crombie 23,211 52.80 +8.84
Liberal Bill Graham 11,488 26.13 -12.95
New Democratic Dell Wolfson 7,836 17.82 +2.97
Green Shirley Ruth Farlinger 821 1.87
Libertarian Clarke Slemon 291 0.66 +0.30
Communist Sylvie Baillargeon 172 0.39 +0.17
Commonwealth of Canada David Dube 144 0.33
Total valid votes 43,963 100.00

After politics

Following his departure from electoral politics, Graham was active in a number of organizations and business concerns. In 2007, he was elected Chancellor at Trinity College, Toronto. He was Visitor at Green College, where he was also an Honorary Life Fellow. He was also the Chair of the Atlantic Council of Canada from 2007 to 2012, Chair of the Canadian International Council, and was a member of the Trilateral Commission. He was the Honorary Colonel of the Governor General's Horse Guards from 2009 to 2018, and received an honorary doctorate from the Royal Military College of Canada in 2010. In 2018, he was appointed Honorary Colonel of Canadian Special Forces Operations Command. From 2012 to 2018, he was Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of the Creative Destruction Lab. As a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada since 2002, Graham was entitled to use the style of "The Honourable" and the post-nominal "PC" for life. He received various honours for his services to the French language and culture in Ontario, including appointment by the French government as Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and Chevalier of the Order of the Pleiade. He was a recipient of the Jean-Baptiste Rousseau Prize, and the Doctoral Ring of Siena, and a Patron of Liberal International. In 2015, he was made a member of the Order of Canada. In 2014, he received the St. Laurent Award from the NATO Association of Canada, and 2016 the Global Citizen Award from the United Nations Association of Canada. In 2017, he was awarded the Vimy Award by the Conference of Defence Associations. In 2011, he endowed the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, and sat on its Advisory Board. The Centre is associated with Trinity College and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. It seeks to promote the study of contemporary events from a historical perspective, and to bring together the worlds of the policymaker and the scholar.

Graham participated in the Government of Canada's Defence Review, as one of four members of a Minister's Advisory Panel, providing input for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. The review aimed to consult with Canadians across the country in order to develop a future road map for Canada's defence policy. In June 2017, it was released as "Strong, Secure, Engaged."

In 2016, Graham published an autobiography, Call of the World: A Political Memoir, reprinted in paperback in 2018.

Graham died on August 7, 2022.


CAN Order of Canada Officer ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Ordre de la Pléiade (Francophonie).gif

Ribbon Description Notes
CAN Order of Canada Officer ribbon.svg Order of Canada (OC)
  • Member
  • May 8, 2015
  • Officer
  • November 27, 2020
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
  • 2002
  • Canadian Version of this Medal
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2012
  • Canadian Version of this Medal
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Legion of Honour
  • Chevalier
Ordre de la Pléiade (Francophonie).gif Order of La Pléiade
  • Chevalier


Location Date School Degree
 Ontario Upper Canada College
 Ontario 1961 Trinity College, Toronto Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Modern History
 Ontario 1964 University of Toronto Bachelor of Laws (LL.B)
 France University of Paris
Location Date School Position
 Ontario 2007 – Trinity College, Toronto Chancellor
 Ontario  – Massey College Senior Fellow
 British Columbia  – Green College Honorary Life Fellow
Honorary Degrees
Location Date School Degree
 Ontario June 1, 2010 Royal Military College of Canada Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 Ontario June 15, 2018 University of Toronto Doctor of Laws (LL.D)


Location Date Institution Position
 Canada January 16, 2002 – Queen's Privy Council for Canada Member (PC)
 Canada  – Government of Canada Queen's Counsel (QC)

Honorary military appointments

  • Canada 2007 – 2012: Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Governor General's Horse Guards
  • Canada 2012 – 2018: Honorary Colonel of the Governor General's Horse Guards

See also

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