Beverly Joan “Bev” Oda had an interesting upbringing, being as she said herself “the first Oriental born in Thunder Bay”. Her parents were both second-generation Japanese-Canadians, who had been forced to relocate from the coast of British Colombia during World War 2. This was due to the general suspicion at all levels that Japanese-Canadians were more loyal to Japan and may be spying on Canadian military activities.
This did however have a positive outcome for Oda as, with her parents meeting in Fort William during this period, she was born in 1944, the first of four children.
Oda showed great determination at a young age, never a stranger to hard work during her youth, when she said she “always had three jobs”, including at dry-cleaners and the Canadian National Exhibition. She also took on the role of babysitting her younger siblings while her mother worked.
Turning down the chance to attend medical school she majored in English and Psychology at the University of Toronto and afterwards attended Teacher Training College. Following a period as a teacher and Vice Principal in Mississauga, Oda became disillusioned with educational administration, preferring to be in the classroom, and left the field.
A Career in TV
After working briefly in hospitality, Oda landed at TVOntario. Later she moved to Rogers as a video librarian and, while not having had any experience or formal education in the area, she was always willing to take on extra work and gradually learned the ins and outs of filming and editing. She subsequently worked her way up the ladder at several stations, going from Rogers to City TV, OMNI and Global.
She was highly regarded enough to become an advisor at the CRTC before going back into private industry and rising to Senior Vice-President at CTV before retiring upon the death of her husband. Her work in the field of broadcasting was recognized with The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2004 and she was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.
A Political Life
Becoming involved in local community issues in her hometown of Orono, Ontario, she subsequently became president of the local Conservative association. After excelling on the local political scene she was encouraged by those around her to stand for national office.
Elected at her first attempt in 2004, she initially served as the Conservative critic for the Heritage Minister while in opposition. In the first Harper government, in 2006, Oda was appointed as Minister for Heritage and the Status of Women.
In 2007 she became the Minister for International Cooperation, which could be seen as a demotion. The post included leading the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and she was to hold the position until retiring under a cloud of controversy in 2012.
- 1967: Begins work as a teacher and later Vice Principal
- 1973: Joins TVOntario
- 1986: Ontario Film Review Board Member
- 1987: Commissioner for Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
- 1994: Chair of Harold Greenberg Fund
- 1995: Senior Vice-President of CTV
- 1999: Retirement from broadcasting
- 2004: First elected as an MP, serving as critic for Heritage Minister
- 2006: Served as Minister for Heritage and Status of Women
- 2007: Appointed as Minister for International Cooperation
- 2012: Retirement from political life