Elizabeth Dowdeswell

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Her Honour the Honourable
Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Dowdeswell Throne.jpg
29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
Assumed office
September 23, 2014
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General David Johnston
Premier Kathleen Wynne
Preceded by David Onley
3rd Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme
In office
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Kofi Annan
Preceded by Mostafa Kamal Tolba
Succeeded by Klaus Töpfer
Personal details
Born (1944-11-09) November 9, 1944 (age 70)[1]
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Alma mater University of Saskatchewan
Utah State University

Elizabeth Dowdeswell OC OOnt (née Patton, born November 9, 1944) is a teacher, public servant, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, and current Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the 29th since Canadian Confederation.[2]

Dowdeswell was born in Northern Ireland, immigrating to rural Saskatchewan with her parents in 1947.[3] She attended the University of Saskatchewan and Utah State University before becoming a teacher and university lecturer. After working as a deputy minister for the Government of Saskatchewan, she held increasingly senior positions in the Canadian public service, most notably as head of the Meteorological Service of Canada. In 1992, Dowdeswell was unanimously elected to lead the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya, serving there until 1998.

From 1998 to 2010, she was an adjunct professor at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at the University of Toronto, while also serving as founding president and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (Canada). From 2010 until her appointment, she was the president and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies.

On June 26, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Dowdeswell's appointment. She was sworn into office during a ceremony at the Ontario Legislative Building on September 23, 2014.[4]

As Lieutenant Governor, Dowdeswell is entitled to be styled Her Honour while in office and The Honourable for life.[5]

Early life[edit]

Dowdeswell was born in Northern Ireland and in 1947 moved with her family to Canada, settling in Saskatchewan.[6] Her father was a United Church of Canada minister.[7] Dowedeswell married at a young age but soon divorced.[7] She graduated from the University of Saskatchewan and Utah State University to become a high school teacher.[6]


Dowdeswell left teaching and entered public service, serving as deputy minister of culture during the New Democratic Party government of Allan Blakeney but was dismissed, along with other deputy ministers, after the Progressive Conservative government of Grant Devine took power in 1982.[7]

She served in the federal public service in the 1980s, serving at one point as Assistant Deputy Minister at Environment Canada with responsibility for the Atmospheric Environment Service and negotiating the Framework Convention on Climate Change. She also led a public inquiry into Canada’s unemployment benefits program and federal water policy.[8]

Dowdeswell became Undersecretary-General of the United Nations in the 1990s.[6] After her career at the UN, Dowdeswell became a visiting professor at the University of Toronto and associate fellow with the European Centre for Public Affairs.[6]

In 2002 Dowdeswell became president of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.[6]

Lieutenant Governor[edit]

Dowdeswell was appointed Lieutenant Governor by Governor General David Johnston on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who selected Dowdeswell from a shortlist devised by the Advisory Committee on Vice-Regal Appointments. On September 23, 2014, she was sworn in during a ceremony held at Queen's Park in Toronto, during which she addressed members of the Ontario Cabinet, Members of Provincial Parliament, and other guests.[9] She is the third woman to serve the position, following Pauline Mills McGibbon and Hilary Weston.

Breaking with tradition, Dowdeswell declared in her installation address that she would not immediately espouse a particular area of focus during her mandate as Lieutenant Governor. Instead, she intends to engage the people of Ontario, listening to their concerns and ideas before settling upon any priority themes.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Titles, styles, honours, and awards[edit]


Viceregal styles of
Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Badge of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.svg
Reference style
  • Her Honour the Honourable
  • Son Honneur l'honorable
Spoken style
  • Your Honour
  • Votre Honneur
Alternative style
  • Ma'am
  • Madame
  • November 9, 1944 – ?: Miss Elizabeth Patton
  • ? – September 23, 2014: Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell
  • September 23, 2014 – : Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario


Ribbon bar of Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Honorary appointments

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lieutenant Governors and Territorial Commissioners". October 1, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Her Honour". Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. October 1, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Installation address". Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. September 26, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Installation of the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario". Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. September 23, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Table of titles to be used in Canada". Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. June 18, 1993. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Elizabeth Dowdeswell • Saskatchewan's Environmental Champions
  7. ^ a b c "New lieutenant-governor may surprise Ontarians". Toronto Star. October 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ http://news.ontario.ca/profiles/en/elizabeth-dowdeswell
  9. ^ "Ontario's lieutenant-governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell to be sworn in during fall ceremony". CTV News, July 24, 2014.
  10. ^ "Installation address". Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. September 23, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  11. ^ "OPP Mess Dinner". Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. September 24, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 

External links[edit]