June Rowlands, Toronto’s first female mayor, dies aged 93
Former Toronto mayor June Rowlands has passed away, according to her son Bruce Rowlands who says she died on Thursday night at a long-term care facility.
The 93-year-old was the 60th mayor in Toronto history and was the first woman to hold the position. She was in office from 1991 to 1994.
Bruce Rowlands said his mother was a humble person who wanted to serve her community.
“She had a burning desire to make a contribution,” he said in an interview.
Rowlands was also a strong advocate for women and always spoke up to help the disadvantaged, her son said.
“Even socially she advocated for the disadvantaged, in terms of the kinds of conversations she got into around the dining room table,” he said.
“There wasn’t a lot of frivolous stuff generally speaking, we zeroed in on issues and that’s what she liked to talk about.”
Prior to being mayor, Rowlands also served on city council in 1976 as the junior alderman for ward 10, becoming its senior alderman in 1978.
She vacated her seat in 1988 to serve as Chair of the Police Commission. She left that position to return to politics in 1991.
She also made her mark fighting for affordable housing and trying to preserve the city’s ravines and historical neighbourhoods.
Current Toronto Mayor John Tory called Rowlands a trailblazer.
“She helped build this city and blazed a trail as the first woman to serve as a TTC commissioner, budget chief, executive committee member, chair of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Commission and Mayor,” Tory said in a statement.
“On behalf of all Toronto residents, I want to express my condolences to the family of former Mayor June Rowlands,” he said. “Losing a loved one is never easy, especialyl at Christmas, and I again extend my condolences to June’s family and friends at this time.
Others took to social media to express their condolences.
“June Rowlands served our city as a city councillor and the first woman elected mayor of Toronto,” tweeted coun. Josh Matlow Thursday night. “I am grateful to her and express my sincerest condolences to her family and friends.
“We will continue to celebrate her legacy at the park in midtown Toronto that is named in her honour. May she rest in peace.”
Davisville Park was renamed June Rowlands Park in 2004 in recognition of her dedication to the city.
Coun. Michael Ford also tweeted his condolences.
“My sincere condolences to the friends and family of Mayor June Rowlands. Her service to Toronto as the first female Mayor will forever be remembered.”
The family plans to organize a memorial service in the New Year.
—With files from The Canadian Press
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