The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
27th Governor General, Commander-in-Chief of Canada
Michaëlle Jean was born in 1957 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She was eleven years old when Canada offered political asylum to her parents, who were fleeing repression from the dictatorial regime in their home country. As Francophones, the family settled in Quebec. Her family experienced the ordeal of a forced exile and, like all refugees, the immense challenge of rebuilding their life elsewhere, starting from scratch, mustering all their strength and their life experiences, motivated by the desire to contribute as full citizens to the development of their host country.
At the Université de Montréal, after earning a Bachelor of Arts in modern literature and languages (Italian and Spanish), she completed her Master’s in Comparative Literature. Scholarships allowed her to pursue her studies at the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. Michaëlle Jean is fluent in five languages: French, Haitian Creole, English, Italian, Spanish, and she reads Portuguese.
From 1988 to 2005, Michaëlle Jean enjoyed an outstanding career as a journalist, presenter and news anchor on Canadian public television, both French and English networks. She also took part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker, essayist and philosopher Jean-Daniel Lafond.
In 2005, she is appointed Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, the first Black woman to reach the highest constitutional office in the country, a function she served with extraordinary dedication, for a five-year term.
At the end of this mandate, on October 1, 2010, the United Nations immediately called upon her, as UNESCO Special Envoy, to support reconstruction efforts in Haiti, her native country devastated that same year by a brutal earthquake. She also served as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa from 2011 to 2014.
In 2014, Michaëlle Jean was elected Secretary General of La Francophonie, the first woman to lead this multilateral organization comprising 88 states and governments on 5 continents.
A seasoned stateswoman and diplomat, her words serve to convene goodwill everywhere in the multilateral sphere, in every UN forum, from New York to Geneva, all the way to the Security Council, as well as within the European Union, the European Parliament, the OECD, the African Union. She is best known and appreciated for her convictions, her deep sense of universal humanistic values, the principles and rules of democracy, the rule of law, justice, fundamental human rights and freedoms, which she never betrays.
Together with her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, she has co-chaired the Michaëlle Jean Foundation since 2010, whose programs help support platforms and civic initiatives alongside some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised—yet eager and creative—young people in Canada, for vigorous collective action against exclusion. Michaëlle Jean currently serves as Chancellor of St. Paul’s University College in Waterloo, and Chancellor of the African Development University in Niamey, Niger.