Roy Earnest Bonisteel, CM, broadcast journalist, television host (born 29 May 1930 in Ameliasburg, ON; died 16 August 2013 in Quinte West, ON). The long-time host (1967–89) of CBC Television’s popular and acclaimed current affairs program Man Alive, award-winning journalist Roy Bonisteel was known for his serious yet sensitive persona and his humanistic approach to journalism. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his “integrity and decency” and his “unrelenting commitment to justice and humankind.”
Early Years and Career
The youngest of 10 children in a farming family, Bonisteel was a seventh-generation native of Ontario’s Bay of Quinte area. He was 16 when he began his career as a newspaper reporter with the Belleville Intelligencer. He also worked for the Trenton Couri er-Advocate before moving to radio in 1951, first at CJBQ- Belleville and later at CKTB-St Catharines, where he eventually became program manager. In 1965, he moved to Vancouver to become director of broadcasting for the United Church of Canada — the first ecumenical appointment of its kind. He then served as national radio coordinator for the Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Churches from 1967 to 1970.
Bonisteel hosted the internationally-acclaimed CBC Television series Man Alive from its inception in 1967 until 1989. The groundbreaking current affairs program, which explored issues of faith, commitment and contemporary life through documentary portraits and one-on-one interviews, regularly drew more than one million viewers in Canada and won over 50 international awards. The integrity and humanity of the series, and its host, led to interviews with such notable international figures as Mother Theresa, Jacobo Timmerman, the Aga Khan and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Bonisteel received six ACTRA Awards for excellence in broadcasting for his work on the program and wrote two best-selling books based on his interviews: In Search of Man Alive (1980); and Man Alive: The Human Journey (1983). His memoir about his youth, There Was a Time (1992), also enjoyed a long run on the best-seller list.
After Man Alive
In the 1990s, Bonisteel served as a visiting professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Regina, and was head of the department (1999–2000). He received six honorary degrees, wrote regularly for magazines and newspapers, was made an honorary colonel of 8 Wing in Trenton in 1995 and served as a Citizenship Court Judge for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration from 1998 to 2005. He died of cancer in 2013 at age 83. His papers are held at the Queen’s University Archives.
Best Public Affair Broadcaster in Television, ACTRA Awards (1977 & 1979)
Best Host — Television, ACTRA Awards (1979)
Honorary Degree, D.Litt., Laurentian University (1979)
Honorary Degree, DD, Queen’s University (1980)
Honorary Degree, LL.D., Assumption University of Windsor (1982)
Best Host/Interviewer — Television, ACTRA Awards (1982 & 1986)
Honorary Degree, DHumL, Mount Saint Vincent University (1983)
Honorary Degree, LL.D., St Francis Xavier University (1985)
Gordon Sinclair Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism — Radio or Television, ACTRA Awards (1986)
Honorary Degree, University of Prince Edward Island (1987)
Canada 125 Medal, Governor General of Canada (1992)
Distinguished Canadian Award, University of Regina (1994)
Member, Order of Canada (1994)
In Search of Man Alive (Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 1980).
Man Alive: The Human Journey (Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 1983).
There Was a Time (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1992).
All Things Considered (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1997).