Nova Scotia

Flora MacDonald, North Sydney-born MP, honoured in Afghanistan

The late Canadian political pioneer Flora MacDonald, born in North Sydney, N.S., was honoured in Afghanistan this week.

Former cabinet minister was a trailblazer for women's rights around the world

Flora MacDonald, shown here receiving the Order of Canada in 1999, was honoured this week for her work in Afghanistan. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Flora MacDonald served the people of her community — and her community encompassed the world.

The late politician, born in North Sydney, N.S., was honoured this week by the Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, Kenneth Neufeld, and the government of Bamyan, which is in the northern part of the country. 

They unveiled a plaque Thursday in Bamyan province in honour of Flora MacDonald and her humanitarian work. The trailblazer died in July 2015 at age 89.

"Oh, very proud, very proud," her brother, Ron MacDonald, said of the plaque dedication.

Ron MacDonald says he's very proud of the impact his sister, Flora MacDonald, made, especially in Afghanistan. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

MacDonald was first elected as the Ontario MP for Kingston and the Islands in 1972 and remained in the role until 1988.

She was Canada's first female foreign minister, appointed by Joe Clarke in 1979.

After serving 16 years in the House of Commons, Flora MacDonald loses her bid for another term. 5:57

MacDonald's later years were spent in volunteer roles around the world, including Africa, India and Afghanistan. She visited Afghanistan on many occasions while volunteering for Care Canada and the group Future Generations International.

Ron MacDonald said his sister focused on empowering women and girls with education.

"She brought in some fundamental changes such as bringing in solar systems," he said. "They did not have electricity to that point, to be able to have light at night."

Ron MacDonald said his sister travelled all over the world, including Europe, India and Africa, but it was Afghanistan that truly awed her.

"In Afghanistan she made a second home, much more than any other place that she'd ever travelled," he said.

"She had a great empathy with the people of the villages there, and especially with the women and the young people, to try and get a better education for them to improve themselves."

Flora MacDonald made more than a dozen trips to that country. When back in Canada, she would fundraise for further projects to help the Afghan people.

"She helped the women in the village to get an education and even take a leading role in the community, which had not occurred by that time," Ron MacDonald said.

He said it's a nice feeling to know that the people of Afghanistan continue to remember his sister and her work. 

"It's a great honour to our family."

About the Author

From people around the corner to those around the world, Norma Jean MacPhee has more than a decade of experience telling their stories on the radio, TV and online. Reach Norma Jean at norma.jean.macphee@cbc.ca