Former Governor General Michaëlle Jean was awarded with an honorary doctorate of laws by Laurentian University May 28 at its Barrie convocation ceremony.
The honorary doctorate was presented by Laurentian University Chancellor Steve Paikin.
“The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean has been an extraordinary role model for many people throughout her career,” said Paikin.
“She has shown exceptional courage and dedication and, always, a tremendous amount of heart. We look up to her, as do so many other Canadians.”
Born in Port-au-Prince, Jean fled Haiti with her family in 1968 and came to Canada, settling in the community of Thetford Mines, Québec. She earned degrees in modern languages and literature at the University of Montréal, and pursued language studies at universities in Italy.
She worked with organizations involved with immigration and wrote about the experiences of immigrant women in Canada. Later, she began a successful career at Radio-Canada and became one of the country’s most recognized and respected journalists.
She anchored news and current affairs programs on both French- and English-language television networks, and also produced documentary films.
In 2005, Jean became the first Canadian of Caribbean origin to serve as Governor-General. During her term, she led 40 missions and state visits to countries around the world, and also navigated the potential constitutional crisis that ended with the prorogation of Parliament in 2008.
She served in the vice-regal position until 2010, and soon after her term she was named Special Envoy to Haiti by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Jean is also founder and co-director of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, a charitable organization that promotes and supports youth arts initiatives that “transform young lives and revitalize underserved communities.”
Jean is a Companion of the Order of Canada (CC) and has won numerous awards, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Canada Award; Prix Anik for best information reporting in Canada; and the inaugural Amnesty International Canada Journalism Award.
The Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue française bestowed upon her the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade. She was recently conferred the Grand Cross, the highest dignity from the order of the Legion of Honour of the French Republic.
In addition, the Universities Fighting World Hunger international network oversees the new Michaëlle Jean Award.
“Both in her professional life and through her commitment to public service, Mme Jean has been a truly inspirational figure to Canadians,” said Dominic Giroux, President and Vice-Chancellor, Laurentian University.
“We are honoured to call her a member of the Laurentian University community.”