I recently had the pleasure of attending a reception, where the guest of honour was Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor. I was a bit uncomfortable because I was not very familiar with her background, so a little research ahead of time went a long way in avoiding embarrassment.


The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell is the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. She is a remarkable woman who has accomplished more in her lifetime than many of us can only dream about. As the representative of Her Majesty, The Queen, Ms. Dowdeswell carries out constitutional and ceremonial duties and facilitates healthy citizen and community engagement.


She has been in this position since 2014 and continually challenges Ontarians to look at their role as global citizens. She is a strong advocate of global democracy, economic prosperity and environmental stewardship.


Ms. Dowdeswell has served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program. In Canada, her diverse portfolios ranged from education and culture to the environment and complex public inquiries. She was the founding president and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, and later, the president and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies.


Born in Belfast, Ireland, her family moved to Saskatchewan, where Ms. Dowdeswell attended the University of Saskatchewan and later Utah State University. Her father was a United Church Minister. She entered public office in 1982 after a successful career in teaching.


Since 1867, 29 people have held the office of the Lieutenant Governor in the Province of Ontario. The first woman to hold the post was The Honourable Pauline McGibbon (1974–1980). The Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander (1985–1991) was the first racialized person to hold the position and the Honourable James K. Bartleman (2002–2007), a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation, was the first Indigenous person to become Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The Honourable David C. Onley (2007–2014) was the first person with a physical disability to become Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.


I was humbled to have been in attendance and had an opportunity to speak with Ms. Dowdeswell. I am glad I took the time to learn a little about her and her position, as it certainly is one of importance in our province. By the way, In Canadian English, lieutenant is pronounced ‘lieutenant. This pronunciation is regarded as standard and is typical throughout the Commonwealth.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.