Porter, Dana Harris

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Porter, Dana Harris

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Dana Harris Porter was born to Dr. George Dana Porter and Lena Harris of the Massey-Harris family in Toronto, Ontario on January 14, 1901. He attended the University of Toronto for his B.A. which he completed in 1921. In September of that year he traveled to England to study at Balliol College, Oxford from which graduated with his M.A. in 1923. He then returned to Canada, and records show that he intended to study for the Ontario Bar. He was called to the bar in 1923 and began practicing litigation law at Fennel, Porter and Davis. During his time at law school he met Dorothy Chaplin Ramsey Parker (born 1905) the daughter of Admiral A.R. Parker. Dorothy had been born in Hong Kong and raised mostly in England having taken many trips to Canada as a child and youth where she stayed with her Uncle the Honourable J.D. Chaplin, an M.P. in St. Catharines. By December of 1928 the couple’s relationship was becoming serious and they were engaged in June 1929. Dorothy was visiting England at the time, and she returned to Canada for their October 5, 1929 wedding. In 1931 their first son, Dana Jr. was born and a second, Julian, followed in 1936.

During this time Porter continued to work at his firm and in 1943 he made the decision to enter into provincial politics. In the 1943 election he ran as a Progressive Conservative in the Toronto riding of St. George, which won him a place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He would hold this seat until 1958. During his political career he served under three premiers and in a variety of positions. From 1944-1948 he was the Minister of Planning and Development during which time he was instrumental in the airlifting of British immigrants to Canada. From 1948-1951 he was the Minister of Education and was Provincial Secretary and Registrar from 1948-1949. In 1949 Porter ran for head of the Progressive Conservative Party at the 1949 Provincial Tory Leadership Convention, but lost to friend Leslie Frost. Instead, Porter became Attorney General of Ontario, a position he held until 1955. His last role in the Provincial Government was that of Treasurer and Minister of Economics from 1955-1958. Throughout these years he was also a member of numerous standing committees on a broad range of topics.

In 1958 the Progressive Conservatives came into power at the national level with Diefenbaker becoming Prime Minister and Porter stepped down from politics to accept his appointment as Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal. During his tenure he also headed the Royal Commission on Banking and Finance from 1961-1964 and presided over a number of important trials, such as the lifting of the ban on notorious novel Fanny Hill.

Porter also had a number of personal interests and activities that kept him busy. He spoke at a variety of events in Ontario and Canada at large, including convocations, meetings, luncheons etc. He was also an amateur Shakespeare historian and was particularly interested in the Sonnets. He wrote a number of essays on the possible order of the Sonnets, and on the identities of the Dark Lady, the Fair Youth and the Rival Poet. Although an attempt was made to have one of his works published, the furthest that came of it was printed and bound editions that he had made and sent to friends and critics. His literary endeavors did not end with Shakespeare as he also wrote a play and three essays on politics in Canada.
Porter’s dedication to academia lead to many accolades including being installed as the First Chancellor of the University of Waterloo in 1960. He was also on the Board of the University of Toronto and was awarded Honourary degrees from such institutions as McMaster University. The Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo is named for him, and his portrait hangs in it.

In 1967 Porter stepped down from his position largely due to his failing health. On May 13 of the same year he died of cancer in Toronto.


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University of Waterloo (1959-Present)

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University of Waterloo

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Porter, Dana Harris

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Chancellor of the University of Waterloo

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