Phenomenal Women – Celebrating International Women’s Day

Danielle Taran is a 17 year high school senior. She has been a competitive swimmer for many years and enjoys working for the town of Halton Hills as a Lifeguard and swim instructor. She has a passion for technology and loves working with her hands welding and woodworking. In December of 2017 she thought she hurt her shoulder at a swim meet. She went to the family doctor who sent her for some tests only to find out she had Hodgkin Lymphoma. At the same time she learned that she had been accepted into the local union to start her apprenticeship as a Welder/Fitter. She is not letting her diagnosis and treatment affect her future as she considers this just a little road bump on her path to becoming a welder.

11 year old Kiera Watson is following the opportunity of a lifetime by studying ballet as a full-time student at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto. The Hamilton resident started her dance career at the age of 7 at C.M. Dancing on Rymal Road. Kiera is a grade 6 student studying , dancing, and training daily in hopes of one day dancing professional.


Tracy Burgess Acting Fire Captain Hamilton Fire Department I had a dream as early as I can remember probably around the age of 8. I would hear the firetrucks racing down Kenilworth Ave and I’d chase after them hoping they’d honk the horn, they usually did.” But like most people’s lives things in Burgess’s life were not simple or straight forward. She had a family early and then spent some time working with youth in group home environments. Still although it wasn’t easy she always kept her dream alive. In her mid-thirties with encouragement from her family and friends she applied to become a firefighter. She knew the training would be challenging both physically and mentally but she was determined to follow her dream. In 2005 after successfully completing the rigorous training that all Hamilton firefighters go through she graduated. Since then she says she has rode in the back of many trucks including that same truck she chased down the street 40 years ago. Now she says I sit in the front of the truck as the acting Captain and I shake my head and think how in the hell did I get here? Tracy Burgess will soon to be the first female full captain in the Hamilton Fire Department.

Aleria McKay Miss Teenage Ontario and Indigenous Playwright Oshweken, Ontario , “I’m very proud of where I come from and I’m very proud of my culture” Aleria McKay recently told the judges of the Miss Teenage Ontario Competition upon winning the title this January. The 18 year old high school student is from two Indigenous cultures Onondaga at Six Nations and Anishinaabe at Temagami First Nations, and plans to use her new profile to raise awareness of youth suicides on reserves. She says she grew up going to funerals for young people. Over the past two years the grade 12 student at Brantford Collegiate Institute wrote a play called “And She Split the Sky in Two” the story of a girl from a reserve coming to terms with the suicide of her older sister. The play debuted in mid-February at her school and will be entered in the National Theatre School Drama Festival his Spring.

Mary-Elizabeth Vaccaro is a community-based researcher, PhD candidate at McMaster University’s School of Social Work and a frontline worker in an emergency shelter for women. Mary uses art in her research with women as a method to mobilize knowledge and create social change. She recently completed a project focusing on the unique needs of single women in Hamilton experiencing chronic homelessness. This project engaged 70 women in arts-based data collection and narrative interviews. The findings from this project will be used to advocate for permanent supportive housing options for women in Hamilton. This project was funded by Women’s College Hospital, and completed in collaboration with the Women’s Housing Planning Collaborative. Graphic art in the video was created by local artist Sylvia Nickerson.

Imrana Alamgir belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, residing in Hamilton since 1990. As a housewife and Mother of five, Imrana and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association have organized women-only interfaith symposium in Hamilton for the past eight years. As per the guidance given by the Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, she and all other Ahmadi Muslims are striving to fulfil our responsibilities towards achieving peace in the World. We organize the symposium to learn the beauty of all religions, so we can respect each other the way we should. Imrana and the Ahmadiyya Women of Hamilton contribute every year, during the month of Ramadan preparing dinner and gifts for the youth at the Notre Dame House on Cannon Street. She wants the youth to know that someone out there loves and cares for them, as the youth is our future. She and her community friends have also been organizing food and gifts for the Native Women’s Centre of Hamilton. As women, we have a great role in the World, and it is our responsibility to accomplish this role with love for all.

Kim McCarthy is the Vice President Construction at Ira McDonald Construction where she oversee the operations of the construction functions of the company internally and externally. For 20 years she has worked in the construction industry working through Estimating and Management to her current position. McCarthy is a graduate of Mohawk College in Architectural Technology. She was recently appointed President of the Hamilton Halton Construction Association. This is the first time a woman has been appointed to this role.

92 year old Ona Allen was one of the first black nurses hired in Hamilton at the Hamilton General in 1953. Her sense of adventure and love of nursing resulted in her moving from her home in North Buxton outside of Chatham to Hamilton in 1951. In 1953 she married and bought a home in Hamilton and then 9 years later in Burlington where she currently lives. Every Sunday Mrs Allen drives herself to Stewart Memorial Church where she has been a member for over 60 years. In the spirit of International Women’s Day Mrs Allen and other members of the congregation are being recognized for their work as “Unsung Hero’s” at Stewart Memorial.

Dr. Heather McGowan and Liskey. Dr. McGowan heads up an all female staff at Glanbrook Veterinary Services near Mount Hope. As well as being a skilled and compassionate veterinarian McGowan gives her time and skills to help out at veterinary hospitals and animal shelters on the island of Belize where she says conditions are horrible. Her dog Liskey was rescued from Belize.

As the president of FedEx Express Canada, Lisa Lisson has risen from an associate marketing specialist to one of Canada’s most powerful and influential transportation executives. As the leader of 6,700 employees across 70 locations, Lisa has helped build FedEx Express Canada into the most reliable courier network in the country, allowing consumers and businesses to connect Canada and the entire world with uncompromising speed and reliability. Lisa has become a renowned public speaker in Canada and the United States for her revealing discussion about becoming the first woman and first Canadian president in FedEx Express Canada history. The sudden passing of her husband at a young age, raising their four children as a single mother, while building a successful career has enabled Lisa to acquire many insights and advice that she shares with her audiences with openness and frankness.


Laura Fortino Two Time Team Canada Member and Olympic Medalist. The Ancaster native attended and played hockey for Cornell University. She graduated in 2013 with a BSc degree. In 2014 she became a member of Team Canada and won a gold medal in Sochi Russia. Most recently Fortino played for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang South Korea where Team Canada won a silver medal.

Cathie Coward / Hamilton Spectator


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