Hazel McCallion, 101, has lived many lives and has no intention of slowing down: She was recently re-appointed to the board of directors of Toronto’s airport, the country’s largest, after serving as mayor for 36 years and a professional hockey player.
His zeal earned him the fame of “Hyricane Hazel”. In an interview with AFP in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, she laughed “I don’t know how I got that title back…I know I’m moving fast.”
This workaholic, who never seems to stop working, says he has a mantra in life: “Work, do your homework.”
“Working hard never killed anyone, that’s what my mom taught me. If you want to achieve your goals, you have to work hard,” advises this tiny, white-haired woman, squatting on a chair at the switch.
Born in 1921 in Port Daniel, a coastal village in eastern Quebec, Hazel is the youngest of five children. Her father works in fishing. His mother is a nurse.
At the age of sixteen, she left the family farm to continue her education before resigning to join secretarial school, due to lack of resources. She began her career during World War II in an engineering firm where she worked for over 20 years.
At the same time, I played on a professional women’s hockey team in Montreal, and I paid $5 for the game, which was a lot of money at the time. This fan of the Maple Leafs, the Toronto team, is going to leave his teeth there.
In 1951, she married Sam McCallion and had three children with him.
“She wasn’t always there, but she was there when needed,” says one of her sons, Peter, as he describes the “wonderful” grandmother of her only granddaughter.
– Political retirement at 93 –
Inspired by former Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Wheaton, the first female mayor of a major city in Canada, and from Margaret Thatcher, she chose to enter politics in the 1960s.
In 1978, she won the mayor of Mississauga in part because of her indifference to her opponent’s sexual comments.
Today, however, she sums up any discussion on the topic: “It wasn’t difficult at all. I had support from men both in the business world and in politics,” she declared, considering herself “very lucky.”
He marked so deeply the history of Mississauga, a city of more than 700,000 people today, that radically changed its face in just a few decades.
During her first year as mayor, she had to deal with a major railway accident: a derailment and then the explosion of a train laden with toxic substances.
Nearly 220,000 residents, or three-quarters of the city, were evacuated in the event of an emergency and there were no deaths or serious injuries. The “Mississauga Miracle” gives it national status.
“To live a happy life, you have to be super positive and feel like you’re acting. You can’t be thinking about yourself all the time,” she slips to explain her commitment.
Held in office for twelve terms, she holds a long-standing record, in part because of her “very down-to-earth popularity,” “accessibility,” and “candor,” explains Tom Urbaniac, author of a book on the city’s evolution.
“Hazel McCallion tends towards conservatism but is very pragmatic. Over the decades, she has changed her mind a lot according to public opinion,” notes a professor of politics at Cape Breton University (Nova Scotia, eastern Canada) who remembers that she may “support various political parties.”
The girl who considers herself a “builder” won the title of “Canada’s most popular mayor” in 2011, three years before she retired from politics at the age of 93.
Stamp collector Hazel McCallion enjoys gardening and shooting videos for charity. She remains attentive to current events and wears, along with her jacket, a yellow and blue scarf in the colors of Ukraine.
“I have lived 100 years and have never been pessimistic about what is happening in the world today,” she says.