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NDP stalwart, social activist Margaret Mitchell dies at 92 in Vancouver

NDP MP Margaret Mitchell rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa in a Feb.9, 1983 file photo.

Andy Clark/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Margaret Mitchell, a former New Democrat MP who became a leading voice in raising awareness about domestic abuse, died Wednesday. She was 92.

Mitchell represented the riding of Vancouver East from 1979 to 1993.

New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen paid tribute to Mitchell in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Thursday, calling her a champion of women's rights.

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"From before her time here, throughout her entire existence as a member of Parliament, she fought for justice for women," he said.

He said Mitchell also fought for justice for Chinese-Canadians, who were forced to pay a head tax to come to Canada, and she always fought for basic rights for all humans.

"Some who were around (the House of Commons) at the time or followed soon after ... they will properly place her as one of the leading women voices for the NDP, and I think then as a result, leading voices in Canada," said Cullen.

When Mitchell raised concerns about domestic abuse 35 years ago in the Commons, her comments were met with laughter.

In her autobiography "No Laughing Matter," Mitchell wrote that the initial jeering by the male-dominated House of Commons provoked a national uproar, but also opened the doors to discussing spousal violence in Canada.

Shane Simpson, who represents Vancouver Hastings for the NDP in the provincial legislature, called Mitchell a lifelong mentor during a speech in the house.

"It was appropriate she passed on International Women's Day as the fight for women's equality was such an important part of her life's work," he said. "She created a national debate when she called out male MPs who made jokes while she raised the issue of violence against women, chastising those MPs and calling it no laughing matter."

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Mitchell received the Order of B.C. in 2000. She was given Vancouver's Freedom of the City award in November.

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