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Michaëlle Jean says goodbye on Parliament Hill

In Canada on September 28, 2010 at 20:44
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Michaelle Jean says goodbye on Parliament Hill

September 28, 2010

Joanna Smith

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Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean gestures to the audience during a farewell reception in her honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday Sept. 28, 2010.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA—The key to governing this country is to listen to its people, Governor General Michaëlle Jean told parliamentarians at a farewell reception to mark the end of her tenure.

“Good governance is first and foremost inclusive,” Jean told a small gathering of MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill, who celebrated her five years in the job Tuesday. “The people of this country want to be part of the solution.”

Jean said that as a woman who came from a country where “social foundations had collapsed; where power was exercised brutally to the detriment of all,” she was “extraordinarily lucky to be able to pursue her dreams in a country where anything is possible.”

Jean fled Haiti with her family as an 11-year-old girl and settled in Montreal, where she grew up to become a broadcast journalist.

She was appointed Governor General in 2005 by then-prime minister Paul Martin in 2005 and, after her tenure ends Friday, she will become a special envoy to Haiti for UNESCO, with a focus on rebuilding educational institutions and the cultural and heritage infrastructure of the tiny island nation devastated by the January earthquake.

Her time representing Queen Elizabeth II has been a busy one, with the instability of minority governments making her a witness to two elections and two sudden prorogations.

“Parliamentary life in this country has been rather eventful these past five years,” Jean said to chuckles, noting the proof was in the fact she had read five Speeches from the Throne in as many years. “It was, without a doubt, a clue to the democratic health of the country – and very certainly to my own.”

The reception was hosted by Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella and House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, who spoke of her compassion, warmth and how she has championed both her native country and the Canadian military, where she has served officially as Commander-in-Chief.

Kinsella noted the past five years have been “difficult” for the Canadian military and said he was touched by her compassion to families of soldiers who were killed overseas.

Milliken noted her talent for playing the piano, which he said was one of the first possessions that Jean’s mother bought after her family moved to Montreal.

Jean is expected to say her goodbyes to the Canadian military with a speech at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed academic David Johnson as the incoming governor general.

Neither was present at the reception Tuesday.

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