They call her Hurricane Hazel for a reason.
Hazel McCallion was born in 1921 in Port-Daniel, a small town in Québec. She is the youngest of five children. At the age of 16, she left her home to finish high school in Montreal. After attending secretarial school, she landed her first job at the Louis Rolland Paper Company in 1940. McCallion moved to Toronto in 1943 after she was hired as an office manager at the engineering firm, Canadian Kellogg. The business experience she gained gave her the skills for politics and the male-dominated city council.
In 1963 she joined her husband’s printing business, Streetsville Booster. McCallion also began her public life. She was chair of Streetsville’s planning board and president of the local Chamber of Commerce in 1966. She was elected mayor of Streetsville in December 1969. Before running for mayor she served one term as a Mississauga councilor.
In 1978 McCallion was elected mayor of Mississauga. Her goal was to increase commercial and industrial developments and create new jobs. She was able to keep taxes low and the city out of debt for 33 years. Mississauga became the sixth-largest city in Canada.
In 1979 McCallion was known as the Mississauga Miracle.
After a Canadian Pacific freight train derailed with 24 cars, they exploded into a fireball due to the explosive material in several cars. McCallion ordered everyone to leave the city after a car with chlorine gas leaked. Mississauga was shut down until further notice. 250,000 people were evacuated safely, with no fatalities.
She has also been labeled “Hurricane Hazel” due to her political style.
“I just think her legacy of leadership and community engagement, and really supporting young people and citizens is such an inspiration,” says Janet Morrison, President of Sheridan College.
McCallion is considered a trailblazer for women in politics. After leading Mississauga for 12 successive terms, she retired at the age of 93.
All week the trailblazer has been celebrating her 99th birthday.
To celebrate, Sheridan College was handing out 99 donuts at all three campuses. McCallion paid a visit to the HMC campus to join the celebration, and speak with students.
The event brought McCallion closer to students. She took the time to meet students, as well as encourage them. “To be a success you have to work hard and make every day count,” says McCallion.
At 99 years old, Chancellor Hazel McCallion makes every day count by continuing to work in the community.