C.C. C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.; B.A., M.A.(Montr.); LL.D.(York); D.Univ.(Ott.); D.lnt.Rel.(Perugia); D.Litt.(McG.)
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
Michaëlle Jean was born in Port au Prince, Haiti. As a young child, in 1968, she and her family fled their homeland to escape the brutal dictatorship of François ("Papa Doc") Duvalier.
Madame Jean earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature, and a Master of Arts degree in comparative literature at the University of Montreal. Travelling abroad to further pursue her studies in languages and cultures, she attended the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. She is fluent in five languages-French, English, Italian, Spanish and Haitian Creole—and reads Portuguese.
As a university student, Madame Jean began her life-long dedication to improving the plight of the disadvantaged, especially women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She worked for eight years with shelters and transition homes for abused women in Québec, and co-ordinated a groundbreaking study, published in 1987, that looked at abusive relationships in which women were the victims of sexual violence at the hands of their spouses. She was also involved in aid organizations for immigrant women and families, and later worked for both the federal and Québec governments on issues related to immigration and settlement.
Madame Jean's sense of social commitment and her interest in national and international politics led her to a career in journalism. For 18 years, beginning in 1988, she was a highly regarded journalist and anchor of information programs, including the major news broadcast La Téléjournal. In 2004, she started her own show, Michaelle.
As a communications artist, Madame Jean has worked with renowned filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, her husband, on three major projects: L'heure cia Cuba (1999), about the 40th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Tropique Nord (1994) about being black in Quebec, and the Hot Docs award-winning Haiti dans tous nos reves (1995). Her expertise in this area prompted the English network of CBC to ask Madame Jean to host programs such as The Passionate Eye and Rough Cuts, which broadcast the best in Canadian and foreign documentary films.
Madame Jean has won numerous honours for her professional achievements, including: the Human Rights League of Canada's 1989 Media Award for a report on the struggle of an immigrant woman in Québec; the Prix MireilleLanctot for her reporting on spousal violence; the Prix Anik for her investigation of the power of money in Haitian society; the inaugural Amnesty International Canada Journalism Award; the Galaxi Award for best information host; the 2001 Gemini Award for best interview in any category; and the Conseil de Ia Langue Française du Québec's Prix Raymond-Charette. MichaOlle Jean has also been named to the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade by the Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue française, and has been made a citizen of honour by the City of Montreal.
In September 2005 Michaëlle Jean was appointed to succeed The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and become the 27th Governor General of Canada since Confederation. She is the third journalist in a row, and the first
person of Afro-Caribbean heritage, to assume the post.
Madame Jean, in her first remarks after the announcement of her appointment, said she wanted to reach out to all Canadians, regardless of their background. She also made it a goal to reach out especially to Canadian youth and those who feel disadvantaged. In her first 20 months as Governor General, Her Excellency has exceeded all expectations in her Vice-Regal post, quickly becoming a much respected and beloved figure across Canada. In addition to visiting all of the provinces and territories, Madame Jean has represented our country internationally, including a five-state tour of Africa, where she encouraged women's rights in each country she visited.
In her role as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, Madame Jean visited the front line troops in Afghanistan, timing her visit to coincide with International Women's Day and meeting with Afghan women, as well as with Canadian soldiers, RCMP units, humanitarian workers and diplomats. Perhaps her most poignant moment as Governor General came when Madame Jean visited her homeland to attend the inauguration of President René Préval, offering a ray of hope for Haitians struggling to overcome decades of poverty and chaos.
Michaëlle Jean and Mr. Lafond share Rideau Hall with their young daughter, Marie-Eden, marking the first time that a child has lived at One Sussex Drive since former Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer and his young family lived there in the early 1980s. Madame Jean's family also includes Mr. Lafond’s two daughters from a previous marriage and his two grandchildren.
-citation delivered by mentor, Dr. Richard Sigurdson, Dean, Faculty of Arts, June 5, 2007