An emotional Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean was given a 21-gun salute Wednesday during her final appearance before the Canadian Forces as their commander in chief.
Jean, along with Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, inspected the soldiers who put on a full military parade at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
Canada's 27th governor general, who will officially finish her duties Thursday, spoke at length with many of the soldiers in line, even hugging one. Throughout her five years in the post, Jean has been closely involved with the military, even wearing a uniform on one of her two visits to Afghanistan.
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"I have never once hesitated to don the military uniforms of the three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces to honour the women and men who wear them so proudly," Jean said during her final address to the troops.
"This gesture was hardly insignificant for me, having grown up under the yoke of a merciless dictatorship where military uniforms were associated with the brutal repression of the population," Jean added, referring to her upbringing in Haiti.
During the ceremony, Natynczyk gave Jean a framed replica of the official standard of the Governor General, adorned with the insignias of the navy, army, Canadian Forces, air force and special forces.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff praised Jean's work in Haiti and Africa, but singled out her "extraordinary compassion" when dealing with those who lost a family member serving in Afghanistan.
"She had an amazing ability to reach out to men and women who had just lost a loved one and make them feel that their government, their country, cared about them," Ignatieff said.
Jean will soon begin work with the United Nations.
She has also established the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, which will work alongside community leaders to design programs to identify at-risk youth and help them realize their potential.
"With her excellency, what Canadians see is exactly who she is," said Doug Black, the foundation's chair.
"She's open, she's warm, she cares, she's the type of person who likes to make a difference."
David Johnston, former president of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, will be sworn in as Governor General on Friday.