Late Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion is being remembered for the many ways she contributed to not only to the city she led for 36 years, but also the province and country following her death on Sunday morning.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his “dear friend” was “an extraordinary woman who wore many hats: a businessperson, an athlete, a politician, and one of Canada's – and the world’s – longest-serving mayors. Nicknamed ‘Hurricane Hazel’ for her bold political style, she was unstoppable,” he said in a written statement.
“‘I want to assure you that the people will come first during my term’ she told a cheering crowd when she won her first term as mayor almost 45 years ago. And that was how she served: by putting people first,” said Trudeau, who offered condolences to McCallion’s family, friends and the people of Mississauga on behalf of all Canadians.
“She inspired countless others, including myself, in her decades of tireless and selfless service. I will miss her as a friend, and I’ll always cherish the conversations we had, and the wisdom she shared over the years.”
Trudeau said Mississauga, under McCallion’s guidance as mayor from 1978 to 2014, was transformed from a bedroom community into Canada’s sixth largest city.
“We will remember her as a trailblazer whose career in politics and service to her community will remain an inspiration to all of us. But mostly, we will remember her as a dear friend.”
In a statement, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie called “Mississauga’s matriarch” a “fierce and passionate leader who touched the lives of many and who served as an inspiration to women in politics across the country.”
“Hazel lived a good life and the truth is that even in her final days, she never stopped giving back to this great city and to the people who proudly call it home,” she said, adding that McCallion "helped grow and shape Mississauga from farmland and fruit trees into the seventh-largest city in Canada."
Crombie who succeeded McCallion as mayor in 2014 following a 36-year reign, said that the longtime mayor was a strong-willed and determined individual who “always fought for the best interests of Mississauga whether it was at the Council table, Queen’s Park or on Parliament Hill.”
“Hurricane Hazel inspired countless women to speak out and have their voices heard, to take the leap into politics and demand a seat at the decision-making table,” she said. “Everything she did was for the betterment of our city and to ensure that even long after her time, Mississauga thrives. Even in her final years, Hazel never stopped moving. I’ll miss the time we spent together on evenings and weekends, whether that was cutting ribbons for new businesses, raising funds for charity, walking in parades or speaking at festivals.
“She was the driving force behind my decision to put my name on the ballot to succeed her as Mayor of this great city. I wouldn’t be the leader I am today if it wasn’t for her support and sage advice.”
Crombie urged all Mississauga residents to “take a moment today to reflect and thank Hazel for her life of service and contributions to our city.”
“Her legacy and spirit will live on in Mississauga for generations to come,” she said.
Books of condolence for Hazel McCallion will be available to sign in the Great Hall at Mississauga City Hall and at 11 community centres throughout the city starting on Monday at 10 a.m. More details can be found online.
Today, we grieve the loss of Mississauga’s matriarch, Hazel McCallion, a fierce and passionate leader who touched the lives of so many. She lived a life of service before self - everything she did was for the betterment of our City. My deepest condolences to the McCallion family. pic.twitter.com/ttjbuucjWG— Bonnie Crombie (@BonnieCrombie) January 29, 2023
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said McCallion wasn’t just the mayor of Mississauga.
“She was Canada’s Mayor,” he tweeted.
“(McCallion) was the epitome of hard work & wisdom. I was lucky to consider her a friend & mentor for many years.”
Offering condolences to the McCallion family on behalf of the City of Brampton, Brown said flags would be lowered in his city. People can also share their memories and condolences online or sign a book of condolences at Brampton City Hall.
Hazel McCallion wasn’t just the Mayor of Mississauga. She was Canada’s Mayor. She was the epitome of hard work & wisdom. I was lucky to consider her a friend & mentor for many years. The @CityBrampton, extends condolences to the McCallion family & will be lowering our flags today pic.twitter.com/4L6iBICJFV— Patrick Brown (@patrickbrownont) January 29, 2023
Toronto Mayor John Tory said McCallion was Mississauga’s “iconic mayor” who “built that city from 1978 to 2014.”
“To me, she was also a friend and a mentor. I spoke with her often and had the great privilege of meeting with her twice in the past two weeks, most recently on Tuesday when she was as engaged as ever despite her illness,” he said in a statement.
Tory said McCallion served her city with “strength and incredible energy,” even in her retirement.
“Her commitment to local government was absolute. As Mississauga’s longest-serving Mayor, she didn’t hesitate to work with the federal and provincial governments to get things done for her city but she also spoke truth to power and held those same governments to account whenever she had to. You always knew where you stood with Hazel,” he said, offering condolences on behalf of the City of Toronto to McCallion’s family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, and the people of Mississauga.
“I feel so fortunate to have known Hazel for decades and to have been able to call her a friend. I’m thankful for her kindness, her skill, her quick wit and her bluntness,” Tory said.
“Hazel, we love you and we already miss you. May you now rest in peace after a long life that was so well-lived."
On behalf of all Toronto residents, I want to express my condolences to the entire McCallion family, all of her friends, loved ones, and countless colleagues, and to the people of Mississauga who supported her through 12 municipal elections.— John Tory (@JohnTory) January 29, 2023
Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne reflected on her time working with McCallion, primarily recalling her “no nonsense” approach to politics.
“She just wanted to get things done,” Wynne told CP24 on Sunday morning.
“She was a dynamo. She came into her room, and her size didn't matter because she had a huge voice and a big presence.”
‘Do your homework’ and ‘Have a plan’! Advice for life and politics from a great woman. Hazel was one of a kind and she gave so much of herself to all of us. Love to all her family and friends at this sad time. #HazelMcCallion https://t.co/VwpUlDSCdB— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) January 29, 2023
Ontario Green Party leader Mike Shreiner and Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles also took to social media to reflect on McCallion’s life and contributions.
I’m sorry to learn of the passing of Hazel McCallion. Through her many years of public service, Hazel McCallion left an indelible mark on her city and her province. May she rest in peace.— Mike Schreiner (@MikeSchreiner) January 29, 2023
Hazel McCallion has left an indelible mark on Ontario through her dedicated public service. Her legacy will forever be felt in the city she helped shape, Mississauga, and by all Ontarians inspired by her tenacious spirit.— Marit Stiles (@maritstiles) January 29, 2023
My condolences to her family and loved ones.
Paramount Fine Foods Founder, Mohamad Fakih, said McCallion made him the person who he is today.
“When she used to support me when I had four tables at Paramount, I felt I had the whole of Canada behind me,” he told CP24 on Sunday morning.
“I was scared when I was starting a business. She used to tell me, ‘Kid, you're gonna be something, something important. And I used to say, ‘But how do you say that? I barely can make ends meet and pay my bills at the end of the month.’ And she said, ‘I don't care, you're just gonna be something and do great things for people.'”
We have lost a Great Canadian. Everybody knew Hazel. Called Hurricane Hazel for good reason! She never stopped. She was tough. She knew what she wanted to get done and always found a way to do it. Friend and mentor who I'll miss forever. RIP pic.twitter.com/bNExQNP9lz— Mohamad Fakih, C.M. (@mohamadfakih8) January 29, 2023
McCallion family spokesperson Jim Murray spoke with CP24 Sunday morning about the “force of nature” his loved one was in Mississauga and across Ontario and Canada.
Murray said many people have been reaching out to McCallion over the last three weeks since her health began to decline to try to visit with her.
“It's been an unbelievable outpouring of love, caring, and appreciation for the woman who was really the architect of the building of (Mississauga),” he said, calling McCallion’s work and budgetary ethics “refreshing.”
He said her tireless effort ensured that Mississauga residents could go to bed at night knowing they had a leader who took care of them and their money.
“And it is in great measure a respected municipality because of the groundwork that she had laid and the undying commitment to keeping this as a quality place to live work, play,” Murray said.
Serving as Mississauga’s longest-serving mayor was a role McCallion put before everything else up, he added.
“The McCallion family are very proud of their mother and of what she did for her entire lifetime and they will enjoy the accolades that come because they know she was deserving. They donated their mother to this city for pretty well most of their life and now that is likely going to send a huge message of thank you to them.”
Funeral plans for McCallion have yet to be announced.