Trail­blaz­ing MP Flora Mac­Don­ald dies

North Syd­ney na­tive re­mem­bered as great hu­man­i­tar­ian, ac­com­plished politi­cian


A trail­blazer for women in pol­i­tics, Flora Mac­Don­ald is be­ing re­mem­bered for much more than her time in the House of Com­mons.

Mac­Don­ald, a na­tive of North Syd­ney, died early Sun­day in Ot­tawa at the age of 89.

First elected as a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive in 1972, Mac­Don­ald was a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for the On­tario rid­ing of Kingston and the Is­lands for 15 years and served in three key cab­i­net po­si­tions — sec­re­tary of state for ex­ter­nal af­fairs, min­is­ter of em­ploy­ment and immigration and min­is­ter of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Af­ter leav­ing po­lit­i­cal of­fice, Mac­Don­ald ded­i­cated her­self to hu­man­i­tar­ian en­deav­ours, trav­el­ling to more than 100 coun­tries on be­half of nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional aid or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Her brother Ron Mac­Don­ald of North Syd­ney said he last saw his sis­ter about three weeks ago in Ot­tawa, not­ing she had re­cently been deal­ing with a num­ber of med­i­cal is­sues.

Ron said his sis­ter ex­celled in life from an early age — she did very well in school, was a class leader, and was also a “very good ath­lete,” par­tic­i­pat­ing in a num­ber of sports in the area in­clud­ing vol­ley­ball, speed­skat­ing, and bad­minton. She also had a keen in­ter­est in base­ball.

Through­out her ca­reer, Ron said his sis­ter was mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to help peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing in Third World coun­tries.

“She en­joyed be­ing elected but she re­ally thought she’d ac­com­plish more work­ing in Third World coun­tries and that was her big love — that and Scot­tish mu­sic, of course,” he said.

Ron said he will miss hear­ing his sis­ter’s thoughts on the im­por- tant is­sues of the day.

“She was on top of so many things, in­ter­na­tion­ally, whether it was the Mideast or South Africa or Afghanistan, she had a great un­der­stand­ing of things,” he said. “She was very well-read.”

Close friend Low­ell Mur­ray, a New Water­ford na­tive and re­tired sen­a­tor who now lives in Mar­ga­ree, said Mac­Don­ald achieved much in her life.

“Three years af­ter she was elected mem­ber of Par­lia­ment she was a can­di­date for the lead­er­ship of the PC party, and three years af­ter that again she was for­eign min­is­ter in Joe Clark’s gov­ern­ment, and she started out as a bank teller in North Syd­ney,” he said. “There’s never been any­body quite like her in Cana­dian pol­i­tics.”

As ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter, Mac­Don­ald was at the fore­front of two ma­jor is­sues — deal­ing with the Iran hostage cri­sis that be­gan in 1979, and, to­gether with fel­low min­is­ter Ron Atkey and Clark, spear­head­ing ef­forts to welcome 60,000 Viet­namese refugees to Canada.

Through it all, Mac­Don­ald never for­got her roots, vis­it­ing home of­ten and keep­ing in­formed on the is­sues af­fect­ing the


“She was a great Cape Bre­toner, she re­ally was, she loved this place,” said Mur­ray, not­ing she also loved a good Cape Bre­ton ceilidh. “I can see her yet step­danc­ing to fid­dle mu­sic in our liv­ing room. She was al­ways great com­pany and that’s what I’ll miss about her.”

Mur­ray, who will de­liver a eu­logy at Mac­Don­ald’s fu­neral when it is held in the com­ing days, said his friend was sim­ply in­ter­ested in ev­ery­thing.

Mac­Don­ald’s hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts in­clud­ing chair­ing the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­tre, the World Fed­er­al­ists of Canada, and serv­ing on the Carnegie Com­mis­sion on the Preven­tion of Deadly Con­flict. She also served on nu­mer­ous boards in­clud­ing the Cana­dian Coun­cil for Refugees, CARE Canada, Com­mon­wealth Hu­man Rights Ini­tia­tive, and Friends of the Na­tional Li­brary.

For her work, Mac­Don­ald re­ceived nu­mer­ous awards and ac­knowl­edge­ments — she is a com­pan­ion of the Or­der of Canada, a re­cip­i­ent of the Pear­son Peace Medal, a mem­ber of the Or­der of Nova Sco­tia and the Or­der of On­tario, and the re­cip­i­ent of sev­eral honorary de­grees, in­clud­ing one from the Univer­sity Col­lege of Cape Bre­ton (now Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity) in 2003.

In an in­ter­view with the Cape Bre­ton Post at the time, Mac­Don­ald said she was thrilled to re­ceive such an hon­our at home.

“I’ve re­ceived a num­ber of honorary de­grees but this one is par­tic­u­larly spe­cial be­cause I got to come back to Cape Bre­ton. It has to be at the top of the list,” she said.

Ron said fu­neral ar­range­ments are still be­ing com­pleted. The fu­neral will take place in Ot­tawa but she will be buried in Cape Bre­ton.


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