Erin was born in Montreal, which is a surprise to many, but his father, John O’Toole worked for General Motors and was transferred to St. Therese, where Erin was born. The family moved back to Oshawa when Erin was at an early age.
History was one of Erin’s favourite subjects, no doubt as a result of the influence from his mother, who simply loved the subject. His mom, a teacher, won the highest award for high school history in Ontario and passed her love for the subject on to Erin.
Sadly, Erin’s mother Molly, passed away when he was nine. His dad moved the family to Port Perry, where Erin attended elementary school and later, Port Perry High School. He became an integral part of the community, enjoying sports, clubs and all that our town has to offer.
Living on the island was a bit remote for 5 kids, who had to be taken to all sorts of activities, most of which were a great distance away. After ten years, the family moved to Bowmanville and Erin joined the military, applying (and being accepted) to the Royal Military College, in Kingston. “It was an amazing opportunity to see Canada, while giving back a little to my country. It also offered me a fantastic university education,” Erin explained.
Bootcamp for Erin was in Chilliwack, British Columbia and once completed, he spent his time in Kingston at the RMC. Summer months saw him out west, training for the Air Force and the rest of the year was pursuing a History and Political Science degree at the college.
After four years, Erin graduated with an honours degree and Queen’s commission and attaining the rank of second lieutenant. Erin’s first official posting was in Trenton as a rescue coordinator, where he spent his time planning search and rescue operations for the Canadian Government. He had always wanted to be a navigator, and eventually had an opportunity to transfer to Kingston and follow that calling.
It wasn’t long before Erin received his wings and was officially an Air Navigator. He then was posted to Shearwater, near Halifax, and flew Sea King helicopters, lending naval support to the North Atlantic and the Caribbean.
After nearly ten years in the military, Erin thought it was time for a change. In 2000, Erin married his sweetheart Rebecca and transferred to the reserves working as a training officer running flight simulators. He left the military with the rank of Captain, and receiving the Canadian Forces Decoration for faithful service to Canada, as well as the Sikorsky Helicopter Rescue Award for the rescue of an injured fisherman at sea.
He had wanted to pursue law. After graduating from Dalhousie University he practiced corporate law, first for a Bay street firm and later for Proctor and Gamble as their in-house counsel.
Erin has always been active and enjoys being involved in not-for-profit organizations. He started True Patriot Love, a charity which supports members of the military, veterans and their families. He has also served as a Director and dinner co-chair for the non-partisan Churchill Society, where he helped raise over $125,000 for educational programs about our parliamentary democracy. Erin has also helped raise funds and awareness of Canadian history, as a Director of the Vimy Foundation and is part of the foundation’s 2017 – Century of Vimy campaign cabinet. Until his election to Parliament, Erin also served on the Board of Governors of the Royal Military College of Canada, his alma mater.
In addition to practicing law and being involved in charitable events; helping out in his dad’s office and enjoying time with his family was most important.
John O’Toole served as a member of Provincial Parliament, no doubt where Erin had his first taste of politics.
In November of 2012, Erin ran in the bi-election, after Bev Oda’s resignation and won with a huge margin. He spent a few months serving as a back bencher, but after a short eight months took on the role of Secretary to the Minister for International Trade (the role was that of Undersecretary).
In 2015 Erin was appointed Minister of Veteran’s Affairs and he was a natural for the job. The youngest full Cabinet Minister in Parliament, Erin wasted no time getting to work. He quickly began to implement new policies, which benefitted our veterans and servicewomen and men.
“One of my greatest honours was to host King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, at the National War Memorial, where they laid a wreath commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands by Canada.”
In the election of 2015, Erin was re-elected and after PM Harper’s resignation, was one of six candidates for the role of interim Head of the Conservative Party. Most of the work he began as Minister of Veteran’s Affairs is being carried on. Three years ago Erin, in conjunction with Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, started the Sam Sharpe breakfast, which addresses post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
“The purpose is to bring together key advocates trying to help Canadian veterans coping with operational stress injuries,” Erin explained. The result is fantastic, and great inroads are being made into understanding and helping victims of PTSD.
Erin O’Toole serves Canada and the people of Durham in a selfless, giving way. How does he successfully accomplish all he does? Spend some time with him, and you will see that not a minute is wasted. Durham region is grateful to have such a dedicated patriot as Erin O’Toole.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, author, columnist and key-note speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com