Canadian Michaelle Jean, Secretary-General of the 57 nation Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie has been criticised for lavish spending, but intends to seek a second term. Photo: Radio-Canada

Canadian Head of “La Francophonie” criticised, may be headed for the door

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Second term for Canadian in doubt

Michaelle Jean has had a highly successful career,

Born in Haiti, she came to Canada as a refugee, eventually to become a well-known broadcaster on Radio-Canada, the French arm of Canada’s public broadcasting network.

Then she was named as Canada’s Governor-General, a highly prestigious role she held from 2005 to 2010. Although generally viewed as  successful in that role, there was controversy. This began upon her appointment  to the post and concerned her and her husband’s possible ties to Quebec separatists, which she denied.    There was also a kerfuffle later about her  statement that she was Canada’s “Head of State”, which greatly irritated monarchists who said she was usurping the Queen’s title.

Four years ago Canada promoted Jean’s candidacy as head of the “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie”, comprised of 57 member states and governments.   Jean is said to be seeking a second term, but recent spending controversies have cast a shadow over that possibility.

Michaelle Jean, left, Secretary General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie talks with other delegates during a meeting of African Union countries during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at U.N headquarters. Photo: AP- Julie Jacobson

While some insist she has done a good job leading the OIF, it has been her expenses which have gathered more media attention.

Eyebrows were raised over a $500,000 renovation to the Paris apartment she occupies as part of her role, and a $20,000 piano she expensed both without approval of the OIF members.

Also causing concern was her hiring a chauffeur and car for her husband’s local errands although he has no role in the OIF. Then there was the $50,000 bill for a four-day stay at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York which also resulted in comments about a “regal” lifestyle.

In a column on April 9 in the influential Quebec daily, Le Devoir by Louise Beaudoin Jean was compared unfavourably to past OIF leaders saying she didn’t have their sense of diplomacy while also being unable to defend her “regal” extravances as Secretary-General/

Last week, a federal Conservative member of Canada’s parliament labelled her “an embarrassment” for her spending.

France will not support Jean

Both Canada and Quebec have said they would support her bid for a second term as Secretary-General, while suggesting that spending by the OIF becomes more transparent. Typically, a second mandate for an incumbent might be expected, but in spite of her stated good intentions, at least one Canadian expert in international affairs said that she never really connected with African leaders which comprise the majority of OIF members.

Canada’s Michaelle Jean has been dogged by questions about her spending of OIF money. one Canadian opposition politician said she was an “embarrassement”, The Canadian government under Trudeau said it would support her bid for a second term
Photo: CP Sean Kilpatrick

However, France- the organisation’s largest financial backer, has indicated it will support a Rwandan instead when the job comes up in October.

French President Macron, and several African leaders will back Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo. France’s move is seen as a desire to improve ties with African nations.

Michaelle Jean has not formally announced her desire to seek a second term, but sources close to her say that is her intention.

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