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Former Ottawa city councillor Diane Deans dies after 5-year cancer battle

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Former Ottawa city councillor Diane Deans died on Tuesday, according to statement from her family.

Deans, who represented the Gloucester-Southgate area for nearly 30 years, died peacefully surrounded by her family at her home at the age of 65. She entered palliative care earlier this month after a five-year battle with ovarian cancer.

"Despite her diagnosis, Diane continued to live every day to its fullest with a fighting spirit, unwavering tenacity, courage and compassion," her family said in the statement.

Deans was first elected to the former Southgate ward in 1994 and represented the post-amalgamation Gloucester-Southgate ward until 2022.

"We have heard from hundreds of people who have shared their stories of the incredible impact my mom had on their lives. My mom was my role model but also a role model for so many other girls and women, demonstrating that no dream is beyond reach," Deans's daughter Megan said.

Her 28-year career in municipal politics included chairing several important boards and committees, including becoming the first woman to chair the Ottawa Police Services Board.

Councillors would later oust her from that position amid fallout from the 2022 Freedom Convoy protests and Deans's move to hire a new police chief. She had announced a plan to run for mayor, but later said she would not seek the job.

Deans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019 and took an extended leave from her duties for treatment before returning to her council chair one year later.

"This is such sad news. Diane Deans, was one of Ottawa's longest serving councillors and led the way for many women in politics. My heartfelt condolences go out to her family and her many friends," Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said in a post to social media.

Bay Ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh, a friend of Deans, told CTV News at Six that Deans was a role model for women in politics.

"She was tenacious. She grabbed hold of issues. She was very strong, very smart, and still engaged with the issues right to the end," Kavanagh said. "It was hard to believe that this was a woman who was suffering — she was suffering — but she still continued to think clearly and talk about the issues she cared about."

Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod called Deans a "role model."

"I remember Diane taking her young daughter to City Hall when I was a staffer and I marvelled that she could be a Mom and Councillor. About a decade later I found the strength and determination to be a Mom and MPP myself," MacLeod said on X.

"Diane did many things, but advancing women in politics will be her forever legacy." 

Coun. Jessica Bradley brought forward a motion to Wednesday's city council meeting to rename the Greenboro Community Centre in her honour. The motion was carried unanimously.

Deans is survived by her husband Ron Richards, daughter Megan and grandson Evan.

A celebration of life will take place on May 25, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Infinity Convention Centre, followed by a reception. The celebration is open to anyone who wishes to attend and celebrate her life.

Books of condolence will be located at Ottawa City Hall and the Greenboro Community Centre on May 21, 22 and 23 for those who wish to convey their thoughts. People are also invited to share their condolences by email to: diane.deans01@gmail.com.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond

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