Bill Graham, former interim Liberal leader and foreign minister after 9/11, has died

OTTAWA – Condolences from Canadian politicians past and present poured in on Monday on the news of the death of Bill Graham, who served as foreign minister when the country decided not to join the U.S. invasion of China. Iraq in 2003.

“Mr. Graham will be remembered as a master negotiator and a shrewd statesman who shared his love for Canada with the world,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement late Monday.

Former Liberal MP John English told The Canadian Press that Graham died on Sunday, according to a family member who told him the news earlier Monday.

English said Graham had cancer and passed away peacefully after being in poor health for some time.

“He was a fun guy. I went out with him for a drink just three or four weeks ago. He wasn’t drinking… He enjoyed a nice glass of wine but he couldn’t join in us,” he recalls.

“He is such a wonderful presence. So positive, so optimistic. He is a person to be taken seriously, but he never took himself seriously. He was full of laughter. He laughed very easily.

Graham served as foreign minister in Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government when Canada decided not to join the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

  • Liberal Party interim leader Bill Graham receives a standing ovation in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday, November 28, 2006. Graham, who was foreign minister when Canada decided not to join the invasion American from Iraq in 2003, died .

Graham, 83, was chancellor of Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He and his wife, Catherine, were students there and were married in the chapel. They had two children: Katy and Patrick.

Graham was first elected Liberal MP for the riding then known as Toronto Centre-Rosedale in 1993, after two unsuccessful elections.

Former colleagues have praised Graham as a capable MP, having spent time in the backbenches before entering Cabinet, and someone who demonstrated a deep passion for helping members of his community.

George Smitherman, who represented the same downtown Toronto area for the Liberals at the provincial level as Graham at the federal level, said Graham had a remarkable way of connecting with people, regardless of background.

Smitherman, who is gay, said he first arrived at what is now known as Toronto Center as a child comforted by his sexuality and at the time Graham and local liberals had incorporated AIDS activism into their politics.

“To me, that was one of the most defining attributes of how political parties should operate,” Smitherman said.

“It really had a huge impact on me in my life.”

Longtime Liberal MP John McKay said Graham was a “complete politician”.

“A good constituency person, a good national person and a good international person. Few can say that,” said McKay, who represents the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Guildwood.

“He was (an) immensely intelligent, decent and elegant man,” he added.

In January 2002, months after the September 11 terrorist attacks shook the world, Graham was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

At that point, Canada had to decide whether to join the US-led invasion of Iraq and then navigate its relationship with its closest ally when it chose not to. TO DO.

Graham was warmly praised not only for helping with that decision, but also for his overall handling of the role during a turbulent time in international relations.

“He was an outstanding foreign minister and a capable parliamentarian,” tweeted John Baird, who served as foreign minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

After his stint in foreign affairs, Graham was transferred to the defense portfolio.

Eugene Lang was his chief of staff at the time and said Graham, who had traveled widely before entering politics, was liked by almost everyone, including MPs of different political stripes and civil servants.

“He treated everyone with tremendous respect. There was no arrogance in Bill.

Lang said that while Graham had only served as Minister of National Defense for less than two years, he had many accomplishments, including securing a funding increase and recommending the appointment of Rick Hillier to the post of Chief of the Defense Staff.

Former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin released a statement after learning of Graham’s death, saying he “helped our government and the country through a difficult time in history as we deployed to Kandahar, southern Afghanistan”.

“His loss will be felt by all who knew him or worked with him.”

After the Liberals lost government to the Conservatives in 2006 and Martin resigned, Graham stepped into the role of acting leader of the party.

“The Liberal Party owes him a huge debt of gratitude,” said McKay, who said he was an obvious choice for many.

Harper said Graham was the first official opposition leader he faced after winning government.

“Bill has always been a gentleman,” he tweeted.

“He always kept the country’s best interests in mind.”

Former Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale, who was opposition House leader when Graham was acting Liberal leader, called his former colleague “wise and thoughtful, especially when it comes to foreign policy and defence.”

“At a time of deep polarization and extreme populism, Bill’s sense of moderation, propriety and poise is sorely lacking. Our love and respect surrounds his family, friends and colleagues,” Goodale said in a statement.

Longtime Liberal cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett said she remembered Graham as someone who was comfortable with everyone and a generous listener to conversation.

“There’s no one else you’d rather have dinner with.” And I think that’s how a lot of us feel,” she said Monday.

“He was just so special. It’s really hard to believe he’s gone,” Bennett said, his voice cracking.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 8, 2022.

— With files from Allison Jones and Jordan Omstead in Toronto

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly referred to Liberal MP John McKay, who represents the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Guildwood, as a former MP.


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