Flora MacDonald Remembered As A Canadian Political Pioneer

Flora MacDonald, LLD'81, who was well known in the Queen’s community, is being remembered as a Canadian political pioneer who was tirelessly dedicated to public service.

Ms. MacDonald, who passed away in Ottawa on July 26 at the age of 89, was the first woman to be appointed Secretary of State for External Affairs (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and was Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands from 1972 to 1988. Ms. MacDonald had a number of close links with Queen’s University, including working for a number of years as a secretary in the Department of Political Studies before she was elected to Parliament.

Flora MacDonald, LLD'81Her trailblazing political career and efforts would also be recognized by Queen’s as she received an honorary degree from the university in 1981 as well as the Agnes Benidickson Award in 2011 from the Ottawa Branch of the QUAA “for her significant contributions to Queen's University and Canada.” In 1990, the Kingston Branch awarded Ms. MacDonald its highest honour – the Kingston Award (now known as the Padre Laverty Award)

“Flora MacDonald was for many years a major figure in Canadian politics and prior to that a well-respected Queen's staff member, epitomizing the long-standing Queen's commitment to the service of the nation,” says Principal Daniel Woolf, who was reached while away on vacation. 

“She was an early role model to young women of the potential of a political career at a time when few women were in Parliament and fewer still in Cabinet. What is perhaps more remarkable still, in her post-political life she was not content to rest on her many laurels but embarked on a new humanitarian career that took her to some of the world's most dangerous and troubled locations.”

First elected under the Progressive Conservative banner in 1972, Ms. MacDonald would vie for the party leadership in 1976. The PCs, led by Joe Clark, would become the government in 1979 and Ms. MacDonald was named to Cabinet under the External Affairs portfolio.

She would return to Cabinet in 1984 in the government of Brian Mulroney as the Minister of Employment and Immigration and then Minister of Communications in 1986.