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Closing off Rideau Hall

When describing Jeanne Sauvé, it's hard not to think of the word "first." She was the first woman MP from Quebec to become a cabinet minister, Canada's first female Speaker of the House, and the first female governor general. As she moved from broadcast journalist to high-profile political figure, Sauvé undoubtedly had her share of challenges and controversies. But through it all, the woman of "firsts" never lost her characteristic elegance and grace.

Joggers and sightseers can't freely wander the grounds of Rideau Hall anymore. If you want to see the governor general's official residence, you have to be invited or make an appointment. According to this 1986 news clip, officials claim it wasn't Sauvé who insisted on closing the property to the public. But reporter Justin De Beaucamp says she has privately expressed concerns about safety before. "As she puts it, 'I'm worried about those crazy men out there,'" quotes De Beaucamp. 
• Many Ottawa residents took great offence to the closing of Rideau Hall to the public. One group of Ottawa residents, who called themselves the Canada Unlock the Gate Group, charged that it was more about Sauvé's selfish desire for privacy than any real security risks. A 1986 Globe and Mail article discussed how the group wanted to boycott the Governor General's annual garden party because of what they called her "bunker mentality."

• The National Capital Commission which oversees official residences consistently maintained that the closure was indeed for security reasons, and that it simply brought access to Rideau Hall into line with all the other official residences in Ottawa. Pre-arranged tours were allowed on certain days, but tourists and the general public could no longer roam free on the grounds.

• The closing of Rideau Hall to the public created such a stir that it was inevitably mentioned in most of Sauvé's career wrap-ups or obituaries.
. Interestingly, in a 1983 interview with CBC reporter Jason Moscovitz before she was sworn in as governor general, Sauvé was asked if she would keep the grounds of Rideau Hall open. "Oh yes, definitely, it has to be open," was her reply.

• In a 1992 Canadian Business magazine article by Michael Bliss, the historian discussed the lack of "regalness" displayed by recent governors general. He pointed to Sauvé as an exception, however, making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Rideau Hall incident: "Sauvé, a former Liberal cabinet minister, did have a certain amount of semi-regal grace and arrogance (shown in her closing the grounds of Rideau Hall to mere commoners, for example)."

• Sauvé's successor, Ray Hnatyshyn, opened the gates to the public again.

• Today (2005), the grounds are open from 8 a.m. until one hour before sunset every day. Free guided tours are available at certain times throughout the week, depending on the time of year. During winter months, the skating rink is also open to the public on weekends and to organized groups by reservation throughout the week. jeanne sauve
Medium: Television
Program: CBC News
Broadcast Date: March 6, 1986
Reporter: Justin De Beaucamp
Duration: 1:19

Last updated: April 16, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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