- VIAF ID: 3968809
William Carvel Graham was born on March 17, 1939 in Montreal to Loring and Helen Bailey, although his parents divorced before he was born. In 1940 his mother married Francis Ronald Graham, who was in fact William's biological father. He predominantly grew up in Vancouver, although he moved to Toronto for education, attending Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, where he was a student at Trinity College (class of 1961) during his undergraduate studies and later the Faculty of Law (class of 1964). During his time at the University of Toronto he joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve.
After graduating from law school he attended the Université de Paris to obtain a doctor of laws degree (1970) with a focus on international law. At the same time he worked for the Canadian law firm Fasken and Calvin on their European business, and would continue to work for them when he returned to Toronto, specializing in international trade and commercial law. In 1980 he returned to U of T's Faculty of Law as a professor, teaching international law. He also served as the president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association. Graham was also an active proponent of bilingualism. He was a director and later president (1979-1987) of Alliance française, and worked on an advisory committee for the implementation of bilingualism in Ontario courts.
In 1993, after two previous attempts in 1984 and 1988, he was elected to the House of Commons as the Liberal Party candidate for Rosedale (later, Toronto Centre-Rosedale and then Toronto Centre). He was appointed to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and would later be appointed its chair from 1995-2002. His role as chair facilitated his involvement in several international parliamentary associations, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Canada-US Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas, and Liberal International.
Graham was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Prime Minister Chrétien in January 2002. The major issues he faced during his tenure were the post-9/11 War on Terror and the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Canadian opposition to the American-led invasion of Iraq. In December 2003 Paul Martin replaced Jean Chrétien as prime minister. Graham continued as Minister of Foreign Affairs until the June 2004 general election. Subsequently, he was shuffled to Minister of National Defence. During his time at Defence he oversaw the Canadian response to America's Ballistic Missile Defence program expansion, the creation and implementation of a new defence policy and increased spending, and an agreement governing the treatment of detainees captured by Canadian soldiers and given into Afghan custody. Prime Minister Martin resigned as leader of the Liberal Party following his defeat in the January 2006 federal election. Graham was chosen to serve as Leader of the Opposition and interim leader of the Liberal Party until December 2006, when Stéphane Dion replaced him. Graham resigned his seat and retired from politics in July 2007.
In addition to his international affairs work, Graham was a vocal and active champion of gay rights throughout his political career. He worked to ensure discrimination based on sexual orientation was covered by human rights legislation, and fought for same-sex couples to receive equal pension benefits and, ultimately, the federal legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
That same year he was appointed Chancellor of Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He was involved in several non-governmental organizations and think tanks during his retirement, including the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Canadian International Council, and the Trilateral Commission. He also received several honours throughout this lifetime, including becoming an Honorary Colonel in the Governor Genera's Horse Guards and of the Canadian Special Forces Operational Command, and becoming a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and of the Order of La Pléiade. In 2015 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and an Officer in 2020. He received honorary degrees from the Royal Military College of Canada (2010) and the University of Toronto (2018).
He married fellow Trinity College student Catherine Curry in 1962, and together they had two children, Katherine and Patrick.
Graham died in his sleep following a period of illness on August 7, 2022.
For more information, see Graham's autobiography Call of the World: A Political Memoir (UBC Press, 2016).