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Bernard Ostry

Birthplace: Wadena, SK, Canada
Death: May 24, 2006 (78)
Toronto, ON, Canada (Prostate Cancer)
Immediate Family:

Son of Abraham Ostry and Tobbie Ostry
Husband of Sylvia Ostry
Father of Private and Private
Brother of George Percy Ostry

Occupation: Cultural Bureaucrat
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Bernard Ostry


Continued from Page 2…

Mr. Ostry officially joined the federal bureaucracy as assistant undersecretary of state for Mr. Trudeau's old friend and political colleague, Gérard Pelletier. He worked in a number of departments, at a senior level, from secretary of state (citizenship) to communications and culture, communications technology and national museums throughout the 1970s.

He seemed to be the bureaucrat for all crises, the person who could draft legislation on citizenship and then write a brief on multiculturalism in an attempt to counterbalance the West's perception that Quebec was getting too much attention in the wake of the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and the designation of French as one of two official Canadian languages.

He was like a government impresario trying to enlist the young, the old, the unemployed, the disenfranchised and the newly arrived in a series of engagement programs with names such as Opportunities for Youth, and Local Initiatives Program. His detractors called them "opportunities for everybody." The Ostrys' annual party, always a coveted invitation, attained legendary status in October of 1970 because it coincided with the declaration of the War Measures Act. The place was agog with rumour and speculation as undercover security shadowed politicians and alleged FLQ targets.

By the end of the 1970s, the Ostrys were bored with Ottawa. Ms. Ostry left the Economic Council of Canada in 1980 to take up a three-year appointment with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Mr. Ostry followed his wife to France on "special assignment," courtesy of Mr. Trudeau's office or, as Mr. Ostry described it, as an "entrepreneur on behalf of Canadian cultural and communications companies."

Mr. Ostry returned to Canada in August of 1981 after then Ontario premier William Davis appointed him deputy minister of industry and trade. At the time, The Globe opined in an editorial that "the liverwurst castle on Queen's Park Crescent" in Toronto would seem "a poky provincial backwater" after Paris on the Seine for the bureaucrat who was said to have been "the first to prove the value in close-quarters combat of a pair of Gucci loafers with armour-steel toes."

In Toronto, Mr. Ostry rented a large midtown apartment and began collecting art, furniture and glass from the Art Deco, Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements of the '20s and '30s. Haunting auction houses and private sales and buying on the layaway plan, Mr. Ostry built up such a formidable collection that the couple's living quarters often resembled the storage facility for a highly specialized decorative arts museum. Even after making several major gifts to the Royal Ontario Museum in the past decade (which will become the basis for a new gallery of 20th-century design), their home was still crammed with sleekly curved chairs and settees, tall cabinets, overhanging chandeliers and silver tea services.

Mr. Ostry served in a number of provincial portfolios (industry and tourism, industry and trade, and citizenship and culture) before premier David Peterson appointed him chairman and CEO of the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (TVOntario) in 1985. A year into Mr. Ostry's mandate, TVO launched La Chaîne française, its French-language counterpart, with an annual budget of $14-million. Six years later, Mr. Ostry was in trouble at TVO. The annual budget had grown to about $80-million and Mr. Peterson had been soundly defeated by Bob Rae and the NDP. Mr. Ostry was caught in the crossfire, especially after a provincial auditor's report detailed questionable expense claims at the public broadcaster. Mr. Ostry tendered his resignation, effective in December of 1991. He was 64.

His health, meanwhile, was deteriorating. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, a disease he fought for another 15 years as it slowly metastasized to his brain. Even while he was desperately ill, he continued to work on three books simultaneously: a series of profiles of first nations' achievers, tentatively called Victims No More; a study of multiculturalism; and a long essay on integrity in public service that drew on his own speeches and reflections on current practices.

About six months ago, he sold at auction an L. S. Lowry painting and a drawing that he had picked up cheaply decades before. The windfall, in the range of a million dollars, allowed him to make two $500,000 charitable bequests, one in his wife's name to the Munk Centre at Trinity College and another in his own name at Massey College at the University of Toronto.

Bernard Ostry was born

in Wadena, Sask., on June 19,

1927. He died in Toronto of

metastasized prostate cancer

yesterday. He was 78. He is

survived by his wife, Sylvia,

his sons Adam and Jonathan,

two grandchildren, and three

nephews and their families.

The funeral will be held

at Benjamin's Chapel, 2401

Steeles Ave. W., Toronto, at

10:30 a.m. on Friday.

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Bernard Ostry's Timeline

June 10, 1927
Wadena, SK, Canada
May 24, 2006
Age 78
Toronto, ON, Canada