Rasminsky, Louis

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RASMINSKY, LOUIS (1908–1998), economist, governor of the Bank of Canada. Rasminsky was born in Montreal and grew up in Toronto. He was active in Jewish life at the University of Toronto, where, despite his outstanding record in the Economics Department, he was unable to attract postgraduate funding. Jewish community leaders established a scholarship allowing him to attend the London School of Economics in 1928. He was soon drawn to Geneva, where he worked at the League of Nations specializing in monetary and banking matters. By the late 1930s he was devoting a large portion of his salary to aiding refugees from Nazism to escape to England.

A man of formidable intellect, Rasminsky joined the Bank of Canada in 1940, becoming executive assistant to the governor in 1943. He organized the research and statistical section of Canada's Foreign Exchange Control Board and played a key role at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference. John Maynard Keynes credited him with helping shape the consensus that gave birth to the postwar system of international finance and trade. In 1954, Rasminsky was deeply disappointed to be passed over for the position of governor of the Bank of Canada, a snub which reflected antisemitism in the civil service and banking sector of the day. Nevertheless, he continued to hold important positions at the Bank and in 1955 was appointed deputy governor and finally in 1961 governor of the Bank of Canada. In 1973 Rasminsky resigned to spend more time with his ailing wife. However, he remained active, chairing the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Institute in 1973–78 and re-immersing himself in Jewish communal activities.

Although a member of the small circle that comprised Ottawa's postwar bureaucratic elite, Rasminsky was initially denied membership in the Rideau Club, the bastion of Ottawa's establishment. Due to his influence, the club's membership policies were altered, but Rasminsky chose not to join until he completed his term as governor. Among his many honors, Rasminsky received eight honorary doctorates and the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Public Service, Canada's highest recognition of a public servant. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1968.


B. Muirhead, Against the Odds. The Public Life and Times of Louis Rasminsky (1999).

[Paula Draper (2nd ed.)]

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