The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean was appointed chancellor of the University of Ottawa on February 1, 2012.
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, Ms. Jean worked for 10 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, essayist and philosopher 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.
Ms. 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. In addition, she holds the following official titles: membership in the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (PC), Companion of the Order of Canada (CC), Commander of the Order of Military Merit (CMM), Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (COM) and the Canadian Forces Decoration (CD).
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.
On October 1st, 2010, Ms. Jean was appointed UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti. She and her husband, philosopher, filmmaker and essayist Jean-Daniel Lafond, oversee the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. The Foundation empowers underserved youth, across Canada, to use the arts to take action for change in their communities.
That same year, when asked by the Secretary General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, Ms. Jean accepted the role of Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On November 7, 2011, the University of Ottawa appointed Ms. Jean the new Chancellor of the institution, who assumed her position on February 1st, 2012.
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);
- Université de Montréal (2010);
- University of Guelph (2011);
- University of Calgary (2011);
- The Law Society of Upper Canada (2012);
- Carleton University (2012);
- École normale supérieure de Lyon (2012);
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 2011, the Universities Fighting World Hunger international network launched the Michaëlle Jean Award granted to students who have made a major contribution to fighting hunger in situations of emergency relief.
The Chancellor of the University is appointed by the Board with the concurrence of the Senate and holds office for four years with eligibility for re-appointment.
The Chancellor is the titular head of the University and is accorded the place of honour at commencement exercises and other functions.