The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean – Witness to Struggle and Triumph

This country’s 27th Governor General was born in Haiti and came to Canada, fleeing the Duvalier regime in 1968.  Michaelle Jean’s father, a teacher and principal of a private school in Port-au-Prince, had been arrested and tortured.  He left in 1967 and came to Quebec.  The family, including Michaelle, her mother and her sister, followed a year later, settling in Thetford Mines.  But Jean’s father struggled with the transition to life in Canada and became increasingly violent.

Eventually Michaelle moved with her mother and sister to Montreal, where Michaelle pursued her studies in Hispanic languages and Italian.  She did graduate work in Italy and became involved in the establishment of women’s shelters.  She also worked helping new immigrants adjust and settle into life in Canada.

Michaelle Jeans’s career as a journalist began in 1988, at Radio-Canada in Montreal.  As a reporter and TV host she was the first person of Caribbean heritage on French television news in Canada.

On September 27, 2005, Michaelle Jean was sworn in as Canada’s next Governor General, following in the footsteps of Adrienne Clarkson.   During her time in the role, she dealt with a parliamentary crisis in early 2008, returning hastily from a state visit to Europe.  She took Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s advice and allowed him to prorogue parliament.  In early 2009 she raised eyebrows when she ate a morsel of a seal heart during a ceremonial feast on a visit to Canada’s north. Then, in early 2010, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, in which a dearest friend was killed, Michaelle Jean made a television appearance addressing Canadians and tearfully thanked them for their support of the people of Haiti.

She stepped down from the vice-regal position in October 2010.  Now the Michaelle Jean Foundation allows her to continue her passion for helping young people with the help of her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond

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