Michaëlle Jean

Michaëlle Jean bigraphy, stories - Governor General of Canada

Michaëlle Jean : biography

September 6, 1957 –

Michaëlle Jean ( born September 6, 1957) is a Canadian journalist and stateswoman who served as Governor General of Canada, the 27th since Canadian Confederation, from 2005 to 2010.

Jean was a refugee from Haiti—coming to Canada in 1968—and was raised in the town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. After receiving a number of university degrees, Jean worked as a journalist and broadcaster for Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as undertaking charity work, mostly in the field of assisting victims of domestic violence. In 2005, she was appointed governor general by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin, to replace Adrienne Clarkson as vicereine, and she occupied the post until succeeded by David Johnston in 2010. Early in her tenure, comments of hers recorded in some of the film works by her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, were construed as supporting Quebec sovereignty and her holding of dual citizenship caused doubt about her loyalties. But Jean denied separatist leanings, renounced her citizenship of France, and eventually became a respected vicereine. Jean is currently the Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

Michaelle Jean was sworn in as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada on September 26, 2012, giving her the accordant style of The Honourable; however, as a former Governor General of Canada, Jean is entitled to be styled for life with the superior form of The Right Honourable.

Post-viceregal life

In the weeks before Jean’s departure from the viceregal office, the Cabinet announced that the Michaëlle Jean Foundation would be established by the federal Crown-in-Council to focus on promoting education, culture, and creativity among youth from rural, northern, and/or poor communities in Canada. It was also reported that the Secretary-General of the United Nations would be appointing Jean to act as special envoy to Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with an aim to fight poverty and illiteracy and raise international funds. She was on November 8, 2010, appointed for a four-year term. Although the position’s office is located in Paris, France, Jean opted to remain in Canada and base herself out of space provided by the University of Ottawa and rented by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. In early 2011, Jean made a call for the overhaul of Haiti’s education system, as "the cornerstone of the impoverished nation’s future prosperity."

In April, 2011 Jean was appointed by Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of La Francophonie, as the Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, with the task of promoting the French language and ensuring compliance by the London Olympic Organising Committee with rule 24 of the Olympic Charter, which gives French the status of an official language of the Olympic Games. Later in the year, it was announced that Jean had been appointed as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and she began her term on February 1, 2012.


Early life and education

Jean’s family hails from Haiti; she was born in Port-au-Prince, baptised at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and spent winters in that city and summers and weekends in Jacmel, her mother’s hometown. Though her father worked as principal and teacher for an elite Protestant private school in Port-au-Prince, Jean was educated at home, as her parents did not want her swearing allegiance to the then Haitian president, François Duvalier, as all Haitian schoolchildren were required to do.

With her family, Jean fled Haiti to escape Duvalier’s regime, under which Jean’s father was in 1965 arrested and tortured. Jean’s father left for Canada in 1967 and Jean, her mother, and sister, arrived the following year; the family settled together at Thetford Mines, Quebec. Jean’s father, however, became increasingly distant and violent, and her parents’ marriage eventually fell apart; she, with her mother and sister, then moved to a basement apartment in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal.