Who is Dr. Bonnie Henry?

WE have been pleasantly surprised for some weeks now to see a story we posted back on January 24, 2018, titled “Dr. Bonnie Henry will be first female provincial health officer in B.C.” cropping up almost daily in the list of the most read stories on our dashboard (not public). Today, at 7 p.m., it was the third most read piece on our website.

Henry has won admiration both in B.C. and the rest of the country for the way she has conducted the daily briefing on COVID-19 along with Health Minister Adrian Dix. She has come across as an expert with genuine feelings for her fellow humans – calm, dignified, reliable and caring, yet tough enough to let everyone know that she will not tolerate any nonsense beyond a certain limit that she sets herself.

So here’s that story once again:

DEPUTY provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been appointed as the first woman in the role of provincial health officer (PHO). She will replace Dr. Perry Kendall, who will retire on January 31.

Dr. Henry is uniquely positioned to step into the role, with a career that includes tackling a wide variety of public-health concerns and challenges within Canada and abroad. These include supporting the STOP polio program in Pakistan in 2000; working with the World Health Organization on the Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2001; and, as associate medical officer of health for the City of Toronto, leading the operational response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the city in 2003.

“Dr. Henry has hands-on experience in managing large-scale public-health issues both internationally and here in B.C.,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “She has a consistent approach with providing straightforward information to the public on the risks of Zika, or air quality, to controlling issues that affect families daily, like influenza. With Dr. Henry, we have a direct and experienced advisor to steer and improve public health in our province.”

Dr. Henry was appointed deputy provincial health officer in August 2014. In this role, she has guided the province through the worst wildfire season in decades, which affected air quality; guided the B.C. response to the West African Ebola outbreak, advised on the H7N9 bird flu in B.C., provided guidance on travelling in Zika-affected areas; and provided leadership on the overdose crisis.

She adds to the strong role Dr. Kendall developed in his time as PHO. His term has been called ‘legendary’ and he was a recipient of the Order of B.C. in 2005, marking his contributions to public health in B.C. He was prolific in writing reports on Indigenous Health, drinking water and other public-health issues, and managed a wide variety of concerns that included advising on the Ebola outbreak, radiation from Fukushima, SARS, and swine flu.

Together, Dr. Henry and Dr. Kendall are credited with earnestly working together to fight one of the deadliest challenges facing British Columbians today, the overdose crisis.

“Dr. Henry has been an incredibly strong support for me in my role as provincial health officer and filled in for me countless times when I was unavailable,” said Dr. Kendall. “I feel confident that Dr. Henry is the right person for this job. I have relied on her judgment and approach regularly during her time as deputy provincial health officer.”

Prior to taking on the deputy PHO role, Dr. Henry was the interim provincial executive medical director of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and held a variety of public-health positions with the BCCDC from 2005 onwards.

Dr. Henry graduated from Dalhousie University’s medical school and completed a master’s in public health as well as residency training in preventive medicine at the University of California and in community medicine at the University of Toronto.

The PHO is the senior public health official for B.C., and is responsible for monitoring the health of the population of the province and providing independent advice to the ministers and public officials on public-health issues that concern people in British Columbia. Health authorities also have medical health officers who have powers under the Public Health Act. Their responsibilities include advising on public health, including management and budgetary roles, providing evidence-based opinions and support to the provincial health officer.

Dr. Kendall, who has been the provincial health officer since 1999, officially steps down on January 31.

We received this response on May 12 from a reader:

Bill HENRY May 12, 2020 at 10:21 am

For information of readers: Dr. Bonnie HENRY is descended from an old, long time, Prince Edward Island family, the daughter of a retired teacher, Susan, and a retired Canadian Forces Combat Arms (ARMD 21A) officer, Bill. She attended schools ranging ,,from Calgary Alberta to St. John’s Nfld. In addition, she is a graduate of Mt Allison University (where she also qualified as an Naval Executive Officer) Dalhousie Medical and post graduate of Berkley University (California). The list of areas she worked is accurately detailed in news reports. She has a published book “Soap & Water and Common Sense” which is available in written copy or E book. Bonnie has three (3) sisters who are all graduated from Mt. A. and studied post graduate in subjects ranging from English, Early Childhood Development, and Engineering


  1. Where is she originally from? Was she born in Canada? I keep hearing an accent that I’ve been trying to figure out.

  2. She has a smith, low delivery with consonants occasionally noticeable. It reminds me a bit of Welsh, but I am not aware of her birthplace.

  3. Still don’t know her place of birth. it’s got to be the Maritimes because she has the accent From Nova Scotia as do I having been born and raised in Halifax. Would love to know. Thanks.

  4. She paid tribute to the victims of the mass shootings by reciting a line from “Farewell To Nova Scotia” and referring to her “Nova Scotia family”…

  5. Henry is of Irish background, she did university in Halifax. She’s most definitely a maritimer. Most likely born in the maritime provinces. A great deal of maritime provinces are Scottish and Irish descendants.

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