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LETTER: Late mayor remembered as 'champion of women'

'Hazel McCallion touched many hearts and will always be remembered for her tireless work ethic and for breaking barriers in municipal government,' letter writer says
Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga, with Christina Bisanz, CHATS president and CEO.

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If you have ever lived in the Greater Toronto area or had an interest in politics, you are bound to have heard of Hazel McCallion. Hazel passed away recently, just shy of her 102nd birthday. She was the longest reigning mayor in Mississauga, having served for 36 years in this position before she retired in 2014. Throughout her political career, she was often referred to as “a force,” “trailblazer,” and a “champion of women”.   

I had the opportunity to meet with Hazel on several occasions throughout my own career. I saw many a politician and political staffers tread carefully on an issue until they knew where Hazel stood on the matter. 

Retirement certainly didn’t slow Hazel down. It was in this phase of her life that I was most inspired by Ms. McCallion. Hazel was very committed to seniors, and her goal was to encourage them to live life to the fullest. Once again, she led by example. In November 2015, McCallion was appointed to the role of chief elder officer (CEO) of Revera Inc., to provide advice and counsel to this senior living sector company. She advocated on behalf of residents and staff, pushing for positive outcomes that would help seniors and those who care for them. As an international advocate against ageism, her mission was to change negative attitudes about aging.  

The last time I saw Hazel was in the year before COVID-19 and the pandemic fouled the lives of so many older adults in our communities. She was the guest speaker at the annual Markham Seniors Awards hosted by Mayor Frank Scarpitti. Speaking without notes and walking around the room, she held the audience’s rapt attention. She encouraged people to live a life with purpose. Most importantly, she stressed that regardless of your age, you could continue to bring positive change in the lives of many.  

Hazel McCallion touched many hearts and will always be remembered for her tireless work ethic and for breaking barriers in municipal government. We also thank her for breaking through the stereotypes of aging and reinforcing the belief that people can continue to contribute to their communities, regardless of their age. 

CHATS - Community and Home Assistance to Seniors -  extends our sincere condolences to Hazel’s family, friends and colleagues.  

Christina Bisanz
President and CEO at CHATS – Community and Home Assistance to Seniors