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The Right Honourable Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé

Appointed: January 28, 1984
Sworn In: May 14, 1984, Ottawa
Born: April 26, 1922, Prud'homme, Saskatchewan
Died: January 26, 1993



Jeanne Sauvé


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Canada's first female Governor General was born in Prud'homme Saskatchewan and at the age of 3 moved to Ottawa which was where the his family had previously lived. Growing up in the politically charged environment of Canada's capital instilled a deep interest in Parliamentary activities and national politics in Sauvé. As a young girl, her father pointed out a bronze bust of Agnes Macphail, Canada's first female MP. She worked hard at her school work and while attending the University of Ottawa, earned money as a translator for the Canadian Government.

In 1942 she moved to Montreal where she meet Maurice Sauvé and they were married in 1948. He was offered a scholarship at the London School of Economics in 1948 and they moved to England and then to Paris in 1950 where she was hired by UNESCO and also attended the Sorbonne, where she graduated with a degree in French Civilization.

In 1952 the couple returned to Canada and she was hired in 1959 by the CBC after giving birth to a child, Jean-Francois. Sauvé worked hard in radio ad then television with the CBC and became a good friend of Gerard Pelletier who was later to be labeled as one of the 3wise men from Quebec who were to change politics in Ottawa in the 60's.

By 1972 she was wooed by her Quebec friends and associates to run for the Liberals in the Federal election in the riding of Laval-des-Rapides. She won the riding and was appointed Minister of States by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. She was the only female in the cabinet and the first female to appointed as a cabinet minister in the Canadian government. She won re-election in 1974 and became Minister of the Environment and then Minister of Communications.

By 1979 the Liberals were in trouble and although they lost their majority and became to opposition, Sauvé won re-election once again. When Trudeau returned to run once again in 1980 in the face of rising separatist threats in Quebec, he won the election and pushed to have Sauvé elected as the Speaker of the House of Commons where many felt she could have a positive impact for Canadian Unity.

She did campaign in the referendum debate in Quebec for the Federalist forces and the resultant victory for unity calmed the uncertainty down for the time being. Her role as Speaker of the House of Commons got off to a very rocky start as she made many mistakes in procedure, had trouble recognizing all of the MP's and generally seemed to fumble along. This uncertainty gradually disappeared as she not only grew into the role but began to institute a wide variety of reforms and cost cutting measures  which had positive results in the overall operation of the House and the effectiveness of her position. She eventually earned the respect of all parties and worked hard to keep the Speakers position a fair, non-partisan role.

In 1983 the Trudeau era was beginning to wind down and in December he proposed Jeanne Sauvé be appointed as successor to Ed Schreyer as the Governor General of Canada. After a stint in the Hospital with an undisclosed illness she took up the role as Governor General on May 14, 1984.

She took office and dedicated herself to youth, national unity and world peace. This focus on world peace coincided with Trudeau's efforts to try and calm down the heightening tensions of the cold war. Her relationship with Brian Mulroney, who became Prime Minister in 1985, was reputed to be an uncomfortable one with friction between the two.

As Governor General she travelled widely, representing Canada Internationally and meeting many foreign heads of state to Canada. She managed to evolve the office of the Governor General as the new Constitution was implemented and the system adapted to the changes in the document. At the end of her time in office, the separatist question began to loom large again and the attempts by Mulroney to have the Meet Lake agreement approved became a focal point for Sauvé. Although she did not specifically mention the agreement, she did comment on affairs generally which led some leaders in Canada to accuse her of meddling in Partisan politics rather then remaining aloof.

After leaving office in 1990 and returning to Montreal she once again took up her work with the Sauvé Foundation but both Sauvé and her husband passed away fairly quickly. She died on January 26, 1993. The cause of her demise was the result of her battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which was probably the illness she had suffered from just before her appointment as Governor General.

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