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Pauline Burns was born in Oshawa, Ontario on 3 July 1935. She attended North Simcoe Public School and O’Neill High School (formerly OCVI) in Oshawa and studied dental nursing at the University of Toronto. Pauline married Sidney Burns in 1956 and had two children. She worked in the family business, Burns Jewellers. In her youth, Pauline was involved in Young Judaeans and BBYO. Once married, she became a member of Hadassah.