Michaëlle Jean – WOMAN of ACTION™



A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this powerful example of a woman that can rise above extraordinary circumstance and achieve leadership at the top of her class. Throughout the life of this woman, her prevailing mission has been for the betterment of the lives of those around her, within her scope and beyond. Starting out in journalism, writing of the world moving through life to the highest of stations, this woman will always be celebrated at a human of empathy and heart, be noted here: “Her ability to personally connect with those she met was also noted, as well as her frequent displays of emotion; commentators dubbed her the empathizer-in-chief.”






Michaëlle Jean

Michaëlle Jean PC CC CMM COM CD FRCPSC(hon) (French pronunciation: ​[mika.ɛl ʒɑ̃]; born September 6, 1957) is a Canadian journalist and stateswoman who served as Governor General of Canada, the 27th since Canadian Confederation, from 2005 to 2010, a social activist, journalist, documentary filmmaker, governor general (b at Port-au-Prince, Haiti 6 Sept 1957).

Haiti_relief_location_mapJean’s early years were spent in a middle-class neighbourhood in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, where her father was principal and teacher of philosophy at an elite, Protestant preparatory school.

She was educated at home because her parents, Roger and Luce, did not want her to attend school, where she would have to swear allegiance to dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

In 1965, her father was arrested and tortured.

In 1967 he fled to Canada; his wife and two daughters joined him the next year.

She was baptized at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and spent winters in that city and summers and weekends in Jacmel, her mother’s hometown. Though her father worked as principal and teacher for an elite Protestant private school in Port-au-Prince, Jean was educated at home, as her parents did not want her swearing allegiance to the then Haitian president, François Duvalier, as all Haitian schoolchildren were required to do.

Thetford Mines, QuebecWith her family, Jean fled Haiti to escape Duvalier’s regime, under which Jean’s father was in 1965 arrested and tortured.

Jean’s father left for Canada in 1967 and Jean, her mother, and sister, arrived the following year; the family settled together at Thetford Mines, Quebec.

Jean’s father, however, became increasingly distant and violent, and her parents’ marriage eventually fell apart; she, with her mother and sister, then moved to a basement apartment in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature, and continued her studies towards a Master of Arts in comparative literature at the University of Montreal. From 1984 to 1986, she taught at the Faculty of Italian Studies at the same university. During the 1980s, she pursued linguistic and literary studies at the University of Perouse, the University of Florence and the Catholic University of Milan, all of which cited her for excellence. She is fluent in five languages: French, English, Italian, Spanish and Creole.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MUST STOPAs she pursued her studies, Michaëlle Jean worked for eight years, from 1979 to 1987, with Québec shelters for battered women. She has taken in, supported and accompanied hundreds of women and children in crisis, while actively contributing to the establishment of a network of emergency shelters throughout Québec and elsewhere in Canada.

She was also involved in aid organizations for immigrant women and families, and later worked at Employment and Immigration Canada and at the Conseil des Communautés culturelles du Québec.

Madame Jean’s sense of social commitment and her appreciation of national and international realities led her to journalism. For 18 years, she has been a highly regarded journalist and anchor of information programs. susanne radioShe joined Radio-Canada in 1988, working successively as a reporter and host on such news and public affairs programs as Actuel , Montréal ce soir, Virages and Le Point . In 1995, she anchored a number of Réseau de l’Information à Radio-Canada (RDI) programs such as Le Monde ce soir, l’Édition québécoise, Horizons francophones, Les Grands reportages, Le Journal RDI, and RDI à l’écoute. In 1999, she was also asked by the English network, CBC Newsworld, to host The Passionate Eye and Rough Cuts which broadcast the best in Canadian and foreign documentary films.

In 2001, Michaëlle Jean began anchoring the weekend editions of Radio-Canada’s major news broadcast Le Téléjournal. In 2003, she became the anchor of Le Téléjournal’s daily edition Le Midi.

In 2004, she started her own show, Michaëlle, which is broadcast on both French-language public television networks. This program features a series of in-depth interviews with experts, enthusiasts and visionaries.

In the mid-1990s, Michaëlle Jean also participated in a number of documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond: La manière nègre ou Aimé Césaire chemin faisant, Tropique Nord, Haïti dans tous nos rêves, and L’heure de Cuba. These thought-provoking documentaries were critically acclaimed and earned awards both in Canada and internationally.

humanrightsMichaëlle Jean has won numerous honours for her professional achievements, including: the Human Rights League of Canada’s 1989 Media Award for her report titled La pasionaria, on the struggle of an immigrant woman in Québec; the Prix Mireille-Lanctôt for her report titled Partir à zéro, dealing with spousal violence; the Prix Anik for best information reporting in Canada for her investigation of the power of money in Haitian society; the inaugural Amnesty International Canada Journalism Award; the Galaxi Award for best information host; the 2001 Gemini Award for best interview in any category; and the Conseil de la Langue Française du Québec’s Prix Raymond-Charette. Michaëlle Jean has also been named to the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade by the Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue française, and has been made a citizen of honour by the City of Montreal and the Ministère de l’Immigration et des relations avec les citoyens of Quebec in recognition of her accomplishments in communications.

Jean denied separatist leanings, renounced her citizenship of France, and eventually became a respected vicereine.

Jean became a reporter, filmmaker, and broadcaster for Radio-Canada in 1988, hosting news and affairs programmes such as Actuel, Montréal ce soir, Virages, and Le Point; she was the first person of Caribbean descent to be seen on French television news in Canada. She then moved in 1995 to Réseau de l’information (RDI), Radio-Canada’s all-news channel, in order to anchor a number of programmes, Le Monde ce soir, l’Édition québécoise, Horizons francophones, Les Grands reportages, Le Journal RDI, and RDI à l’écoute, for example.

Four years later, she was asked by CBC’s English language all-news channel, CBC Newsworld, to host The Passionate Eye and Rough Cuts, which both broadcast the best in Canadian and foreign documentary films. By 2004, Jean was hosting her own show, Michaëlle, while continuing to anchor RDI’s Grands reportages, as well as acting occasionally as anchor of Le Téléjournal.

Over the same period, Jean made several films with her husband, including the award winning Haïti dans tous nos rêves (“Haiti in All Our Dreams“), in which she meets her uncle, the poet and essayist René Depestre, who fled from the Duvalier dictatorship into exile in France and wrote about his dreams for Haiti, and tells him Haiti awaits his return. She similarly produced and hosted news and documentary programming for television on both the English and French services of the CBC.

The Catholic University of Milan, where Jean studied languages and literature

University_of_Milan_logoJean received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature from the University of Montreal, and, from 1984 to 1986, taught Italian Studies there, while completing her Master of Arts degree in comparative literature. She then went on with language and literature studies at the University of Florence, the University of Perugia, and the Catholic University of Milan.

Besides French and English, Jean is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and Haitian Creole, and can read Portuguese.

Concurrent with her studies between 1979 and 1987, Jean coordinated a study on spousal abuse and worked at a women’s shelter, which paved the way for her establishment of a network of shelters for women and children across Canada. She also involved herself in organizations dedicated to assisting immigrants to Canada obtain the entry they desired, and later worked for Employment and Immigration Canada and at the Conseil des Communautés culturelles du Québec, where Jean began writing about the experiences of immigrant women. She married French-born, Canadian filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, and the couple adopted as their daughter Marie-Éden, an orphaned child from Jacmel.

Jean was a refugee from Haiti—coming to Canada in 1968 — and was raised in the town of Thetford Mines, Quebec. After receiving a number of university degrees, Jean worked as a journalist and broadcaster for Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as undertaking charity work, mostly in the field of assisting victims of domestic violence.

Crest_of_the_Governor-General_of_Canada.svgIn 2005, she was appointed governor general by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin, to replace Adrienne Clarkson as vicereine (A woman who is the governor of a country, province, or colony, ruling as the representative of a sovereign), and she occupied the post until succeeded by David Johnston in 2010. Early in her tenure, comments of hers recorded in some of the film works by her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, were construed as supporting Quebec sovereignty and her holding of dual citizenship caused doubt about her loyalties.

Jean was Canada’s first governor general of Caribbean origin; the third woman (after Jeanne Sauvé and Adrienne Clarkson); the fourth youngest (after the Marquess of Lorne, who was 33 years old in 1878; the Marquess of Lansdowne, who was 38 years old in 1883; and Edward Schreyer, who was 43 years old in 1979); the fourth former journalist (after Sauvé, Roméo LeBlanc and Clarkson); and the second after Clarkson to not only have neither a political nor military background, but also to be a visible minority, to break the tradition of Canadian-born governors general, and to be in an interracial marriage.

Jean was also the first representative of Queen Elizabeth II to have been born during the latter’s reign, and her appointment saw the first child living in Rideau Hall, the official residence, since Schreyer and his young family lived there in the early 1980s.

Royal_Visit_Toronto_2010_9Jean (left) with Queen Elizabeth II at Queen’s Park, Toronto, July 2010

Jean announced to the press in early 2010 that she would step out of the viceregal role near the end of the traditional, but not official, five-year period. The then official opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff, publicly advocated the extension of Jean’s tenure, in doing so breaking the tradition of keeping consultations on the next governor general among the prime minister and opposition party leaders confidential. Polls conducted around that time showed that Jean had earned an approval rating of 60%, and a constitutional expert at the University of Toronto called her performance as governor general “superb,” though some of her missteps were noted.

jean tulips netherlandsOn May 10, 2010, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands presented Jean with a new tulip cultivar named the Michaëlle Jean tulip; with deep maroon petals; it was designed to reflect the Governor General’s personal tastes. This carried on the tradition of Dutch royals gifting tulips to Canada.

Summaries of Jean’s time as the Queen’s representative emerged by mid-2010; Jean was regarded as having fulfilled the role in an admirable, though not perfect, fashion.

It was noted that she used the office, her speaking abilities, and photogenic nature to Canada’s advantage, promoting freedom, human rights, and urban youth, and to bring attention to socio-economic problems in the country’s north.

She was commended for her dedication to the arts, Aboriginal Canadians, the Armed Forces, and her outreach to Haiti following the earthquake there, but critiqued for specific incidents, such as referring to herself as Canada’s head of state and making public comments that skirted the political. Her ability to personally connect with those she met was also noted, as well as her frequent displays of emotion; commentators dubbed her the empathizer-in-chief.

michaelle jean foundation (1)In the weeks before Jean’s departure from the viceregal office, the Cabinet announced that the Michaëlle Jean Foundation would be established by the federal Crown-in-Council to focus on promoting education, culture, and creativity among youth from rural, northern, and/or poor communities in Canada.

It was also reported that the Secretary-General of the United Nations would be appointing Jean to act as special envoy to Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with an aim to fight poverty and illiteracy and raise international funds.

JeanThe Governor General and her troopsGovernor General Michaelle Jean visited staff and patients at the Role 3 Hospital at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009 including a seven-year-old boy who lost his leg in an IED blast.

Jean has wrapped up a two-day whirlwind tour of Afghanistan, where she’s encouraging Canadian soldiers to stay the course in helping better the lives of the Afghan people.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland – Michaelle Jean in Afganistan – 06/08

She was on November 8, 2010, appointed for a four-year term. Although the position’s office is located in Paris, France, Jean opted to remain in Canada and base herself out of space provided by the University of Ottawa and rented by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation.

jean_inhaiti.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterboxVisiting the devasted Haiti in March, Michaelle Jean walks into the demolished St. Trinite church in Port-au-Prince where she was baptized as a baby. Accompanying her are her husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, left, and Father Beauvoir.

In early 2011, Jean made a call for the overhaul of Haiti’s education system, as “the cornerstone of the impoverished nation’s future prosperity.”

In April, 2011 Jean was appointed by Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of La Francophonie, as the Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, with the task of promoting the French language and ensuring compliance by the London Olympic Organizing Committee with rule 24 of the Olympic Charter, which gives French the status of an official language of the Olympic Games. Later in the year, it was announced that Jean had been appointed as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and she began her term on February 1, 2012.

Michaelle Jean was sworn in as a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada on September 26, 2012, giving her the accordant style of The Honourable; however, as a former Governor General of Canada, Jean is entitled to be styled for life with the superior form of The Right Honourable.


Jean is currently the Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

Michaëlle Jean is married to Jean-Daniel Lafond. Their daughter, Marie-Éden. Michaëlle Jean’s family also includes Mr. Lafond’s two daughters from a previous marriage and his two grandchildren.



FIND Michaëlle Jean HERE

Contact – Michaëlle Jean Foundation

Michaëlle Jean (@MichaelleJeanF) on Twitter

Michaëlle Jean, Envoyée spéciale de l’UNESCO pour Haïti

Facebook – Michaëlle Jean



A Celebration of Women™

is elated to welcome this power of example of what positive action can be accomplished through the ability to practice empathy. Team Celebration in appreciation looks forward to collaboration in bettering lives for all women, building future women leaders.


Brava Michaëlle!


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