Former broadcaster & Ont. Lt-Gov., David Onley, has passed away at 72.
David Charles Onley was born on June 12th 1950 in Midland Ontario and was raised in West Hill on Orchard Park Drive in Scarborough, now part of Toronto. He was educated at the University of Toronto, served as student council president, and graduated with the degree in Political Science. At the age of three, Onley began battling with polio, resulting in partial paralysis. However, as a result of extensive physiotherapy, he regained the use of his hands and arms, and partial use of his legs.
As an author David wrote Shuttle: A Shattering Novel of Disaster in Space, a best-selling novel about space travel, published in 1981. It was nominated by the Periodical Distributors of Canada as a book of the year. He was also the founding President of the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Canada.
David began his career in radio, hosting a weekly science show for Toronto radio station CFRB, subsequently joining the CKO network in 1983. He then joined CityTV in 1984 as a weather specialist, a position he held until 1989. In 2004 interview with Link Up, a Toronto employment agency for people with disabilities, Onley was quoted by saying, “at the time I remember saying to my mother, ‘I don’t know if I should take this job at Citytv. I don’t know if they’re hiring me because I’m disabled.’ My mother said, ‘you’ve been turned down enough times because of your disability, so take it!’ I thought to myself, ‘Damn it, she’s right’ and that’s how my career at Citytv began.”
From 1989 to 1995, he was a weather reporter on Citytv, and was the first news anchor on the then new Breakfast Television, Citytv’s morning show. He served as an education specialist covering science and technology stories for Citytv and CityPulse from 1994 to 1999. Only became an anchor on CP24 when the station launched in 1999, and both hosted and produced Home Page CP24.
He further won the Positive Impact Award at The University of Toronto in 2001.
Onley was appointed Chair of The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council to the Minister of Community and Social Services in 2005, (personally he is one of my idols in that regard and that is what directed me, in the same time frame between 2006 to 2015, to become a member of council donating my time with my hometown of Gravenhurst’s Accessibility Standards Awareness Advisory Council).
David was inducted into the Scarborough Walk of Fame in 2006.
Onley’s appointment as Lieutenant Governor was announced on July 10th 2007 and ran til 2014, he was privately informed of this after a July 4th 2007 taping of Home Page. “I just had reached the top of the Don Valley Parkway.. and there was no place to pull over. When the Prime Minister of our country calls, all you can try to do is stay in the same lane, avoid any fender benders, and have a meaningful conversation, which I did.” As the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario his 7-year term made him the Province’s third longest serving viceroy since Confederation, behind his successor Elizabeth Dowdeswell 2014 to present and Albert Edward Matthews from 1937 to 1946. Also, during his vice regal tenure during Onley’s mandate he participated in 2,550 engagements in which he spoke to an estimated audience of well over 1 million people.
David was sworn in on September 5th 2007, at Queens Park in Toronto as the provinces first Lieutenant Governor with a disability. Onley said he would use his vice regal position to help remove barriers in Ontario for 1.5 million people with disabilities, as well as focus on other issues affecting the disabled, including obstacles to employment and housing. Onley also stated, in his installation speech, that he would expand on his immediate predecessor James Bartleman’s First Nations Literacy initiatives, his aim being to see computers on every student’s desks in Northern schools. For his installation, Onley approached the legislature on his electric scooter, however, he ascended the Throne on foot, using leg braces and canes.
David was a member of the Order of Canada and was a Chancellor under the Order of Ontario 2007 & David was also the Vice Prior of the Order of St John in Ontario from 2007 to 2014, Knight of Justice of the Order.
Onley also traveled to China to represent the Queen in Canada at the 2008 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony and won the 2009 National Leadership Award from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School.
Onley returning to his acting roots, with a cape Cameo appearance in the sixth season of the Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries. The episode, The Ghost of Queens Park aired in Canada on February 25th, 2013. In this he played the 8th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Sir Oliver Mowatt.
Onley delivered his last speech from the throne to the Ontario Legislative Assembly on July 3rd 2014; his last full day in office was September 22nd of 2014 with his successor sworn in the following afternoon.
David’s prestigious Awards and Honors ranged from being the recipient of the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons’ King Clancy Award in 1992, to winning The Award for Broadcasting Excellence in 1992.
In honor of this contributions to the advancement of disability issues in Canada David received The Courage to Come Back Award from The Clark Institute in 1996 and was also an Inductee into The Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 1997.
David was an Inductee into The Scarborough Walk of Fame by the City of Scarborough and he won the National Leadership Award from our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School. He also received a Doctor of Laws at the Canadian Christian College he was an Honorary Fellow at Centennial College. He also received the Doctor of Laws from the University of Guelph-Humber, University of Windsor, and University of Western Ontario. He received a Doctor of Education from Nipissing University. Once again receiving his Doctor of Laws from University of Toronto, York University, Carleton University, and Law Society of Upper Canada. As well, he was also presented with the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Metal in 1992, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. As well, David served as a Colonel of The Regiment of the Queen’s York Rangers in his own capacity as Lieutenant Governor. DID YOU KNOW? that in his hometown of Midland, he is further permanently honorably with his very own street named David Onley Park, dedicated on his 63rd birthday, back in 2013.
Onley was the Honorary Colonel of 25 Field Ambulance in a personal capacity, and was appointed Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, is alma mater. His appointment began on October 1st of 2014 and he also served as the University Special Ambassador for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games.
He has always been 1 of my idol’s not just for his writing and reporter skills but for his courage and heart towards the disabled and continuously fighting for the rights of the disabled, which this hits close to home in my heart https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2448614779/
Sadly, David Onley passed on January 14th 2023, at the age of 72, leaving behind his wife Ruth Ann, their three sons, Jonathan, Robert, and Michael, and a huge legacy that made an impact on Canadian history with an indepth passion that served, assisted and changed the lives of many through his worldwide voice to his loving audience of followers and fans. You will surely be missed. xoxo