Michaelle Jean, a Haitian-born Canadian, was Canada’s 27th Governor-General.
Michaelle Jean immigrated to Canada from Port-au-Prince in 1968 and studied at the University of Montreal as well as Universities in Italy before beginning her career as a Quebec television journalist in 1988. While Jean tended to her pursuit of higher education she assisted hundreds of women and children in crisis, and passionately donated her time to the establishment of a network of emergency shelters throughout the province of Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.
Jean’s deep commitment to social causes and domestic issues fostered her prosperous career as a highly respected journalist and anchor for Radio-Canada working as a reporter and host on such news and public affairs programs as Actuel, Montreal ce soir, Virages and Le Point. Since 1995 she has worked on such shows as Le Monde ce soir, L’Edition quebecoise, Horizons francophones, le Journal RDI and RDI a l’ecoute. Anglo-Canadian viewers of the CBC were first introduced to Jean in 2000, when she began presenting documentaries on The Passionate Eye and Rough Cuts.
“My ancestors were slaves, they fought for freedom. I was born in Haiti, the poorest country in our hemisphere. I am a daughter of exiles driven from their home by a dictatorial regime . . . I have come a long way.”– Michaelle Jean
At Jean’s official public appointing to her duties as the newly elected Governor-General of Canada, Prime Minister Paul Martin said “She has known what it is to come to a new country with little more than hope, hope and a belief that with hard work a new country can bring new opportunity,” and furthered his motion by calling Jean “an extremely talented woman who will bring a new perspective to the office.”
Jean, in her first press conference as Governor-General of Canada, stated that she wanted to reach out to young people and the disadvantaged. Prime Minister Paul Martin, never one to miss an opportunity to exalt the virtues of this great nation, was quoted as saying that “She is a reflection of that great quality of Canada, a country which focuses on equality of opportunity.”
What does it mean to be Canada’s Governor-General?
The role of the Canadian Governor-General is mostly symbolic and ceremonial in nature. The position is selected by the Prime Minister of Canada, although the formal appointment is made by the Queen of England. The term of office is usually five years, but may be extended up to seven years. Traditionally the appointment of Governor-General alternates between Anglophone and francophone candidates. The official duties of the Governor-General of Canada include:
- Giving Royal Assent to bills passed in the Canadian House of Commons and the Senate.
- Reading the Speech from the Throne which outlines the Canadian federal government agenda for a new session of Parliament.
- Executing orders-in-council or cabinet decisions.
- Appointing superior court judges, on the advice of cabinet.
- Summoning, closing and dissolving Parliament, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
- Inviting the leader of the party with the most support in the House of Commons to form the government.
- Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
- Encouraging excellence in Canada through a system of honors and awards such as the Order of Canada and promotes national identity and national unity.