Former Mississauga, Ont. mayor Hazel McCallion, nicknamed “Hurricane Hazel,” has died. She was 101 years old.
Premier Doug Ford announced McCallion's death in a news release early Sunday morning.
"At the request of the family, I announce with a heavy heart, the passing of my dear friend and mentor, Hazel McCallion," Ford said in a statement.
According to Ford, McCallion passed away peacefully at her home in Mississauga early Sunday morning.
"There isn’t a single person who met Hazel who didn’t leave in awe of her force of personality," Ford said. "I count myself incredibly lucky to have called Hazel my friend over these past many years. As I entered the world of politics, I was fortunate enough to learn from her wisdom and guidance, which she selflessly offered until the very end."
McCallion served as mayor of Mississauga from 1978 until she retired in 2014. After 36 years as Mississauga mayor, the fierce politician leaves behind a legacy unlike any other in Canada’s seventh-largest city.
Nicknamed “Hurricane Hazel” for her outspoken political style, she took 12 municipal elections by storm, leaving her opponents with little chance of success.
She saw the city through some of its worst events, including the 1979 Mississauga train derailment, which occurred just months after she first took office.
The train, carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a heavily populated area near Mavis Road, resulting in a large explosion. McCallion, along with Peel Regional Police, oversaw the evacuation of the city, bringing more than 200,000 people to safety.
Despite having sprained her ankle, McCallion held press conferences and updated briefings throughout the entire week-long emergency. With no injuries or lives lost, the city was lauded for its efforts and the peaceful evacuation of its residents.
The event was a challenging start to McCallion’s term as mayor, but one that propelled her forward into an unstoppable reign that saw Mississauga, once a small collection of towns and villages, grow into Canada’s seventh-largest city.
Even early in her career, McCallion knew she would achieve great heights and was determined to be a success.
Born in 1921, McCallion was raised in the community of Port Daniel, Que., on the Gaspé Coast of the province. She was the youngest of five children, the daughter of fisherman Herbert Armand Journeaux and homemaker Amanda Maude Travers.
She had a thirst for knowledge and wanted to attend university after graduating from high school, but her family could not afford it. Instead, she attended business secretarial school and played professional hockey to help pay for her education, getting paid $5 per game
She eventually got a job at the Canadian Kellogg company in Montreal. The company transferred her to Toronto in 1942, where she eventually met the love of her life Sam McCallion, and with him, raised three children in Streetsville, Ont., a small town that was eventually amalgamated into the City of Mississauga.
McCallion left the business world in 1967 to pursue politics in Streetsville, where she eventually became mayor. Once Mississauga was amalgamated, she once again pursued politics on the municipal level, eventually being elected mayor.
McCallion had said in the past that she gave politics and the City of Mississauga everything she had, seven days a week. She was notorious for being tight on taxes, and famously took on developers to have them pay their share of the city’s fast growing infrastructure.
Known for her blunt demeanour, she was never afraid of taking on the big players, and spoke out about international human rights issues when most were silent. In 1983, she became one of the first Canadian politicians to openly support the creation of a Palestinian state.
Even at the age of 101, McCallion was determined to keep speed. She accepted an offer to extend her role as director for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, and renewed her role as special advisor to the University of Toronto Mississauga.
McCallion has been given some of the country’s highest honours, including the Order or Canada. In 2016, the province named Feb. 14 'Hazel McCallion Day' in honour of her birthday.
For McCallion, however, the highest honour, she’s said in the past, has been being known as “a people’s mayor,” – something she’s always fought hard to be.
“[I want to be] remembered for building a city. Not alone, [I had] great staff, great counselors, and I hope they remember me for the many facilities that we've provided in the city for people. Because my motto when I ran as mayor of Streetsville and mayor of Mississauga, I always said planning and development for [the] people,” McCallion said on her 100th birthday.
This is a developing news story. More information to come.
Source: Miriam Katawazi
CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer