Rosemary Speirs was a champion for women in Canadian politics
This week, Canada lost a journalistic legend.
Rosemary Speirs, former reporter for the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, died in the presence of her beloved son, Murray.
The name Speirs should be in every Canadian history book.
As a journalist, Rosemary has always been at the forefront of social issues.
As a young journalist, she was struck by the inequalities she faced in a country as advanced as Canada.
Rosemary has spent her life fighting inequality, first writing about it and exposing it, then ultimately changing it.
Even after retiring from the Star, she never stopped writing. But she also put her money and volunteer efforts where her words had been.
Rosemary began her second career as an activist by founding The Women’s Political ConneXion, an organization that brought together 44 groups and prominent Canadians with a common belief that we need more women in politics.
This grassroots organization eventually led to the creation of the renowned advocacy group Equal Voice.
In 2001, Rosemary founded Equal Voice, supported by like-minded friends who wanted to see more women at all levels of government.
And when the organization needed funding in its early days, Rosemary was the first to step in and help the organization become the national equality engine it is today.
I knew Rosemary long before her political activism. She was bureau chief for The Globe and Mail at Queen’s Park when I came here as a young MLA in 1981.
And when I migrated to the federal scene in 1984, it followed soon after.
Rosemary moved from the Globe to the Star in 1984 and arrived in Ottawa as bureau chief in 1989.
As a reporter, she was always ready with the right questions and she did her research.
What she didn’t do was shred the politicians she was interviewing.
I always felt that, although she was unflinchingly neutral in her reporting, she wanted young women to succeed.
While others (mostly men) were happy to see young female politicians fall flat on their stomachs, Rosemary was always kindly supportive even when asking probing questions.
One thing was sure. Rosemary truly believed that more women in politics could really change the dynamic of all those macho white men on the Hill.
So when she retired from journalism, some of her most enduring work began, including recruiting the next generation of women into politics.
Raylene Lang-Dion, who succeeded Rosemary as National President of Equal Voice, had this to say about Rosemary’s passing: “There are no words to adequately describe her contributions in life. Lang-Dion called her a pioneer who was dedicated to electing more women to public office.
Rosemary has also spent some of her seemingly limitless energy supporting environmental causes. She served as Chair of the Board of Ontario Nature, an organization dedicated to the preservation of woodlands, wetlands and wildlife.
During her decades as a national political reporter, Rosemary wrote with passion on issues she clearly understood.
After journalism, she used this life of knowledge to make a difference.
In 2004, she received the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case. Three years later, she was named Dr. Speirs, recognized by Trent University for her outstanding work on behalf of equality and the environment.
She is survived by her son, Murray Deverell, her daughter-in-law Mimi and her beloved granddaughter, Leona.
It is hard to imagine how someone, who has never been elected to public office himself, could have such an impact on Canadian politics.
Rosemary wrote what she lived and lived what she wrote.
May she rest in peace.
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