John Gilbert (Canadian politician)

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John Gilbert
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Broadview—Greenwood
In office
Preceded byDavid George Hahn
Succeeded byBob Rae
Personal details
Born(1921-09-12)September 12, 1921
Toronto, Ontario
DiedAugust 7, 2006(2006-08-07) (aged 84)
Toronto, Ontario
Political partyNew Democrat

John Gilbert (September 12, 1921 – August 7, 2006) was a Canadian lawyer, politician and jurist.

Gilbert was born in Toronto and grew up in a poor working-class family which he helped support during the Great Depression by selling newspapers at the corner of Yonge and Bloor for two cents each[1] and by gathering coal that had fallen off horse-drawn coal wagons in order to help heat his family's home. The home was eventually lost when the bank foreclosed on its mortgage.[2] He was the youngest of five children, his parents were poor Irish Protestants who had immigrated to Canada.[1] He left school early to support his family by working in a box factory until marrying his wife, Nora, and going to university.

As an adult, Gilbert became a lawyer and worked briefly for a large firm. He left it, feeling they charged clients too much, and set up his own private practice. Once a week he went to the Salvation Army to operate a clinic where he gave free legal counsel to the poor.[1][2] He vowed that every dollar he earned over $5,000 a year he would give away.[1]

He entered federal politics in the 1963 federal election running unsuccessfully as a New Democratic Party candidate in the Toronto riding of Broadview with a third-place finish.[3] He won the seat two years later in the 1965 election and was re-elected in 1968, 1972 and 1974 before retiring from politics.[4]

While an MP, he devoted one day a week meeting constituents at the Woodgreen Community Centre where he would help them with their legal problems.[1]

Jack Layton said of Gilbert : "The work that John did in Parliament was exemplary. He, alongside Tommy Douglas and Ed Broadbent, believed that fundamental elements of healthy and prosperous living should not come and go with the precocity of economic times; rather, he believed that the purpose of having a government was to defend the rights and the dignity of people from every social station, and to ensure that nobody had to go without the basic necessities of life."[2]

"He was one of the members of Parliament that I most admired in my life," said former NDP leader Ed Broadbent who served in the House of Commons with Gilbert for several years, describing him as a gentle and kind individual adding "there wasn't a tinge of self-righteousness about him," and that the MP "was always good in caucus. He knew the national issues and he made his views known."[1]

In 1969, Gilbert criticized the Liberal government of the day accusing it of lacking the commitment to build affordable housing and instead spending money on an inquiry of the issue to discover what was already known.[1]

He retired from Parliament in 1978 to accept an appointment as a judge on the Ontario District Court. He asked a young Bob Rae to run as the NDP candidate to succeed him in Broadview. Rae accepted and was elected in a 1978 by-election.

Electoral record[edit]

1963 Canadian federal election: Broadview
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal David Hahn 8,743
Progressive Conservative Glen Day 6,684
New Democratic John Gilbert 5,574
Social Credit Tom Comerford 166
Independent Fred Graham 149
Socialist Labour Alan Sanderson 43
1965 Canadian federal election: Broadview
Party Candidate Votes
New Democratic John Gilbert 8,232
Liberal David Hahn 6,876
Progressive Conservative Richard H. Lyall 5,481
Socialist Labour William B. Hendry 147
1968 Canadian federal election: Broadview
Party Candidate Votes
New Democratic John Gilbert 10,406
Liberal Bob Sutherland 9,929
Progressive Conservative Betty M. Knight 4,752
Socialist Labour William B. Hendry 202
1972 Canadian federal election: Broadview
Party Candidate Votes
New Democratic John Gilbert 11,063
Progressive Conservative Tom Clifford 7,903
Liberal Peter Murphy 7,465
No affiliation Alfred Dewhurst 123
No affiliation Ron Hall 54
1974 Canadian federal election: Broadview
Party Candidate Votes
New Democratic John Gilbert 9,392
Liberal Lou Yankou 8,158
Progressive Conservative Bob Jamieson 5,617
Independent Walter Belej 137
Communist Angelo E. Giannakopoulos 128
Marxist–Leninist Susan Dennis 101


  1. ^ a b c d e f g JOHN GILBERT, LAWYER AND POLITICIAN: 1921-2006, by Allison Lawlor (September 13, 2006) Retrieved on 2007-02-10
  2. ^ a b c "Statement by NDP Leader Jack Layton on the passing of John Gilbert, former NDP MP". August 8, 2006. Archived from the original on January 18, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-10. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ History of Federal Ridings, Parliament of Canada
  4. ^

External links[edit]