Marvin Bernstein ('69) - “I came to New College because there was an opportunity to become involved in the development of the life of a college that was uncharted and promoted the richness of diversity.”Marvin M. Bernstein obtained his B.A. in English from the University of Toronto in 1969, a Law degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1975, and his Masters of Laws in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1997.

He was called to the Bar in 1977, and from 1977 to 1980 was employed as in-house Counsel to the Children’s Aid Society of York Region in Newmarket, Ontario. Mr. Bernstein then served as Chief Counsel to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto until 2000 before joining the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) as Director of Policy Development and Legal Support. He was Children’s Advocate for the Province of Saskatchewan from 2005-2010.

Marvin is the co-author of Child Protection: Practice and Procedure and Child Protection Law in Canada and currently serves as Chief Advisor, Advocacy at UNICEF.


Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

I have a strong sense of social justice and believe that we can all be agents of positive social change if we are optimistic, principled and are prepared to speak out where we see unfairness or discrimination in any manifestation, particularly  where it affects our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens.

Why did you choose New College (be honest) and what were your expectations?

I came to New College because at that time it was still actually ‘new’ and there was an opportunity to become involved, at the grassroots level, in the development of the life of a college that was uncharted and promoted the richness of diversity of backgrounds.

Tell us about some of the lessons you learned and how valuable they are today?

I learned the importance of a liberal arts education and not feeling that I had to know where I was necessarily headed in my career or personal life. This lesson has been valuable as I have moved into various positions in my career that I would not have been able to predict.  For example, there is no way that I could have anticipated being appointed the Children’s Advocate for Saskatchewan, where I enjoyed the status of an independent officer of the Provincial Legislature.  Every position I have held seems, in retrospect, to have been a stepping stone to the next, but there was never a career blueprint and I have always been motivated by a constant desire to make a tangible and positive difference in the lives of children.

What are your fondest memories of your time here at New College?

New College became my home away from home. Although I lived in Toronto, I was not simply a commuter student. I stayed down at the College not only to attend classes, but also for meals and for purposes of working and studying in the library. I made friendships, learned about the values and life experiences of others and just soaked in the ambience of this emerging and inclusive academic facility.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am proud of the rich family affiliation we enjoy with the University of Toronto.  One of the interesting features of that connection is that while my wife, Helen, my children, Laura and Daniel, and my son-in-law, Brandon, all attended U of T at some point, we all belonged to different colleges.  I, of course, am an alumnus of the best college at the University of Toronto that just happens to be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year!