Michaëlle Jean was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1957. In 1968, she immigrated to Canada with her parents, one of thousands of families fleeing the dictatorial regime of François Duvalier.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature at Université de Montréal, she completed her Master's in Comparative Literature and taught at UdeM's Department of Literature and Modern Languages. Three scholarships allowed her to pursue her studies at the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. Ms. Jean is fluent in five languages: French, English, Italian, Spanish, Creole, and she reads Portuguese.

Concurrent to her studies, Ms. Jean worked for 10 years with Quebec shelters for battered women and their children. She contributed to the establishment of a broad network of emergency shelters throughout the province, and elsewhere in Canada.

Michaëlle Jean enjoyed an outstanding career as a journalist, presenter and news anchor for programs at Radio-Canada and CBC Newsworld. She also took part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, including A State of Blackness: Aimé Césaire’s Way (La manière nègre ou Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant), Tropic North (Tropique Nord), Haiti in All Our Dreams (Haïti dans tous nos rêves), and Last Call for Cuba (L’heure de Cuba), all of which earned awards in Canada, and internationally. The couple has a daughter, Marie-Éden.

Madame Jean's work in journalism has won her numerous awards, including the Prix Mireille-Lanctôt for a report on spousal violence; the Prix Anik for best news reporting in Canada for her investigation into the power of money in Haitian society; and the inaugural Amnesty International Canada Journalism Award.

In further recognition of her quality journalism and social engagement, Michaëlle Jean has been named to the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade, by the Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue française, and was made an Honorary citizen by the City of Montréal and the Ministère de l’Immigration et des relations avec les citoyens du Québec.

On September 27, 2005, Michaëlle Jean was sworn in as the 27th Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada since Confederation in 1867. Among the prerogatives of the highest function as Crown representative in Canada, the office led her to assume the position of de facto Head of State.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean has seen to it that the institutional spaces she filled serve more than ever as a gathering point for dialogue, where the voices of citizens could be heard. As she crisscrossed Canada's provinces and territories, everywhere she sought face-to-face encounters with civil society organizations, effectively bringing together decision-makers and citizens, promoting synergies, deep sharing, and the creation of nation-wide action networks. Youth remained a core priority, especially in underserved communities: the precarious conditions and challenges they confront, their concerns, their social involvement, their initiatives, creativity, and accomplishments. Michaëlle Jean is a fervent practitioner of a diplomacy of proximity, applied on a human scale. In this spirit, she led some forty missions and State visits abroad, including in Afghanistan, China, ten African countries, nine countries of the Americas, and over ten European countries.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean holds the following official titles: Member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (C.P.), Companion of the Order of Canada (C.C.), Commander of the Order of Military Merit (C.M.M.), Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (C.O.M.) and the Canadian Forces Decoration (C.D.).

On July 13, 2011, France elected to elevate Ms. Jean to the dignified rank of the Grand-Croix de l’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, in recognition of her commitment to Canadian and international Francophonie.

As her mandate as Governor General came to an end, on October 1st, 2010, Michaëlle Jean agreed to serve as UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, her country of birth devastated earlier that year by an earthquake that took 300,000 lives. She advocates tirelessly for the country's major efforts at reconstruction. She champions projects that support Haiti's social, economic and sustainable development, strengthened institutions and good governance, improved living conditions and the rule of law, the nation's willingness to pull out of chronic dependency on international aid, the need to improve skills and build capacity, an overhaul of the education system, the protection of the country's biodiversity and natural heritage.

Michaëlle Jean, along with her husband, philosopher, filmmaker and essayist Jean-Daniel Lafond, also actively co-chairs the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, her legacy project as Governor General, whose mission it is to promote and support the citizen-based initiatives of at-risk youth who use the arts as a means to take action on social issues that impact them, and to revitalize their communities.

In 2010, when asked by the Secretary General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, Ms. Jean accepted and filled with vibrancy and sensitivity the role of Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The University of Ottawa houses the offices of the UNESCO Special Envoy and those of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. On November 7, 2011, the University of Ottawa appointed Michaëlle Jean as Chancellor, a role she has assumed since February 1st, 2012.

In recognition of her merits, Michaëlle Jean has been awarded honorary degrees from the following universities:
University of Ottawa (2006);
University of Foreigners of Perugia in Italy (2006);
McGill University (2006);
York University (2007);
University of Manitoba (2007);
University of Alberta (2008);
Université de Moncton (2009);
Université Laval (2009);
Royal Military College of Canada (2010);
Université de Montréal (2010), her alma mater;
University of Guelph (2011);
University of Calgary (2011);
The Law Society of Upper Canada (2012);
Carleton University (2012);
École normale supérieure de Lyon (2012);
DePaul University of Chicago (2013);
NorQuest College (2013);

Michaëlle Jean was awarded the 2009 United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Canada Award for her outstanding contribution in advancing gender equality.

In 2009, she received the Board of Governors Recognition Achievement Award from the National Quality Institute for her contribution to the quality of life of Canadians, and humanity.

In 2011, the Universities Fighting World Hunger international network launched the Michaëlle Jean Award granted to students who have made a major contribution to combating hunger in an emergency relief situation.


The Chancellor of the University is appointed by the Board with the concurrence of the Senate and holds office for four years with eligibility for re-appointment.

The Chancellor is the titular head of the University and is accorded the place of honour at commencement exercises and other functions.