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Alumnus and faculty member the Hon. David Onley named to the Order of Canada

Hon. David Onley (centre) with U of T Scarborough students during the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan Am Games.

The Hon. David Onley, alumnus and a senior lecturer and distinguished visitor in the Department of Political Science at U of T Scarborough, has been appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of his contributions to advancing the rights of people with disabilities. 

Ontario’s 28th and second longest-serving Lieutenant Governor was appointed to the Order alongside 99 others including several U of T faculty and alumni. The appointment comes in a milestone year, as Canada marks its 150th anniversary as well as the 50th anniversary of the Order.

In his role as Lieutenant Governor, Onley advocated for people with disabilities and fought to remove physical barriers and obstacles to employment and housing. One in seven people in Ontario has a disability and that number is expected to rise to one in five by 2036 as the population ages. Onley established the Lieutenant Governor’s Accessibility Committee, which promotes accessibility best practices, encouraged the public and private sectors to create accessible work environments, worked closely with community-based organizations, and officially represented Canada and Ontario at international Para-sport events.

“We are so proud to count David Onley among those appointed to the Order of Canada, particularly in this historic year,” said Professor Bruce Kidd, Vice President University of Toronto and Principal, U of T Scarborough.

“He has been a lifelong advocate of equity and inclusion for persons with disabilities, and continues to serve as a ‘go-to’ policy advisor to governments and corporations. As Lieutenant Governor, he spoke out frequently on the needs for justice for the indigenous peoples as well. He tirelessly crisscrossed the province, taking on hundreds of speaking engagements every year to affirm the people, institutions and values of the people of Ontario. David continues to be one of the hardest working people I know, dedicated to changing perceptions and attitudes, and to removing barriers in order to ensure everyone in Ontario—and in Canada—can realize their full potential.”

Following his service as the Queen’s Representative in Ontario, Onley was appointed as a special advisor to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, working closely with the Minister to break down barriers, promote the economic benefits of inclusion and employment of people with disabilities, and championing accessibility across the province. He also created an annual award to recognize people and organizations that demonstrate leadership in accessibility and disability issues.

“I am most grateful to receive this honour,” said Onley. “Working together, we have achieved a great deal, and there is still much we can do to reach our goal of full accessibility in Ontario by 2025.”

Since 2014, Onley has taught classes at U of T Scarborough, bringing a unique perspective from his years at Queen’s Park. He also works with students on research projects, using papers from his term in office and works with staff of the UTSC Library to archive his papers. In 2015, Onley served as the University's Special Ambassador for the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan American Games.

Onley, who graduated from U of T Scarborough in 1975, served as student council president at what was then known as Scarborough College. The early 1970s was a time of great student activism, and he remembers the administration reaching out to involve students—leadership that he considers enormously impressive.

Onley is a recipient of the Rick Hansen Award for Excellence and the Courage to Come Back Award, and holds 11 honorary degrees including an honorary Doctor of Laws from U of T, received in 2009.




© University of Toronto Scarborough