Marilyn Churley

Marilyn Churley
Marilyn Churley
Marilyn Churley (centre) with Peter Tabuns and Jack Layton at a South Asian Unity Picnic held in Taylor Creek Park, Toronto, Ontario.
MPP for Toronto—Danforth
In office
Preceded by Riding established
Succeeded by Peter Tabuns
MPP for Riverdale
In office
Preceded by David Reville
Succeeded by Riding abolished
Personal details
Born Happy Valley, Labrador
Political party New Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Richard Barry
Residence Toronto

Marilyn Churley is a justice of the peace and former Canadian politician who represented the riding of Toronto—Danforth in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1990 to 2005. She is a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP), and was a member of the Ontario cabinet during the Bob Rae government. In opposition she served as her party's critic for the Environment, Women's Issues and Democratic Renewal. She resigned from the legislature to run for the federal New Democratic Party. Churley was her party's candidate for the riding of Beaches—East York in 2006 and 2008, but was defeated both times. She is also a regular on The Michael Coren Show, a current events television program on CTS. Churley was appointed a justice of the peace on October 14, 2009.[1]


Early life

Churley was raised in Happy Valley, Labrador, and moved to the Downtown Toronto neighbourhood of Riverdale in 1978. She has served as a director of the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto, and was a co-founder of the Bain Avenue Day Care Centre. Churley was elected to the Toronto City Council in 1988, where she was instrumental in a number of Toronto council initiatives, including the energy efficiency office, the "Clean Up the Don" movement (with fellow city councillors Jack Layton and Barbara Hall) and police patrols on bicycle.

Among other community commitments, Churley has also been a director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto.

In 1968, she gave birth to a son, Billy, whom she gave up for adoption. She later reconnected with him in 1997. She also has a daughter, Astra, born in 1974. Churley's experience with adoption and the search for her son led her to advocate for adoption disclosure reform. Through the 1990s, she introduced several Private Member's Bills to facilitate the process of locating children given up for adoption. None of these passed. Subsequently she was a strong supporter of a similar bill introduced by Sandra Pupatello. This bill later became the Adoption Information Disclosure Act.[2]

Provincial politics

In government

Churley was easily elected as a New Democrat in the riding of Riverdale in the provincial election of 1990. The NDP won a majority government in this election and she briefly serving as a Parliamentary Assistant. On 18 March, 1991, Churley was named Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations after the previous minister, Peter Kormos was fired by Bob Rae for a series of political blunders.[3][4] Churley remained in this position throughout the Rae government's mandate. In cabinet, Churley opposed attempts to reduce social assistance to single mothers, and only accepted the introduction of casino gambling with reluctance.

Toronto singer/songwriter Kurt Swinghammer wrote a song called "The Signature of Marilyn Churley", inspired by Churley's signature on an elevator license dating from her term in the Rae cabinet.[5]

In opposition

Rae's government lost the provincial election of 1995, and Churley was one of seventeen NDP members to retain a seat in the legislature. In opposition, she worked to force the government of Mike Harris to keep the Riverdale Hospital open, stopped the closure of 11 schools, and forced the government to cap tax increases for small business. She also served as Deputy Speaker of the legislature from October 1997 to October 1998.

In the provincial election of 1999, she was re-elected in the redistributed riding of Broadview—Greenwood (later renamed Toronto—Danforth, at the behest of then-federal Member of Parliament Dennis Mills).

Churley became deputy leader of the NDP in 2001, following the retirement of Frances Lankin from the legislature. In the by-election to replace Lankin, the Liberals nominated Greenpeace co-founder and popular television personality Bob Hunter to run for them against former East York mayor Michael Prue for the NDP. During the race, Churley denounced Hunter for having written a novel with first-person accounts of encounters with child prostitutes in Bangkok. The Toronto Sun quoted Ms. Churley as saying: "It says something about Bob Hunter's character he could write such nasty, disgusting stuff about young girls in Thailand." Hunter claimed that the story was written as satire, and sued both Churley and Prue for slander. The suit was withdrawn after the by-election, which Prue won.[6]

Churley was easily re-elected for a fourth term in 2003. After the election, when the NDP lost official party status in the Legislature, Churley threatened to legally change her surname to "Churley-NDP" so that the Speaker would be forced to say NDP when recognizing her in the House. (A non-official party loses the right to have its members addressed in the Legislature as members of the party.) A compromise was later reached which made this change unnecessary, and the party regained official status when Andrea Horwath won a 2004 by-election.[7]

Federal politics

Churley was a prominent supporter of Jack Layton in his bid to become leader of the federal New Democratic Party in 2002. This position put her at odds with party leader Howard Hampton, who supported Bill Blaikie.

In May 2005, Churley announced that once a federal election was called she would resign her Toronto—Danforth seat at the provincial legislature and run for a seat in the Canadian House of Commons. Since Toronto-Danforth is Layton's seat in the federal parliament, Churley sought to represent the neighbouring riding of Beaches—East York. However, Churley could not overcome accusations of being a parachute candidate, despite living only a few miles away from the Beaches—East York riding, and was defeated in the January 23, 2006 election by incumbent Liberal Maria Minna in a hard fought contest.

On February 9, 2007, at a fundraiser in Toronto, Churley clarified that she would be seeking the nomination in Beaches—East York for a potential federal election in 2007. Two months later, Churley was renominated as the NDP candidate in that riding. She was again defeated by Maria Minna in the 2008 election.


  1. ^ [Just who plans to run - or not - in 2010? Just who plans to run - or not - in 2010?], Globe and Mail, October 15, 2009
  2. ^ Kris Scheuer. Churley relives her son’s adoption in tell-all book. Town Crier. March 28, 2007. [1]
  3. ^ The departure of Mr. Kormos. The Globe and Mail. 19 March, 1991. pg A20.
  4. ^ Successor to continue with war on sexism. Toronto Star. March 19, 1991. pg A10.
  5. ^ The Signature of Marilyn Churley. Black Eyed Sue album, 2001, Kurt Swinghammer. [2]
  6. ^ Theresa Boyle, Caroline Mallan. Prue off to Queen's Park as NDP wins by-election. Toronto Star. September 21, 2001. p. F1.
  7. ^ Kris Scheuer. Marilyn Churley-NDP wants full party status. Town Crier. November 20, 2003. [3]

External links

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