The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean

©UNESCO/Danica Bijeljac
The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti

Michaëlle Jean was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She immigrated to Canada with her family in 1968, fleeing the dictatorial regime of the time.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature at the University of Montréal, she pursued her master's studies in comparative literature and taught at the university's Faculty of Italian Studies. Three scholarships allowed her to pursue her studies at the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. She is fluent in five languages: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Creole and fluently reads Portuguese.

During her studies, Michaëlle Jean worked for ten years with Quebec shelters for battered women, while actively contributing to the establishment of a network of emergency shelters throughout Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. She later ventured into journalism and became a highly regarded journalist and anchor of information programs at Radio-Canada and CBC Newsworld. She also took part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, including A State of Blackness: Aimé Césaire’s Way (La manière nègre ou Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant), Tropic North (Tropique Nord), Haiti in All Our Dreams (Haïti dans tous nos rêves), and Last Call for Cuba (L’heure de Cuba), all of which earned awards both in Canada and internationally. The couple has a daughter, Marie-Éden.

Michaëlle Jean has won numerous awards, including the Prix Mireille-Lanctôt for a report on spousal violence; the Prix Anik for best information reporting in Canada for her investigation of the power of money in Haitian society; and the inaugural Amnesty International Canada Journalism Award. She 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 an honorary citizen by the City of Montréal and the Ministère de l’Immigration et des relations avec les citoyens du Québec, in recognition of her accomplishments in communications.

Sworn in on September 27, 2005, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, since Confederation in 1867, assumed the function of Head of State. She ensured that the institutional space she occupied could become, more than ever before, a meeting place where dialogue prevails and citizen voices are heard. A fervent practitioner of diplomacy of proximity and diplomacy on a human scale, she also led forty missions and State visits abroad in Afghanistan, in China, in ten African countries, in nine countries in the Americas, and in more than ten European countries.

During her mandate, the Governor General has been awarded honorary degrees from the following universities:

  • University of Ottawa (2006);
  • University of Foreigners of Perugia in Italy (2006);
  • McGill University (2006);
  • York University (2007);
  • University of Manitoba (2007);
  • University of Alberta (2008);
  • Université de Moncton (2009);
  • Université Laval (2009);
  • Royal Military College of Canada (2010); and
  • Université de Montréal (2010).

Recently, the Governor General was presented the 2009 United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Canada Award for her outstanding manner in advancing gender equality.

In 2009, she received the Board of Governors Recognition Achievement Award from the National Quality Institute for her contribution to the quality of life of Canadians and humanity.

In December 2014, further to her election as a Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Michaëlle Jean resigned as a UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti.

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