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Jerahmiel S. Grafstein
|Former Senator for Ontario|
January 13, 1984 – January 2, 2010
|Appointed by||Pierre Trudeau|
January 2, 1935 |
Jerry S. Grafstein, B.A., J.D., Q.C., is a Canadian lawyer, businessman and former politician, who served in the Senate of Canada from 1984 to 2010. Grafstein was the longest serving member of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He served as co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and as a senior officer of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly for over a decade.
Grafstein is a former partner of Minden Gross LLP, a business law firm in Toronto in communications law, corporate financing and administrative law.
Grafstein is also known as one of the founders of CityTV, MTV-Multilingual (now Omni TV), YTV, and a series of other media companies in Canada, the United States, South America and Europe. He served on the board of several enterprises including Petro-Canada.
Most recently, he co-founded a series of online newspapers, including The Wellington Street Post (Ottawa), The Penn Ave Post (Washington, D.C.), Israel News Cloud, HollyPost (Hollywood, CA), China News Cloud, Africa News Cloud, Brazil News Cloud, India News Cloud, Russia News Cloud, Fashion News Cloud and Animation News.
Grafstein is well known for his participation in the community and his key role in the organization of events such as “Canada Loves New York” in the aftermath of September 11, “Toronto Rocks” Concert during the SARS outbreak, and the “Canada for Asia” telethon in the aid for relief of Tsunami victims.
Grafstein holds numerous awards including honorary chief of the New York City Fire Department and honorary commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps by the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group. He was named one of Canada’s 100 most important “public intellectuals” in 2005 by the National Post.
Grafstein was born Jerahmiel Samson Grafstein in London, Ontario, on January 2, 1935, the son of Solomon S. Grafstein and Helen Rose Grafstein (née Bleeman). His late sister was Pauline Wayne. His father came to Canada in 1927 after serving in the Polish Army in the First World War and later in the Polish War of Independence in 1919-1921. He married in 1930 in Toronto and settled in London that year.
Grafstein was raised in London, Ontario. He attended public, primary and high schools where he was active in sports, school governance, and acting. He served as an officer in the Army Cadets. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario in 1955. While at Western, he was active in debates, acting in local theatre and musicals.
Grafstein graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1955 and from the University of Toronto Law School in 1958. He was admitted to the Bar of Ontario in 1960. While at law school, he was active in intramural sports at Hart House, debates, and class governance and received the highest standing in international law. He was a member of the Bar of North West Territories for almost a decade in the 1970s and early 1980s. He lectured in commercial law and later instructed in the Bar Admissions Course at Osgoode Hall Law School. He has given lectures to law students on the role of lawyers in civil society. Grafstein is a former partner of Minden Gross LLP, a business law firm in Toronto in communications law, corporate financing and administrative law.
He served as chairman of the Media and Communications Law subsection of the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations.
Since his retirement from the Senate on January 2, 2010, Grafstein has served as counsel to Minden Gross LLP in Toronto, a firm he joined in 1960.
The Liberal Party of Canada and Canadian Government
Starting in 1961, Grafstein held offices of the Liberal Party of Canada, from the riding level to national campaigns. He has been active in federal, provincial and municipal elections for over four decades. He has taken a leading role in mayoralty elections in Toronto since 1960. In 1966, he founded and edited the Journal of Liberal Thought. During 1966-1968 he served in Ottawa as executive assistant to John Turner, then Registrar General of Canada, and later as special advisor to the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs during its founding period.
He also served as advisor to the Ministry of Transport, the Canadian International Development Agency of the Department of External Affairs, and as a member of the Department of Justice Advisory Committee.
He was elected vice-chair of the Toronto Liberal Caucus and served for over two decades.
Grafstein was the longest serving member of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, has served on the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, and has served from time to time on all Senate committees, including Legal and Constitutional Affairs. He served in the Special Senate/Commons Committee in its review of Canada’s foreign policy.
He is a past chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. During his chairmanship, the committee completed twenty reports, including the following special reports:
- Falling Behind: Answering the Wake-up Call; What can be done to improve Canada’s Productivity Performance?
- The Public Good and Private Funds: The Federal Tax Treatment of Charitable Giving By Individuals and Corporations.
- Passports and PASS Cards, Identity and Citizenship: Implementing the WHTI
- Stemming the Flow of Illicit Money: A Priority for Canada: Parliamentary Review of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
- The Demographic Time Bomb: Mitigating the Effects of Demographic Change in Canada
- Consumer Protection in the Financial Services Sector: The Unfinished Agenda.
He also initiated the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce special studies on hedge funds and Canada’s interprovincial trade barriers. He was a member of the Special Joint Senate and Commons Committee on a Review of Canada’s Foreign Policy.
He has long advocated national standards for clean drinking water and introduced numerous private member’s bills on mapping and safeguarding Canada’s fresh water resources.
Grafstein was the longest serving co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group (the largest inter-parliamentary group in Canada) for 15 years. In that capacity he has advocated Canadian issues to senators, congressmen, state legislators, governors and Canada-United States border alliances in states and cities across America.
Grafstein introduced numerous resolutions and a private member’s bill to establish a national portrait gallery in Ottawa, co-sponsored a private member’s bill in the Senate establishing Holocaust Memorial Day in Canada in 1998, and introduced a private member’s bill that established the Parliamentary Poet Laureate in 2001. He also introduced a private member’s bill (Bill 215) to amend the Criminal Code to explicitly include “suicide bombing” as a definition of terrorism, which became part of the Canadian Criminal Code in 2011.
On retirement from the Senate in 2010, he received from Parliament the Maple Leaf Flag that flew over Parliament (the “Two Week Flag”), and, from Congress, the Stars and Stripes Flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington (the “One Day Flag”), in recognition of his political activities in Canada and the United States, respectively.
In July 2007, Grafstein was elected vice president of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, the world’s largest parliamentary organization dedicated to human rights, democratic rights, economic security and co-operation (after serving as its treasurer for six years), and served as president of the Liberal, Democratic Reform Group there for a decade. He served as vice chair and chair of the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and the Environment. He has served on the OSCE election monitoring missions throughout Eastern Europe and, more recently, in Georgia, Ukraine and Montenegro, and on resolving “frozen foreign conflicts”. He co-sponsored numerous resolutions condemning racism and antisemitism at the OSCE PA and in the Parliament of Canada.
Grafstein has co-chaired Middle East Economic Partnership forums held throughout Europe and across the Mediterranean. In September 2008 he co-hosted the first OSCEPA meeting held in Toronto; highlights included the Georgian Crisis and a Mediterranean Forum which he co-chaired.
He has served on many Parliamentary Friendship Groups in Europe (east and west), Asia, North Africa and South America. In the fall of 2007 he was elected vice president of the Canada-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group.
In 2009 he was elected vice chairman of the Canadian Armenian Parliamentary Friendship Group. He served as a member of the International Political Committee for Co-existence between Muslims and Jews.
In April 2009, Grafstein helped organize a counter-conference in New York City in the follow-up U.N. Human Rights Conference on Durban held in Geneva, to combat antisemitism, and has lectured on this topic across Europe, Canada and the United States. He co-sponsored numerous successful resolutions at the OSCE PA meetings across Europe (west and east) against racism and antisemitism.
He is currently first vice-president of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians.
Grafstein has had wide-ranging legal and business experience in all aspects of media, including television, cable, radio, telephony, telecommunications microwave, high speed wireless data transmission, advertising, production, distribution, publishing and financing.
From 1979 to 1984 he served on the board of Petro-Canada, was a member of the Northwest Territorial Bar, and served as counsel to Northwest Territorial Airways for almost a decade. During that period he traveled across the far north extensively.
He was a co-founder of a range of media companies, especially broadcasting/communications/ publication enterprises, including: CUC Broadcasting Limited (Canada's fifth largest cable MSO before it was acquired by Shaw Communications in 1995, now Canada's second largest cable MSO); national specialty TV channels in lifestyle, youth (YTV) and music; CityTV (Canada's first independent UHF station); MTV-Multilingual Television (Toronto) (Canada's first independent multilingual broadcasting station – now OMNI TV); CUC Cablevision (UK) Limited (Telecential) (now part of one of the United Kingdom's larger cable MSOs); Northern Communications, Ontario a Northern Ontario Company, comprising cable, TV (CBC and CTV) and radio stations – French and English; he co-founded one of the longest private microwave companies in Canada that ran from Windsor to Toronto to mid-Northern Ontario, Canbras Communications Corporation, (now part of Brazil’s third largest cable MSO); and Multivision Communications Corp. (Bolivia's largest MMDS Hyper Cable and cable MSO). He served on the board of Ukraine Enterprise Corporation which made early investments in Ukraine.
He was also a lead director of Toronto Life Publishing Company Limited which published Toronto Life (after it merged with Toronto Calendar) and Toronto Life Fashion, two of Canada's leading lifestyle and fashion magazines, and co-founded Toronto Life Fashion File now seen on television around the world.
In addition, he has served as a governor of the Canadian Opera Company and, for over a decade, was chairman and board member of the O'Keefe Centre (now “Sony Centre for the Performing Arts”), Canada's largest public performing arts centre. He has served on the board of the Shaw Festival (Canada's leading theatrical festival dedicated to the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporary playwrights), the planning committee of the Stratford Festival (Canada's leading theatrical festival dedicated to the plays of William Shakespeare), and the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival). He has served as chairman of the City of Toronto Asia/Pacific Committee and vice-chairman of the Toronto-Chongqing Association< and Toronto-Frankfurt Friendship Association.
In 2011 and 2012, he co-founded and currently serves as chair of The Wellington Street Post, The Penn Ave Post, Israel News Cloud and HollyPost, in a network of online 24/7 news sites around the globe. These news sites use technology to bring together the diversity of the blogosphere and social networks into timely news and information coverage of political news from Ottawa and Washington, and entertainment news from Hollywood. Other international projects include: China News Cloud, Africa News Cloud, Brazil News Cloud, India News Cloud and Russia News Cloud. 2013 additions to the network include Fashion News Cloud and Animation News.
Grafstein continues to be actively engaged in business start-ups and municipal, provincial, national and international affairs, charitable, educational and cultural institutions, and serves on private and public Corporate boards.
He served as Co-Chairman of Toronto Committee for the Group of Seven Economic Summit in Toronto in 1988. He served as a member of the Executive for the Toronto 1996 and 2008 Olympic Bid Committees.
In 1998, the Grafstein Annual Lecture in Communications was established by Grafstein to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his graduation from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and the 10th anniversary of the graduation of his son, Laurence Grafstein, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca Grafstein (née Weatherhead), both from the Class of 1988. The Grafstein Lecture is hosted by the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy at the Faculty of Law. He and his wife, Carole, established the Grafstein Chair in Jewish Philosophy at the University of Toronto the following year.
Grafstein co-organized “Canada Loves New York” in November 2001, when over 26,000 Canadians visited New York City after September 11, to assist New York City’s recovery after 9/11, called “the largest peaceful invasion of Canadians since the War of 1812”.
In 2001, Grafstein was given the War Chief's tomahawk of the Northern Peigan Tribe (Blackfoot Confederacy) of Alberta for advancing the cause of clean drinking water on First Nations' Reserves across Canada.
On April 4, 2003, Grafstein co-organized, with Friends of America, a pro-U.S. rally at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto with over 1,000 participants.
In July 2003, he co-created and co-organized “Toronto Rocks”, to offset the negative impact on Toronto in the global media as a result of the SARS outbreak. Headlined by the Rolling Stones it is considered the largest ticketed band concert in history, attended by almost half a million people. In December 2004, Grafstein co-organized “Canada for Asia”, a three-hour broadcast telethon in aid of relief for Tsunami victims, and raised over $15,000,000.00.
On August 5, 2014, Grafstein led more than 500 Canadians, including five members of Parliament and a Senator, on a solidarity mission to Jerusalem.
Awards and Honours
In 1992, Jerry Grafstein was the recipient of the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal.
In 2002, Grafstein was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.
In 2003, Grafstein was honoured by the Canadian Society of New York for his dedication to strengthening ties between Canada and the United States. While as Senator, he was made an Honorary Chief of the New York City Fire Department and Honorary Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps by the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.
On November 4, 2005 he was named one of Canada’s 100 most important “Public Intellectuals” by the National Post in their series “Beautiful Minds”. On November 12, 2005 he was made a Duke of Friulani, Italy (Ducato dei Vini Friulani).
In November 2010, the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) created The Honourable Jerry and Carole Grafstein Network for Cancer Research at the Institute For Medical Research, Israel-Canada (IMRIC), part of the Faculty of Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Later in 2011, The CFHU named him “Man of the Year” in Toronto.
November 27, 2011, he was installed as Honorary Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Yeshiva & Rabbinical School, University of Toronto, at its Inaugural Convocation, the first such Rabbinical school of its kind in Canada.
Writings by Grafstein
Grafstein has written numerous articles and delivered papers on broadcasting regulations, communications, computers, travel, international relations, technology, transportation, politics, international trade and constitutional matters in Canada, the United States and Europe.
His first book, entitled Beyond Imagination an anthology written by some of Canada's outstanding authors and poets which he edited, was published by McClelland & Stewart Inc. in 1995. His second book The Making of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate : Based on a Private Member's Bill , was published by the Porcupine’s Quill.
He co-authored his third book entitled The Passage Through Parliament to Establish Holocaust Memorial Day in Canada in 2004.
His fourth book, Suicide Bombings: Parliament Speaks, is the Parliamentary history of Bill 215, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (Suicide Bombing), was published in 2012.
He is currently working on a collection of his speeches on politics and public affairs, and tributes to his contemporaries.
Personal and Family
Grafstein is married to Carole (née Sniderman) a community activist, a volunteer leader, a leading fundraiser for Cancer research across Canada, and a member of the Order of Canada. They have two sons, Laurence and Michael. Laurence, a Rhodes scholar and President of the Oxford Union, and now a New York Investment Banker, is married to Rebecca (née Weatherhead) from Winnipeg, a member of the Ontario and New York Bars. They have three sons, Daniel, Edward, and Isaac and they now reside in New York City.
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