Allan Gotlieb

Humphrey Hume Wrong Order of Manitoba Order of Canada
Allan Ezra Gotlieb

Canadian Ambassador to the United States
In office
Prime MinisterPierre Trudeau
John Turner
Brian Mulroney
Preceded byPeter Towe
Succeeded byDerek Burney
Personal details
Born(1928-02-28)February 28, 1928
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
DiedApril 18, 2020(2020-04-18) (aged 92)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s)Sondra Gotlieb (m. 1955)
Alma materUniversity of California at Berkeley B.A.
University of Oxford M.A.
Harvard Law School LL.B.

Allan Ezra Gotlieb, CC OM (February 28, 1928 – April 18, 2020) was a Canadian public servant and author.

Life and career

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Gotlieb studied at United College (now the University of Winnipeg) for two years before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley where he received his BA.[1] He received his MA from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and his LL.B degree from Harvard University, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review.[1][2]

In 1957, he joined the Department of External Affairs.[1] From 1960 to 1964, he served on Canada's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and at the Conference on Disarmament.[1] In 1965, he wrote the book Disarmament and International Law, a book discussing disarmament during Cold War tensions.[3] From 1967 to 1968 he was assistant undersecretary and led the legal division at External Affairs.[1] From 1968 to 1973, Gotlieb was deputy minister of the Department of Communications, and from 1973 to 1976 deputy minister of Manpower and Immigration. From 1977 to 1981 he was assistant undersecretary at External Affairs.[1]

Most notably, Gotlieb was Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989.[2] During his high-profile years in Washington, D.C., he got to know then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Vice-President George H. W. Bush, and many senior officials in the Reagan White House, such as Caspar Weinberger, Michael Deaver, James Baker III, and George P. Shultz. An advocate of realism in international relations, Gotlieb became known as a skillful and respected player in the complex world of Washington power politics.[4]

He and his wife Sondra Gotlieb were known for their dazzling parties attended by powerful figures in Washington. Sondra's book Washington Rollercoaster recounted the Gotliebs' high-powered years as glamorous hosts in Washington, when she also wrote a column for The Washington Post. Sondra attracted a blaze of international publicity on March 19, 1986, when she slapped her social secretary at an official dinner she and her husband were hosting in honour of the Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. Vice-President George H. W. Bush.[5]

After he and Sondra returned to Canada in the early 1990s, they moved to Toronto and became the centre of establishment society in that city. Sondra began writing newspaper columns for The Globe and Mail and the National Post. After his return to Canada, Allan Gotlieb became an influential figure and was well-connected in both the Canadian and American corporate elites. This marked a shift from his earlier career as a senior mandarin in Ottawa, where he had been a powerful figure and architect of many of Liberal prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's interventionist policies.[6]

From 1989 to 1994, Gotlieb was chairman of the Canada Council. He was also publisher of Saturday Night magazine when it was owned by Conrad Black, and a senior counsel at the law firm, Stikeman Elliott. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982 and was promoted to Companion in 1987. In 1992, Gotlieb was the Canadian representative on the arbitration panel that decided the Canada–France Maritime Boundary Case; Gotlieb dissented from the panel's decision in the case and wrote a dissent.[citation needed]

Gotlieb was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Toronto in 2002 and by Concordia University in 2005. Gotlieb was an honorary and former fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.[7]

Hollinger Inc. was among his numerous corporate directorships. He was a member of the Carlyle Group's Canadian advisory board and a member of the Trilateral Commission.[8] He was also chairman of Sotheby's Canada, former chairman of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, and served as chairman of the board of governors of the Donner Canadian Foundation, known for its annual literary prize. He was also a senior advisor in the law office of Bennett Jones.[9]

Gotlieb was a prodigious art collector, notably of the work of 19th-century painter James Tissot. He and his wife donated their Tissot collection to the Art Gallery of Ontario.[10] Gotlieb also collected wall tiles by the famous English tile manufacturer and designer William de Morgan a close friend of William Morris with whom he collaborated on numerous occasions. De Morgan is famous for his lusterware tiles created by a process he rediscovered after it had been lost since the Middle Ages. Allan Gotlieb has some 150 De Morgan tiles including some of the best examples of the lusterware tiles and multiple tile compositions comprising pictorial designs. The Gotlieb collection is a major collection of the work of one of the most talented Victorian artists.[citation needed]

He was a strong proponent of a North American Union between Canada, the US and Mexico authoring a new article titled "Why not a grand bargain with the U.S.?"[11] which popularized the phrase "Grand Bargain".

When Ronald Reagan died in 2004, Gotlieb provided commentary for CBC Newsworld's coverage of the state funeral drawing from his experiences as Canadian ambassador to Washington when Reagan was president.[citation needed]

On the art of diplomacy in Washington, he said in 2009, "You have to get the power shakers, including the media, into your dining room. When an ambassador makes a phone call to a powerful congressman, he'll return the call once, but after that you have to make a personal relationship."[12] Gotlieb published his diplomatic memoirs, The Washington Diaries, in 2006.

Personal life

He married Sondra Gotlieb (née Kaufman) in December 1955. Gotlieb died on April 18, 2020 from cancer and Parkinson's disease at his home in Toronto.[13] The Gotliebs had three children, one of whom predeceased him in 2003.[1]


Gottlieb was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and received his insignia from Governor-General Jeanne Sauve in Ottawa on May 6, 1988.[14]

In 2014, he was made a member of the Order of Manitoba.[15]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shribman, David (April 22, 2020). "Allan Gotlieb: A revered outsider in Washington's inner circle". Globe and Mail. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Gotlieb, Allan; Lock, Reinier H.J.H. (1989-01-01). "Interview: Allan Gotlieb". Natural Resources & Environment. 3 (4): 34–68. JSTOR 40922952.
  3. ^ "Review of Disarmament and International Law". Pakistan Horizon. 18 (3): 270–271. 1965-01-01. JSTOR 41392863.
  4. ^ Granatstein, J. L. (1992-01-01). "Review of 'I'll Be with You in a Minute, Mr Ambassador': The Education of a Canadian Diplomat in Washington". International Journal. 47 (3): 677–678. doi:10.2307/40202795. JSTOR 40202795.
  5. ^ "Victim of Gotlieb slap fired". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  6. ^ "Sondra Gotlieb | National Post". National Post. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  7. ^ "Allan E. Gotlieb C.C., O.M. | International Law and Diplomacy Advisor at Bennett Jones Toronto". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  8. ^ "Trilateral Commission". Archived from the original on November 14, 2006.
  9. ^ "Sotheby's | Art Departments > Specialists - Allan Gotlieb | Bio | Sotheby's". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  10. ^ "Tissot and the Victorian Woman | AGO Art Gallery of Ontario". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  11. ^ ""Why not a grand bargain with the U.S.?"". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007.
  12. ^ Rollason, Kevin (August 30, 2009). "Former ambassador offers advice to Doer: Be sociable". Winnipeg Free Press.
  13. ^ "Mort samedi d'un ex-ambassadeur du Canada aux USA, Allan Gotleib, à 92 ans". L'Actualité (in French). La Presse Canadienne. 20 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Opinion: Allan Gotlieb: A revered outsider in Washington's inner circle" – via The Globe and Mail.
  15. ^ "FOURTEEN TO RECEIVE ORDER OF MANITOBA". Archived from the original on 2014-08-10.