Indigenous Success Stories

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

Lieutenant Governor’s Statement on the Death of The Honourable James K. Bartleman

August 17, 2023

NationTalk: The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, has released the following statement on the death of the Honourable James K. Bartleman, 27th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who passed away on Monday, August 14, 2023:

It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of the Honourable James K. Bartleman. On behalf of the people of Ontario, I convey my deepest condolences to his wife Marie-Jeanne, to his children Anne-Pascale, Laurent, and Alain, and to their extended families.

Mr. Bartleman served our province with distinction as the 27th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He was a valued friend and colleague, and I was always grateful to speak with him, as he and I did frequently through the years.

Born on December 24, 1939, in Orillia, Mr. Bartleman grew up in the Muskoka town of Port Carling. Mr. Bartleman earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from the University of Western Ontario in 1963.  After joining what is now Global Affairs Canada, he met Marie-Jeanne Rosillon in Brussels, Belgium. The couple married in 1975 and had three children: Anne-Pascale, Laurent, and Alain.

As a proud member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Mr. Bartleman was a staunch advocate for Indigenous Peoples, following the guidance of his ancestors by imparting his wisdom to future generations. His accomplishments are particularly poignant given the hardships he and his family faced in his childhood, including poverty and anti-Indigenous racism.  He received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for public service in 1999.

Mr. Bartleman had a distinguished diplomatic career that spanned more than three decades. He represented his country in various capacities, including Ambassador to Cuba, Ambassador to Israel, Ambassador to the European Union, and Ambassador to the North Atlantic Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). During this time, he became well-known for his constructive engagement in peace negotiations and humanitarian work. Mr. Bartleman was renowned for his creativity in fostering cultural exchanges, emphasizing the role of diplomacy in building mutual respect and understanding. His profound dedication to his duties, detailed knowledge of international affairs, and exceptional ability to handle crisis situations earned him widespread respect in diplomatic circles.

Upon his installation as Lieutenant Governor in March 2002, Mr. Bartleman became a Chancellor of the Order of Ontario. He was promoted to Knight of Justice in the Order of St John in 2002. He received the Dr. Hugh Lefave Award (2003) and the Courage to Come Back Award (2004) for his efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Mr. Bartleman was further recognized for his many contributions to our country when he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011.

Mr. Bartleman identified three key priorities during his mandate as Lieutenant Governor: to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, to fight racism and discrimination, and to encourage Indigenous young people. In 2004, he launched the first Lieutenant Governor’s Book Drive, which collected 1.2 million books for First Nations schools and Native Friendship Centres throughout Ontario. To further encourage literacy and bridge building, in 2005 he launched a twinning program for Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools in Ontario and Nunavut and established literacy summer camps in five northern First Nations communities as a pilot project. In 2006, he extended the literacy summer camp program to 28 fly-in communities, secured funding for five years, and launched Club Amick, a reading club for Indigenous children in Ontario’s North. In the winter of 2007, he completed a second book drive, collecting 900,000 books for Indigenous children in Ontario, northern Québec, and Nunavut. Today, the summer literacy camps, which operate in over 90 Indigenous communities across Canada, are administered by the non-profit United for Literacy.

Mr. Bartleman left an indelible mark on Canadian literature through his five non-fiction books and three novels. His unique storytelling ability told not only his own narrative but also the stories of countless others who found a voice through his words. He will be dearly missed by many.

Joe Segal
Office of the Lieutenant Governor