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A Memorial Event to Honour the Life of Michael Shenstone

November 30, 2019 @ 3:00 pm

Saturday, November 30, 2019
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
(Palladium Room)


Michael Shenstone Obituary

MICHAEL SHENSTONE, CM It is with great sadness that the family of Michael Shenstone announces that this devoted husband, father and retired Canadian diplomat died peacefully on September 9, 2019, in Toronto. He was 91. Born in Toronto in 1928 to Allen and Molly Shenstone, Michael spent most of his childhood in Princeton, N.J., where his Toronto-born father was a lifelong professor of physics at Princeton University. He attended Ottawa’s Ashbury College during the war, then studied history and modern languages at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. It was at Trinity that he met the ever-sparkling Susan Burgess, a fellow member of the class of ’49, who would soon become his wife and much-valued partner in his long career with the Canadian foreign service. (Michael died a few hours after their 68th wedding anniversary.) After receiving an MA from Cambridge University and marrying Susan, Michael joined the Department of External Affairs in 1952, and was soon sent to Lebanon, first to learn Arabic and then take up a post at the Canadian embassy in Beirut. It was the start of a distinguished career that saw him become one of External Affairs’s foremost experts in Arab and Middle Eastern issues, at a time when such issues were becoming of paramount importance. Michael and Susan’s three children, Thomas, Barbara and Mary, enjoyed peripatetic lives as the family moved from Beirut, to Ottawa, to Cairo, to Washington, back to Ottawa and on to London and Geneva. Michael’s first ambassadorial posting came in 1973, as Ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Geneva and Helsinki. In 1974 he was appointed Canada’s first resident ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Back in Ottawa in the late 1970s, Michael played a significant role in the “Canadian Caper” that saw the rescue of six American diplomats during the hostage crisis of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. As Director-General of African and Middle Eastern Affairs at the time, Michael was intimately involved as the key point of contact in Ottawa for Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador in Tehran who spearheaded the top-secret operation. Michael later served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Political and International Security Affairs, and then, in 1985, he and Susan embarked on their final — and endlessly fascinating — overseas posting, in Vienna, where Michael served for five years as Ambassador to Austria, Head of Delegation to the talks on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions in Europe and Permanent Representative to the United Nations’s agencies in Vienna. In 1992 he retired from the Department of External Affairs after 39 years. Among his many post-retirement activities, he co-founded and chaired an Ottawa-based human-rights organization, Action Canada for Population and Development. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2002. A truly dedicated public servant, Michael was blessed with a rigorous intellect, a wide-ranging curiosity, a lively sense of humour and a passion for books, history, language and, of course, current affairs. He was perhaps never happier than when sailing on the Annapolis Basin at the ancestral family cottage in Smith‘s Cove, N.S. Michael leaves his beloved wife Susan, his cherished children Thomas (Brenda), Barbara (Belinda) and Mary (Christopher) and four grandchildren of whom he was immensely proud, Amy and Leith Shenstone and Sarah and Claire Shenstone-Harris. He will also be much missed by his cousins and legions of friends, in Canada and around the world. The family would like to thank Michael’s personal support workers, Tashi Lhamo and Dawa Kyizom, for their care and tender devotion, and the long-term-care staff at Meighen Manor in Toronto. An informal memorial service will be held at a later date. If desired, donations in Michael’s memory may be made to Trinity College or the charity of your choice.

Published in The Globe and Mail from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18, 2019


November 30, 2019
3:00 pm


Fairmont Chateau Laurier
1 Rideau St
Ottawa, ON K1N 8S7 Canada
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