Toronto Star

Thursday, September 9, 1999

New governor-general
really a two-for-one deal
MOVING UP: Canada's next governor-general, former broadcaster Adrienne Clarkson, and her husband, writer John Ralston Saul , in Ottawa yesterday.

PM names Clarkson

First immigrant to be named to Rideau Hall

By William Walker
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Jean Chrétien achieved a long list of ``firsts'' when he chose former broadcaster Adrienne Clarkson as governor-general.

Clarkson will be the first immigrant and the first refugee to serve as governor-general. She will also be the first person to have a spouse work in tandem in carrying out the duties of the post.

Chrétien surprised many Ottawa insiders yesterday by naming the former CBC television personality as Canada's 26th governor-general. She officially becomes the Queen's representative in Canada on Oct. 7.

``I am very honoured to be the first woman of neither founding nation to be governor-general of Canada - it has deep meaning for me,'' Clarkson, 60, said later.

She was born in Hong Kong and moved to Canada at age 3 when her parents, William and Ethel Poy, settled as refugees in Ottawa in 1942.

``I am the first immigrant, I am originally a refugee and I think this a very important evolution for Canada,'' she said.

`Most important of all, she is a person who loves her adopted country and her people.'
- Prime Minister
Jean Chrétien

`We see it as a positive step as something that would promote the inclusiveness of the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial community that we live in.'
- Kirpa Fekhar
National Action Committee on the Status of Women

Chrétien conceded it was important to appoint an immigrant to the post at a time when Canada is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse.

``Most important of all, she is a person who loves her adopted country and her people,'' Chrétien said.

Clarkson, who will earn $98,000 (tax-free) in the job, will move from her Yorkville-area home in Toronto to the posh residence at Rideau Hall (and a second residence at La Citadelle in Quebec city).

She will replace Roméo LeBlanc, 71, who has held the job since 1995. LeBlanc announced earlier this year he wanted to step down this fall.

Clarkson indicated yesterday she intends to perform her duties in tandem with her husband, acclaimed writer John Ralston Saul. The pair were married this summer after 15 years together.

The Prime Minister's office highlighted what was in effect a ``two-for-one'' appointment by including Ralston Saul's biography in the press kit announcing Clarkson's appointment.

``There's only one governor-general,'' Ralston Saul told reporters, when asked what kind of role he would play.

``On the other hand, this nomination I think shows how much more interesting and sophisticated we've become about how couples work and that's a positive sign.''

Said Clarkson: ``I'm not yet ready to tell you just what our ideas might be, but we intend to try to work together to do something for the country.

``We hope very much to bring something to it that will be original, which will incarnate something for the Canadian people and which will be part of our national fabric and life. I am looking forward to it very much.''

Clarkson will preside over some 400 public events per year, many involving visiting heads of state.

She'll also inherit a large staff available at both residences, a sizeable entertainment budget, RCMP security, limousines and access to free travel by government jet.

Her first trip will be to London, England, to thank the Queen for her appointment. She also intends to travel extensively in Canada.

Clarkson's resume runs eight pages and lists many prizes, awards, arts juries, speeches given, films she has made and books she has written.

She is currently chairperson of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, president of the Vienna-based International Music Centre, a lay bencher with the Law Society of Upper Canada and executive producer and host of CBC television's Something Special.

Clarkson's 34-year career at the CBC and her deep involvement in the arts community - for which she earned the Order of Canada - was interrupted only from 1982 to 1987 when she served as Ontario's agent-general in France.

She is the author of two novels, A Lover More Condoling (1968, McClelland and Stewart) and Hunger Trace (1970, McClelland and Stewart), as well as a book of essays called True To You In My Fashion (1972, New Press).

She has also written, directed and produced films including The Lust In His Eye: Visions of James Wilson Morrice (1995, Montreal Film Festival), 1994's Borduas and Me and Artemisia (1992, Toronto Festival of Festivals).

Clarkson's primary education was in Ottawa, before earning a bachelor's and master's degree in literature at the University of Toronto, followed by post-graduate studies at the Sorbonne in Paris.

She has two university-aged children from her marriage to Stephen Clarkson.

Still, the question on the minds of many about Clarkson's appointment yesterday was why she got the job.

Chrétien had indicated he favoured a former politician in the event of a constitutional crisis involving Quebec.

But the Prime Minister suddenly swerved the other way, saying yesterday that wasn't his only criterion.

Insiders say he decided it was more important to appoint a woman of ethnicity at this time, one who more accurately reflected Canada's makeup than perhaps any titleholder in the past.

Chrétien also argued it was Ontario's turn, noting there has not been a governor-general from this province since the late Roland Michener, who served from 1967 to '74.

Clarkson's appointment was made by the Queen at the Prime Minister's request. Clarkson has never been elected to public office.

Her past is not without controversy.

Last year, as head of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Clarkson was accused by Cliff Chadderton of the National Council of Veterans Associations of ``wishy-washy'' support for veterans in their concerns over a Holocaust gallery at the new Canadian War Museum.

Clarkson has also spoken out in the past against bulk water exports to the United States, against the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, in favour of more funding for the CBC and against corporate culture.

Yesterday Clarkson said she won't hesitate to face head-on any future constitutional crisis involving Quebec and national unity.

``Obviously, the governor-general has close contact with the prime minister . . . but I believe at that time the issue would be discussed and we'd see what it gives rise to,'' she said.

``Even if there is protocol it doesn't mean we are dehumanized. We are still there as human beings . . . that's the most important thing. We are never prisoners of protocol.''

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