Iona Victoria Campagnolo (née Hardy) was born in Vancouver, B.C on October 18, 1932 to Rosamond and Kenneth Hardy. Soon thereafter her family returned to Galiano Island to the family home. In 1940, the Hardy family moved up the coast to the North Pacific Cannery located on the Skeena River near Prince Rupert, where her father worked as Chief of Maintenance. On August 9, 1952 she married (and later divorced) Louis Campagnolo, and together they had two daughters. It was out of a concern for the quality of her daughters’ education that Iona Campagnolo first became involved with municipal politics: first being elected to the Prince Rupert School Board in 1966 where she served for six years as School Trustee, Chairman of the Board, and North Coast Zone Chairman of the Board. Upon completion of her term on the School Board, she ran in the Prince Rupert civic election, won, and served a term as ‘Alderman’ (City Councilor) until 1974. Also during this period (1965-1974) Iona Campagnolo was working for CHTK Radio, Skeena Broadcasters Ltd., as both Advertising Sales Director and Broadcaster: her prowess at the latter position earned her a B.C. Broadcaster of the Year award in 1973.
The early seventies were not only a time of political activism for Iona Campagnolo, they were also a time of continued community activism and development of ethnocultural initiatives within the City of Prince Rupert that had originally begun almost twenty years earlier in 1954. In 1971 Iona Campagnolo was appointed the Royal Visit Co-ordinator for the City of Prince Rupert. As producer, director and costume designer for many performances of the North Pacific Players (a Prince Rupert theatre company) Iona Campagnolo was intrinsically involved in several community theatre performances. To acknowledge and honour her 20 years of dynamic volunteerism within her community, she was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1973 and was promoted to Officer in 2008.
In 1974 Iona Campagnolo turned her attention to federal politics. Running as a Liberal Party candidate for the riding of Skeena, she won this election and ousted long standing Skeena MP Frank Howard. As Member of Parliament for Skeena, Iona Campagnolo first served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1974-1976). She was then appointed a Cabinet Member in Pierre Trudeau’s government – a position which subsequently granted her the portfolio of Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport (Sept. 14, 1976 – May 22, 1979). Not only did this new appointment grant her the distinction of becoming the very first Minister of Amateur Sport in Canada, she also became the first woman and Northerner to be appointed a federal Minister.
After electoral defeat in the May 1979 federal election, Iona Campagnolo embarked upon several years of active involvement within the public, private and non-profit realms. Ms. Campagnolo served for two years (1979-1981) as host of a prime time feature interview program on the CBC, from Vancouver, titled “One of a Kind”. During the first three months of 1981, Ms. Campagnolo completed an assignment by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, to organize the founding and incorporation of the “Future’s Secretariat,” with the aim of creating a series of community Task Forces and network linkages at the local level, which would raise the consciousness of Canadians to the interdependent nature of the world and Canada’s role and responsibility to it.
Working as a consultant on Public Relations and Fundraising to CUSO-VSO, (then known only as CUSO or the Canadian University Services Overseas Organization) Iona Campagnolo undertook a large number of speaking engagements particularly in support of refugee re-development, with emphasis on Thai-Kampuchean Border refugees. After spearheading the raising of more than half a million dollars in 1980 towards this particular campaign, she continued to work on various other campaigns on behalf of CUSO. Iona Campagnolo was also a Special Projects Consultant to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Iona Campagnolo also devoted much time to feminist initiatives, becoming involved in the Jerusalem Women’s Seminar and Intercultural Dialogue and assisting in the organization and emergence of women’s networks in several Canadian urban centers such as Edmonton and Vancouver.
Also from 1979-1981 Ms. Campagnolo acted as Special Consultant in several different capacities to Simon Fraser University (SFU). In January of 1981, Ms. Campagnolo was guest lecturer to senior-level students in the Sport Administration Degree program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. where she spoke on the involvement of various levels of government in sport development.
During this inter-political period, Ms. Campagnolo was also a consultant to the Calgary Olympic Development Association, assisting them with their bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics, through personal contact with members of the international sport community, including presenting Calgary’s bid to IOC (International Olympic Committee) members in Africa and Europe.
In 1982 Iona Campagnolo once again heard the call from the political realm and stood for election this time for the position of President of the Liberal Party of Canada. She was elected to this position by a Party Convention on November 7, 1982 as the first woman President of the Liberal Party of Canada, after 50 years of male predecessors. In the September 1984 federal election Iona Campagnolo made one last run at federal politics when she ran in the North Vancouver-Burnaby riding. She was, however, defeated in the Mulroney landslide victory that reduced John Turner’s Liberals down to 40 seats. Also in 1984, she served as National Co-Chair of the Liberal Leadership Convention, and was re-elected to the office of President by acclamation at this June 1984 Convention. Ms. Campagnolo served in this capacity until November 27, 1986.
From 1986 - 1996 Iona Campagnolo worked on contract with Contemporary Communications for the National Speakers Bureau. Writing and delivering speeches across the country to a myriad of organizations. From 1987-1990 Iona Campagnolo, as Associate Director, worked towards the establishment and development of the McMaster University Centre for International Health.
In 1992, Iona Campagnolo became actively involved with the establishment and development of a new university in northern British Columbia – the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George. On May 23, 1992 she was appointed the founding Chancellor of the University.
In 1995 Iona Campagnolo became a Director (1995-1996) and then Chair (1996-1997) of the Fraser Basin Management Program (FBMP) which worked towards bringing together all four orders of Canadian government (federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations) to address some of the key river management issues identified by Fraser River Action Plan - a part of Canada’s Green Plan.
On September 21, 2001, Iona Campagnolo was appointed by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in the name of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, on the advice of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, as British Columbia’s first female Lieutenant Governor; a position in which she served until September 30, 2007.
Since 2007, the Honourable Iona Campagnolo has remained actively involved with two key issues: reconciling Aboriginal Rights and Title with Crown Title, and salmon sustainability in collaboration with the faculty of Continuing Studies in Science at Simon Fraser University. She currently makes her home on Vancouver Island.