Former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion was remembered as an icon at the state funeral
Former longtime Mayor of Mississauga, Ontario Hazel McCallion was remembered as a pioneering force of nature and the city’s most celebrated citizen during a state funeral Tuesday on her 102nd birthday.
Thousands of people attended the service at the Paramount Fine Foods Center in Mississauga, where McCallion was remembered for her compassion and leadership and as someone with a passion for community service, diversity and women’s sports — especially hockey. Speakers and dignitaries shared many stories about the woman who served as the city’s mayor for 36 years, often with a knowing smile and hearty laughter from the crowd.
Family friend Jim Murray spoke first and remembered McCallion’s favorite phrase: “Do your homework.” It was a phrase she loved so much, he said, that McCallion once printed it on a shirt and sent it to a cabinet minister who she felt needed a reminder to do just that.
Murray said the rallied crowd clearly did their homework as everyone is there to honor McCallion’s life and the “tremendous contribution she made to the City of Mississauga as this city’s architect.”
Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell said McCallion was a trailblazer, innovator and campaigner who left people with a deep understanding of the impact one person can have.
“Hazel McCallion’s life was a purposeful life, and she was always with us with endless generosity of time and spirit,” she said.
“For her, everyone counted, regardless of their life situation.”
Remembered as a legend
McCallion’s flag-draped coffin was brought into the arena to the sound of bagpipes as the service began and lasted for over two hours as several speakers recounted how it had touched her life. Dignitaries included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
Flags will be flown at half-mast across the province on Tuesday, according to the prime minister’s office. People also paid tribute to the former mayor as she lay in state for two days on Sunday and Monday.
The Prime Minister said McCallion is an icon and a legend who commands every single room she steps into.
“There wasn’t a single person Hazel met that she didn’t leave in awe of her personality,” Ford said.
“Everyone knew Hazel was a force to be reckoned with – and if you weren’t, you found out quickly.”
Trudeau recounted how he met McCallion years ago on a trip to Italy, where she became one of the oldest people to zipline between two sweeping mountain peaks.
“She wouldn’t let anything stop her,” he said.
McCallion was also fond of pointing out that when she first became mayor, cows and horses grazed what would eventually become Mississauga’s core, Trudeau said. Now it is the third largest city in Ontario and the sixth largest in Canada with a population of more than 700,000 (as of 2021).
“She was a true builder of a nation within a nation of builders,” Trudeau said.
A long legacy
McCallion left a legacy of vigorous advocacy and more than three decades of near-unchallenged leadership.
Affectionately nicknamed “Hurricane Hazel,” she was an outspoken political powerhouse who earned respect across the political spectrum.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie also spoke Tuesday and said her predecessor had pushed the door open to women in politics and business.
Most people, she said, thought McCallion would live forever.
“In a way, she will always live in our hearts forever,” Crombie said. “Hazel was Mississauga’s Missus, and the city won’t be the same without her.”
Ford announced McCallion’s death on the morning of January 29 and said she died peacefully at her home in Mississauga at the age of 101.
Murray confirmed McCallion died of pancreatic cancer, which she was diagnosed around Christmas.
Hazel Mary Muriel Journeaux was born on February 14, 1921 in Port Daniel, Que., a very small town on the Gaspé Peninsula. She was the youngest of five children. She met Sam McCallion in Toronto after moving there in her 20s. They married and raised three children.
She was mayor of Mississauga from 1978 to 2014 and served 12 terms.
McCallion is survived by sons Peter and Paul, daughter Linda, and granddaughter Erika.