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Meyer Brownstone was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on June 26, 1922. He received his primary and secondary education in Winnipeg. Brownstone earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Manitoba (1944) and a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Minnesota (1946). He earned a Doctorate in Public Administration and Economics from Harvard University in 1960.
After serving with the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Brownstone moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, where he held various positions in the Saskatchewan Government: research economist with the Economic Advisory and Planning Board (1947-1951); Director of Research for the Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life (1952-195?); Director of the Local Government Continuing Committee (1957-1961); member of the Interdepartmental Committee to Study a Medical Care Program (1959); and Deputy Minister of the Department of Municipal Affairs (1961-1964).
In 1964, Brownstone moved to Ontario, where he worked in various positions, including Director of Research for the federal Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1964-1969); professor at the University of Toronto and Director of the Center for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto.
Brownstone was involved with numerous charitable and educational organizations during his professional career, including the Centre for Community Studies at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and its successor, the Canadian Centre for Community Studies in Ottawa, Ontario. He served as a member and chairman of the board for that organization.
Brownstone is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Pearson Peace Medal (1986) and a honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trent University. He is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and a Chair Emeritus of Oxfam Canada.
Brownstone is currently (2009) retired and resides in Toronto.