Rarely does one get to witness every member from all three sitting parties in the Legislature of Ontario vote to approve a private member’s bill on anything. Such was the case on Thursday, December 8th at Queen’s Park when the third reading of Bill 16, the Hazel McCallion Day Act, unanimously received Royal Assent. The bill was proposed by Mississauga-Brampton South Liberal MPP Amrit Mangat and is now law in the Province of Ontario. As members of the Legislature rose after the reading to a standing ovation. Hazel, sitting in the gallery with family members was clearly overwhelmed by the well deserved adoration.
Hazel McCallion served in public office continuously from 1968 until her retirement in 2014. She was first elected mayor of Streetsville in 1970 and then as a councillor in Mississauga and in the newly created Region of Peel in 1974. Following two terms as a councillor, she was elected mayor of Mississauga in the 1978 municipal election. During her historic thirty-six years in that office she oversaw the incredible growth and urban transformation of her City of Mississauga.
McCallion’s achievements are notable for their number and scale, as well as the social atmosphere in which she began her career. Though women had been elected mayor of other Canadian cities previous to McCallion, political life was nonetheless widely regarded during the 1960s – when she entered politics – to be a man’s domain. Her participation in public life since that time makes her a brilliant example to women and, indeed, all Ontarians. As the province strives to eliminate gender-based discrimination, her professional life and numerous contributions are reflective of the leadership role that women can, and should, be entitled to seek in a fair and just society.