Adrienne Louise Clarkson
In September 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Adrienne Clarkson governor general. Her appointment marked several "firsts" in the selection of Canada's governor general: she was the first without a military or political background, and the first non-white Canadian to be appointed to the vice-regal position.
Adrienne Louise Clarkson, CC, television personality, journalist and novelist, public servant, publisher, governor general (born 10 Feb 1939 in Hong Kong). A successful, award-winning broadcast and print journalist, in 1999, Adrienne Clarkson was the first non-white person appointed as governor general.
Early Life and Education
Adrienne Louise Clarkson was born in Hong Kong in 1939. The daughter of William Poy, a prominent businessman who lost his property after the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941, Adrienne Clarkson arrived in Canada with her parents as refugees in 1942. “We arrived with one suitcase apiece and nothing else,” Clarkson said in a 2002 speech to a refugee committee in Red Deer, Alberta. “I was very fortunate that my family never thought of themselves as having lost anything of real value. We lost only material things… We didn’t lose what we really believed in as human beings.”
Clarkson grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, where she attended public schools. She studied at the University of Toronto, where she received an Honours BA, and an MA in English Literature in 1961. From 1961 to 1963, she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
Early and Mid Career
In 1965, Clarkson began an award-winning, 18-year-long career as TV host-interviewer, writer and producer for the CBC programs Take 30, Adrienne at Large and The Fifth Estate, gaining a unique reputation for her incisiveness, charm and poise. Between 1968 and 1971, McClelland & Stewart published her two novels, A Lover More Condoling and Hunger Trace, and New Press published her interviews in True to You In My Fashion.
She was appointed Ontario's first agent-general in Paris from 1982 to 1987, and publisher of McClelland & Stewart from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, she returned to broadcasting as executive producer and host of CBC's national arts showcase Adrienne Clarkson Presents. Clarkson later served as chair of the board of trustees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History) in Hull, Québec, and was president of the executive board of IMZ, the international audio-visual association based in Vienna. She was also the executive producer and host of the CBC Television program Something Special.
In September 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Clarkson governor general. She took office on 7 October 1999, as the 26th governor general of Canada. Her appointment marked several "firsts" in the selection of Canada's governor general: she was the first without a military or political background, and the first non-white Canadian to be appointed to the vice-regal position.
Clarkson faced intense scrutiny from MPs and the Canadian public for what was deemed lavish spending during her tenure as governor general. Her 2003 $5-million state visit to Russia, Finland and Iceland provoked a great deal of anger and resulted in Clarkson's officials being questioned by a House of Commons committee inquiry, resulting in a reduction in her budget. Still others claim that the 19-day circumpolar "northern identity" tour, which included 50 other Canadian dignitaries, was a resounding success, enabling Canada to foster a successful relationship with the northern European countries. Clarkson's dedication to the vice-regal role was also questioned during her notable absence from important national events, such as the funeral service of Alberta's former lieutenant-governor, Lois Hole .
Yet Clarkson's tenure had many successes. She continued to be an ardent patron of the arts and travelled overseas to support troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Clarkson maintained that she would attempt to forge stronger ties between Canada and northern Indigenous peoples during her time as governor general, which she achieved in part by the creation of the Governor General's Northern Medal, awarded annually to a northern citizen whose work has helped affirm the Canadian North as part of the national identity. She also travelled throughout Canada more than any other governor general, visiting its people and bringing a sense of modernity to the vice-regal position.
Though Clarkson's term was to have ended in 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin asked that she remain in office an additional year, believing that continuity in the vice-regal role would offer Canadians a sense of stability in the face of an insecure minority government. Though bothered by heart problems in 2005, she remained until 27 September 2005, when she was succeeded by Michaëlle Jean .
Later Career and Life
Clarkson was married to Stephen Clarkson, a professor of Political Economy at University of Toronto, from 1963 to 1975. In 1999, Clarkson married philosopher and novelist John Ralston Saul. In 2005, they co-founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, which aims to accelerate cultural integration of new citizens into Canadian society. In 2006, Clarkson published her autobiography, Heart Matters (Penguin), which became a bestseller. In 2007, she was appointed colonel-in-chief of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry; and, in 2009, she published a biography on Norman Bethune, which was part of Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians Series. In 2011, she published Room for Us All (Penguin), a compilation of stories about the immigrant experience in Canada. Clarkson delivered the 2014 CBC Massey Lectures, Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship. Her CBC Massey Lectures were also published by House of Anansi Press.
Awards and Acknowledgements
Clarkson has received numerous awards and recognition both during her career in broadcasting and her tenure as governor general. She received ACTRA Awards in 1974 and 1982, and a Gemini Award in 1993 for her work in broadcasting. She has also received 32 honorary doctorates from universities, including the University of Ottawa, University of Prince Edward Island, Queen's University, Acadian University, Dalhousie University, Lakehead University and University of Western Ontario. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Trinity College, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Royal Society of Canada. She received the Grand Cross of l’ordre de la Pléiade from France and was the first Canadian to be honoured with the Order of Friendship from the Russian Federation.