Jeanne Sauvé

From New World Encyclopedia

Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé
Jeanne Sauvé

23rd Governor General of Canada
In office
May 14, 1984 – January 29, 1990
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Brian Mulroney
Preceded by Edward Schreyer
Succeeded by Ray Hnatyshyn

Born April 26, 1922(1922-04-26,)
Prud'homme, Saskatchewan
Died January 26, 1993 (aged 70)
Montreal, Quebec
Spouse Maurice Sauvé
Profession Politician, Journalist
Religion Roman Catholic

Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé PC CC CMM CD (née Benoît) (April 26, 1922 – January 26, 1993) was a Canadian journalist, politician, and stateswoman. She was the first woman in Canadian history to become Governor General. She was a notable first female in a variety of additional positions, including Speaker of House the Commons, and was dedicated to the pursuit of peace and the advancement of youth.

Sauvé's main objective was to see to the fulfillment of national unity among Canadians of diverse backgrounds, an agenda she pushed with the utmost enthusiasm. Her tenure was marked by extensive travel and meetings with a variety of esteemed national leaders. Sauvé was also a noted cancer battler whose struggle with the condition ultimately ended with her death in 1993. Several instances of her legacy can be found in the titles of educational institutions and respected awards that bear her name. With so many "firsts" to her name and a record of competency and distinguished service in all her roles, Jeanne Sauvé life of public service is a model for others, men as well as women, to follow.

Early life

Sauvé was born in the Fransaskois community of Prud'homme, Saskatchewan to Charles Albert Benoît and Anna Vaillant. She studied at Notre Dame du Rosaire Convent in Ottawa and at the University of Ottawa. She was actively involved in student and political affairs and became the national president of the Young Catholic Students Group at the age of 20.

On September 24, 1948, she married Maurice Sauvé. Later that year, they moved to Europe, where she earned a diploma in French civilization at the Université de Paris. The couple had one child. Sauvé was a founding member of the Institute of Political Research and for over 28 years had a distinguished career as a journalist and broadcaster with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.[1]

Parliamentary career

She was elected Liberal MP from Montreal in 1972, and was, along with Monique Bégin and Albanie Morin, one of the first three women ever elected to the House of Commons from Quebec. Sauvé became the first woman cabinet member from Quebec as Minister of State for Science and Technology under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. She was re-elected in July 1974 and given the environment portfolio. In 1975, she was appointed Minister of Communications with responsibility for French-speaking countries in the Department of External Affairs. She also opened the first daycare on Parliament Hill.

In 1980, Trudeau appointed her as the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons.

Despite being in the non-partisan role of Speaker, Sauvé campaigned for the "No" forces during the 1980 Quebec referendum. This was possible as all parties in the House of Commons at that time were federalist and because the referendum was provincial, not federal.

As well as presiding over debate, the Speaker of the House of Commons is also responsible for managing expenses and staff. As Speaker she implemented reforms to professionalize the management of the House.

She presided over debates on the Canadian Constitution dealing with filibusters and numerous points of order. She was also Speaker during an Opposition campaign against the Energy Security Act, which culminated in a two-week bell-ringing episode when the Official Opposition's Whip refused to appear on the floor of the Commons to indicate the Opposition was ready for a vote. Despite pressure by the government that she intervene to resolve the deadlock she maintained that it was up to the parties to resolve it themselves through negotiation.

Did you know?
Jeanne Sauvé was the first woman to be appointed Governor General of Canada

In the winter of 1983, Prime Minister Trudeau announced her appointment as Governor General. She became the second woman in a Commonwealth realm to assume the office, the first being Elmira Minita Gordon of Belize. She was sworn in on May 14, 1984.

Governor general

Sauvé had been a long-time sufferer from cancer. In the weeks leading to her inauguration she unexpectedly became ill, and nearly died in the hospital. She made a surprising recovery, however, and was ultimately able to be sworn in on May 14, 1984, without delay.

Sauvé was a staunch advocate of issues surrounding youth and world peace, and the dove of peace is one of the elements incorporated into Sauvé's coat-of-arms. Long before her vice-regal mandate, she worked as assistant to the Director of the Youth Secretariat of UNESCO, served as Secretary of the Canadian Committee for the World Assembly of Youth, and initiated and hosted a discussion show for youth. At Rideau Hall, she established two awards for students wishing to enter the field of special education for exceptional children. And at the end of her mandate, she established the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation, dedicated to the cause of youth excellence in Canada.

Sauvé's concern for youth and peace were two of the three central themes of her mandate—the third was national unity. She traveled extensively, making her role as Governor General—a largely symbolic office—accessible to all Canadians. In her installation speech she spoke about the need for Canadians to forgo a narrow sense of their nation and to become more tolerant. "This is the price of our happiness," she said, "but happiness will never be found in the spirit of 'every man for himself'."[2]

Sauvé was an honorary member of the Royal Military College of Canada Club H16929. Fort Sauvé at Royal Military College of Canada was named in her honor.

In 1986, Sauvé accepted on behalf of the "People of Canada" the Nansen Medal, a prestigious international humanitarian award which is given in recognition of major and sustained efforts made on behalf of refugees. This was the first time since the medal's inception in 1954 that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees presented it to an entire population. The Nansen Medal is kept at Rideau Hall.

Sauvé's enthusiasm for the value of sports led her to establish the Jeanne Sauvé Trophy for the world cup championship in women's field hockey. She also created the Jeanne Sauvé Fair Play Award to recognize national amateur athletes who best demonstrate fair play and non-violence in sport. She also encouraged a safer society in Canada by establishing the Governor General's Award for Safety in the Workplace.

Sauvé and her love of education and co-existence between French- and English-speaking Canadians led for the first French immersion school in western Canada to be founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The school was aptly named Collège Jeanne-Sauvé.

During her term as Governor General Sauvé made state visits to Italy; the Vatican; the People's Republic of China; Thailand, where she received an honorary doctorate in political science from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; and to France, where she received the Médaille de la Chancellerie des universités de Paris, La Sorbonne, Paris. She also made a state visit to Uruguay and Brazil, and to commemorate the Brazil visit the "Governor General Jeanne Sauvé Fellowship/Bourse commémorative du Gouverneur général Jeanne Sauvé," an award to be made each year to a Brazilian graduate student in Canadian Studies, was established.

Sauvé also received a number of distinguished visitors, including: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Hussein of Jordan, Pope John Paul II, U.N. Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, French President François Mitterrand, Chinese President Li Xiannian; Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu, as well as the presidents of Israel, Tanzania, Italy, the People's Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Cameroon, Iceland, and the Philippines. As well, in 1988, Sauvé met with Mother Teresa of Calcutta at the Citadelle. That same year, she opened the XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.

She also hosted Prince Edward, who presented the Royal Letters Patent signed by the Queen patriating heraldry to Canada, which led to the establishment of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. As the Head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority the Governor General holds the Sovereign's prerogative power and provides for the creation of new heraldic honors in the form of coats of arms, flags, badges, and other emblems.

One of her favorite events was the annual Christmas party for the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club and its French counterpart, the Patro d'Ottawa. The children came to Rideau Hall for lunch and a visit with Santa. Sauvé personally hosted her young guests and wore a paper party hat to celebrate the special occasion.[3]

During his wife's mandate Maurice Sauvé continued to pursue his own business concerns while participating in many Canadian cultural activities. As the spouse of the Governor General, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and was the first male viceregal consort.

One major criticism of Sauvé was her security concerns surrounding the vice-regal estates, which led to the prohibition of tours of La Citadelle and limited access to Rideau Hall.


After completing her term of office as Governor General in 1990 Sauvé retired to Montreal, where she worked to forward the interests of the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation.

She died of cancer on January 26, 1993, aged 70, after a long battle; her husband had died the previous year.

They are interred in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montreal, Quebec.

Legacy and honors

Sauvé was an important national figure. She was one of Canada's first woman parliament members elected from Quebec, Quebec's first female cabinet minister, the first female Speaker of the House of Commons, and the first woman appointed as Governor General of Canada. She visited several distant and divergent nations during her years in office and, as a symbol of national identity, personally met with a diverse number of foreign officials and leaders. During her lifetime, Sauvé was dedicated to the unification of Canada's citizens above all things. She was also involved in the peace movement and in promoting her country's young people. Her battle with cancer highlighted her strength and inner drive. She made several notable contributions to the Canadian people, women as a whole, and the world community during her tenure in office.

She received many awards and honors:

  • Privy councilor November 27, 1972,[4] giving her the style "The Honourable" and postnomial "PC" for life.
  • Styled "Her Excellency The Right Honourable" for term as governor general; styled "The Right Honourable" for life after leaving office.
  • Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada for term as governor general; Companion of the order after leaving office.
  • Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit for term as governor general; Commander of the order after leaving office.
  • Canadian Forces Decoration
  • Dame Grand Cross of the Order and Prior and Chief Officer in Canada of St John of Jerusalem
  • Dame of Justice in the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.
  • Canadian Centennial Medal
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
  • Granted arms, crest, and supporters by the English College of Arms in 1985, then later by the Canadian Heraldic Authority, November 19, 1985.[5]
  • 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal
  • Honorary doctorate in political science from the Chulalongkorn University
  • Médaille de la Chancellerie des universités de Paris

A number of schools and buildings were named for her including:

  • Fort Sauvé at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario was named in her honor in 2001. This dormitory houses 5, 6, and 7 Squadrons.
  • Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, a French-immersion high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is named after her.

'Commonwealth Realms honors’
Country Award or order Class or position Year Citation
Flag of Canada.svg
Canadian Centennial Medal - 1967
Flag of Canada.svg
Queen's Privy Council for Canada Member 1972
Flag of Canada.svg
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal - 1977
Flag of Canada.svg
Order of Canada Companion 1984
Flag of Canada.svg
Order of Military Merit Commander 1984
Flag of Canada.svg
Canadian Forces Decoration - 1984
Flag of Canada.svg
Order of St. John Dame of Justice 1984
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Order of St. John Dame of Justice 1984
Flag of Canada.svg
125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal - 1992
20th Ministry - First Government of Pierre Trudeau
Cabinet Posts (4)
Predecessor Office Successor
Otto Lang Minister of Communications
David MacDonald
Jack Davis Minister of the Environment
Roméo LeBlanc (acting)
Minister of State for Science and Technology
Minister of State
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by:
Jean-Léo Rochon
Member of Parliament for Ahuntsic
Redistributed between
Saint-Denis and Saint-Michel
New Title
from parts of four other districts
MP for Laval-des-Rapides
Succeeded by: Raymond Garneau
Political offices
Preceded by:
James Jerome
Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons
Succeeded by:
Cyril Francis
Government offices
Preceded by:
Edward Schreyer
Governor General of Canada
Succeeded by:
Ray Hnatyshyn


  1. Irma Coucill, Canada's Prime Ministers, Governors General and Fathers of Confederation (Markham, Ontario: Pembroke Publishers Limited, 2005, ISBN 1551381850), 98.
  2. Shirley E. Woods, Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé (Halifax, Nova Scotia: Formac Publishing Co., 1987, ISBN 0887801498), 190.
  3. Wood, 211-113.
  4. Historical alphabetical list Government of Canada: King's Privy Council for Canada. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  5. Arms of Past and Present Canadian Governors General Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Retrieved November 29, 20228.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Coucill, Irma. Canada's Prime Ministers, Governors General and Fathers of Confederation. Markham, Ontario: Pembroke Publishers Limited, 2005. ISBN 1551381850
  • Greenwood, Barbara. Jeanne Sauvé. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Limited, 1989. ISBN 0889028540
  • Woods, Shirley E. Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Formac Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0887801498


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