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Marion Dewar, CM (February 17, 1928[1] – September 15, 2008) was a prominent member of the New Democratic Party (NDP), mayor of Ottawa from 1978 to 1985 and a member of the House of Commons of Canada from 1986 to 1988.

Marion Dewar

Marion Dewar
Member of the House of Commons of Canada
In office
Preceded byIan Deans
Succeeded byBeth Phinney
ConstituencyHamilton Mountain
President of the New Democratic Party
In office
Preceded byTony Penikett
Succeeded byJohanna den Hertog
52nd Mayor of Ottawa
In office
Preceded byLorry Greenberg
Succeeded byJim Durrell
Ottawa Controller
In office
Preceded byLorry Greenberg, Tom McDougall, Ernie Jones
Succeeded byBrian Bourns, William Law
Ottawa Alderwoman
In office
Preceded byWilliam Law, Ralph Sutherland
Succeeded bySandy Boyd
ConstituencyBritannia Ward
Personal details
Marion Bell

(1928-02-17)February 17, 1928
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedSeptember 15, 2008(2008-09-15) (aged 80)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyNew Democratic Party
Spouse(s)Ken Dewar (1951-2003; his death)
RelationsPaul Dewar (son)

Early lifeEdit

Dewar was born Marion Bell in 1928 in Montreal, the daughter of Agnes and Wilson Bell.[2] She was raised in the town of Buckingham, Quebec, just outside Ottawa.[3] She graduated from Saint Joseph's School of Nursing in Kingston, Ontario, in 1949 and was a nurse in the Ottawa region until 1952.[4] She married civil servant Ken Dewar in 1951 and went into public health with the Victorian Order of Nurses.[3] A devoted Roman Catholic, she would have 5 children, the last in 1963.[5] She later studied nursing science and public health at the University of Ottawa, and was a public health nurse from 1969 to 1971.[4]

Ottawa city politicsEdit

Dewar became an Ottawa alderman for Britannia Ward in 1972 and was elected Deputy Mayor in 1974, a position she held until 1978.[3] In 1977 she ran unsuccessfully for the Ontario New Democratic Party in the provincial election in the riding of Ottawa West. She was elected mayor in 1978.

She served as Mayor of Ottawa from 1978 to 1985. As mayor she convened a convention on the issue of homosexuality six months after taking office, in 1978. In 1979, she led Project 4000, in which Ottawa residents sponsored 4,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees. She died in the fall of 2008.[6] Ottawa today still has a large Vietnamese community. In 2005, she appeared on the Vietnamese diaspora music variety show Paris By Night 77 as part of a show commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. She was interviewed and given a plaque for her support for Vietnamese refugees.

Dewar was a peace activist and campaigner for nuclear disarmament, and, for example, picketed the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa after the invasion of Grenada. She appeared in the 1985 documentary Speaking Our Peace.[3]

Federal politicsEdit

From 1985 to 1987 Dewar was president of the federal NDP,[4] succeeding Tony Penikett. She was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in a 1987 by-election in the riding of Hamilton Mountain, replacing NDP incumbent Ian Deans.[7] She had been invited to the riding in the hopes that, as a star candidate, she would keep the riding in NDP hands, but she faced strong competition for the nomination from future MP David Christopherson.[8] She was defeated in the 1988 general election, losing to Liberal Beth Phinney by only 73 votes.[7]

Continuing to play a prominent role in the NDP, she was one of the leading backers of Audrey McLaughlin's leadership bid. In the 1993 election Dewar attempted to return to Parliament for the riding of Ottawa Centre, but lost to Liberal incumbent Mac Harb in an election in which the NDP fared poorly across the country.[9]

Later careerEdit

She also served as the chair of the Ottawa-Carleton Police Services Board, which oversaw the merger of the Ottawa, Nepean, and Gloucester police forces into a unified organization.[4] However, in December 1995, she and the three other provincially appointed members of the board were fired in mid-term by the new provincial government of Mike Harris who disagreed with their political views.[10] The three Ottawa City Council appointees were not dismissed. Dewar and a fellow board member, Judy Hunter, sued the government for unfair dismissal. In a precedent-setting case the court ruled in their favour, and they won again on appeal.[11]

She remained politically active throughout, supporting the political career of her son Paul Dewar, who was elected to Parliament in the 2006 federal election, winning the Ottawa Centre riding for the NDP. She also supported Alex Munter in his unsuccessful mayoral candidacy later the same year (2006).

In addition to her political activities, Dewar did voluntary work for many community organisations, including the Ottawa Women's Credit Union. In 1995 she became chair of Oxfam Canada.[4]

In 2002 Dewar was made a Member of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour.[12]


On Friday afternoon September 12, 2008, Dewar was rushed to a Toronto hospital after suffering a serious fall and subsequent brain hemorrhage. She was in Toronto attending the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.[13] Her son Paul Dewar interrupted his 2008 re-election bid to travel and be by her side with other family members, but on September 15 Marion Dewar died.[14] On that day the City of Ottawa lowered civic flags outside Ottawa City Hall in her memory.[15] She would return to Ottawa City Hall for the last time to lie in state in the Jean Pigott Hall until her funeral service on September 19. Among the over 800 people attending the public service were notable politicians including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.[16]

On May 31, 2009 the Ottawa Vietnamese community celebrated the 30th anniversary of Project 4000 with her son and re-elected MP Paul Dewar.[17]


Marion Dewar Plaza, which provided a central site for festivals and special events, is located at 110 Laurier Avenue W., adjacent to the Ottawa City Hall complex.[18]

  • The Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) established the Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund in 2009, which has a legacy endowment of $20,000, which helps to pay for the tuition and supplies required for the post-secondary education of refugee and immigrant high school students.[6]


  1. ^ "DEWAR, Marion, C.M., B.Sc". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 2013-05-01.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-10-22. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d Norma McCabe (January 14, 1984). "Ottawa Mayor Marion Dewar is a Product of On-the-Job Training". The Globe and Mail. p. L5.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Canadian Who's Who 1997 entry". University of Toronto Press. Retrieved 2008-09-15.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Doug Fischer, Obituary: Compassion drove her every action Archived 2012-05-03 at the Wayback Machine", Ottawa Citizen, Retrieved on 2009-06-18
  6. ^ a b Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund Archived 2014-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b "Hamilton Mountain - History of Federal Ridings since 1867".
  8. ^ "Dewar wins Hamilton nomination". The Globe and Mail. January 24, 1987. p. A5.
  9. ^ "Ottawa Centre - History of Federal Ridings since 1867". Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  10. ^ "Ontario Police chairwoman fired". The Globe and Mail. December 16, 1995. p. N6.
  11. ^ Thomas Claridge (July 29, 1996). "Tory actions illegal, court rules". The Globe and Mail. p. A7.
  12. ^ Order of Canada citation
  13. ^ "Iconic Ottawa mayor dies in Toronto after fall". The Ottawa Citizen. September 15, 2008. Archived from the original on September 16, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  14. ^ "Former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar passes away". CTV Ottawa. September 15, 2008.
  15. ^ "Ex-Ottawa mayor was president of NDP", in Victoria Times Colonist, Tues., September 16, 2008, page D9.
  16. ^ "Norman Fetterley (CTV Ottawa) Hundreds pack church to remember Marion Dewar,, Retrieved on 2009-06-18."
  17. ^ Stefan Keyes (CTV Ottawa) "Vietnamese community celebrates Project 4000",, Retrieved on 2009-06-18.
  18. ^ Marion Dewar Plaza

External linksEdit