150+ Canadians Day 120: Flora MacDonald

The Honourable Flora MacDonald (1926 – 2015) contributed to peace as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and then as an international humanitarian, working primarily with women in Afghanistan.

Flora MacDonald was elected Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands in 1972. She became the first female Minister of External Affairs in 1979.

During the Vietnamese boat people crisis, she challenged Canadians to match federal government funding for Vietnamese refugees; 60,000 were admitted into Canada. She was also part of the planning to rescue six American diplomats who were in hiding after militant Iranian students invaded the American embassy in Tehran.

She was defeated in the 1988 election, but soon threw herself into international development work, taking on key roles with groups including the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict and the International Development Research Centre. In 2001, she began travelling to remote parts of Afghanistan.  In 2007, she founded Future Generations Canada, an aid group that supports schools for girls, and health and farming projects in Afghan villages.

MacDonald said she gave the same advice to women and men aspiring to elected office: “Polish your public speaking skills and learn to “relate to the difficulties somebody down the street is having.”

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