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Governor General Jeanne Sauvé

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.

media clip
"I am looking forward to the job very much," says Jeanne Sauvé, referring to her recent appointment as Governor General. But interviewer Walter Stewart has some tough questions for her. Isn't the job largely ceremonial? Won't it be boring? And will she have difficulty keeping all her political opinions to herself? In this 1983 radio clip, she responds to all his questions with an unwaveringly positive attitude.
• Trudeau asked Sauvé to be the next Governor General at the end of 1983. She was thrilled at the prospect and accepted right away. She was scheduled to be sworn in in early March 1984.
• The governor general is the Queen's representative in Canada. Since Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, the Queen is Canada's head of state.
• Like the Speaker of the House, the governor general must remain non-partisan.

• As representative of the Crown, the governor general gives royal assent to bills passed in Parliament, signs state documents, swears in prime ministers, accepts the credentials of ambassadors, reads the speech from the throne and dissolves Parliament for an election. The governor general's duties also include celebrating excellence within Canada by administering awards like the Order of Canada, promoting national identity and unity within Canada, and travelling to other countries to build bridges and promote goodwill.

• The media generally applauded the fact that Sauvé would be the new governor general, taking over from Edward Schreyer. Many columnists believed her elegance and refined nature made her perfect for the role. "She is bilingual, a superb hostess and a mature, dignified public figure," wrote Carol Goar in the January 1984 issue of Maclean's. "She is expected to restore grace and refinement to Government House after five years of Edward Schreyer's earnest Prairie populism and lacklustre reign."

• Because journalists knew she had strong opinions on certain subjects, Sauvé was frequently asked how difficult it was to remain completely neutral as governor general. In a 1983 Globe and Mail article about her new appointment, she said that after several years as Speaker she was "well-trained" in suppressing her political instinct. And in a 1985 interview with Peter Gzowski, she admitted it was often quite difficult for her to stay out of political discussions, but said it wasn't unbearable. jeanne sauve
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Dec. 27, 1983
Guest(s): Jeanne Sauvé
Host: Alan Maitland
Interviewer: Walter Stewart
Duration: 6:56

Last updated: April 16, 2013

Page consulted on May 27, 2014

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