The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean receives Key to the City of Ottawa on International Women’s Day

Published on
March 7, 2022
Arts, heritage and events
Council, committees and City Hall

Mayor Jim Watson presented the Key to the City to the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean at the Mayor’s annual International Women’s Day breakfast this morning, in recognition of her illustrious and distinguished career as a journalist, 27th Governor General of Canada, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti and third Secretary General for La Francophonie.

The event was co-hosted by Councillor Theresa Kavanagh, Council Liaison for Women and Gender Equity, and Michaëlle Jean delivered the keynote speech.

Starting in her 20s and for over 10 years, Michaëlle Jean has been active within the Quebec women’s movement, working tirelessly to help build a vast network with hundreds of emergency shelters for battered women and their children.

A woman of action and vision, Michaëlle Jean has demonstrated fearless commitment in the promotion of peace, including in countering terrorism, radicalization and extremism. Humanistic values, courage, tenaciousness, along with indomitable optimism and creativity are hallmarks of her character.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias, which aims to imagine a gender equal world. Women and gender equity is key to building a vibrant and inclusive community, and the City’s Women and Gender Equity Strategy continues to guide the City’s work in removing barriers and improving access for all women and gender diverse persons.

Quotes

“Michaëlle Jean has had a remarkable career, serving our country with grace, fearlessly promoting peace and working to support women and youth. I am especially honoured to present Michaëlle Jean with the Key to the City today, on International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the incredible accomplishments of women in Ottawa and around the world.”

Mayor Jim Watson

Key facts

  • The Key to the City is Ottawa’s most prestigious award.
  • The Key to the City was first presented in 1935 by His Worship Stanley Lewis to Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor General of Canada, and his wife Lady Tweedsmuir.
  • Previous Key to the City recipients include author Margaret Atwood, photographer Yousuf Karsh, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, actress Sandra Oh and retired hockey player Daniel Alfredsson.
  • The Key to the City was last awarded to Sue Garvey.
  • The Key to the City is being presented to the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean in recognition of her illustrious and distinguished career as a journalist, 27th Governor General of Canada, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti and third Secretary General for La Francophonie.

Biography – The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, P.C., C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.

Michaëlle Jean, the 27th Governor General, and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, was sworn-in on September 27, 2005, for a five-year mandate. As soon as the mandate ended, on October 1, 2010, the United Nations immediately called on her to become UNESCO Special Envoy to support reconstruction efforts in Haiti, her country of birth devastated that same year because of a powerful earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, with as many wounded and displaced.

From 2011 to 2014, Michaëlle Jean also served as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, where her offices as UNESCO Special Envoy were hosted. On November 30, 2014, Michaëlle Jean became the 3rd Secretary General of La Francophonie a position she held from January 5, 2015, to January 3, 2019.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1957, Michaëlle Jean came to Canada in 1968 with her parents, one of thousands of families fleeing the dictatorial regime of François Duvalier. She experienced the great trials of a forced exile, what it means to start from scratch, to rebuild oneself. Quebec became her new homeland and she earned a Bachelor of Arts in modern literature and languages (Italian and Spanish) at the Université de Montréal. She is so gifted that she was entrusted with teaching Italian language and literature for two years, while pursuing with equal success her Master's in Comparative Literature. Three 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 and Spanish.

Starting in her 20s and for over 10 years, Michaëlle Jean has been active within the Quebec women’s movement, working tirelessly to help build a vast network with hundreds of emergency shelters for battered women and their children.

From 1988 to 2005, Michaëlle Jean enjoyed an outstanding career as a journalist, presenter and news anchor on Canadian public television, both on French and English networks. Her accomplishments in journalism earned her numerous awards, including from the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, which highlights her outstanding merit by naming her to the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade. She also takes part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker, essayist and philosopher Jean-Daniel Lafond including: “A State of Blackness: Aimé Césaire’s Way,” “Tropic North,” “Haiti in All Our Dreams,” “Last Call for Cuba,” and “A Woman of Purpose.”

Together, they founded and have chaired since 2010 the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, whose programs support, through art and culture, civic initiatives alongside some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised—yet so eager and creative—young people in Canada.

A woman of action and vision, Michaëlle Jean has demonstrated fearless commitment in the promotion of peace, including in countering terrorism, radicalization and extremism. Humanistic values, courage, tenaciousness, along with indomitable optimism and creativity are hallmarks of her character.

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