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The Right Honourable Jules Léger

Appointed: October 5, 1973
Sworn In: January 14, 1974, Ottawa
Born: April 4, 1913, St-Anicet, Quebec
Died: November 22, 1980


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Jules Léger was our 21st Governor General and the 3rd Canadian to hold the position. He was born  on April 4th, 1913 in the town of St-Anicet in Quebec. As were time times, Léger grew up in a very religious setting and his older brother, Paul-Emile Léger was to join the priesthood in Quebec and rose to the position of Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Léger began hi studies at Collège de Valleyfield in the arts and later moved onto the University of Montreal. After earning his Law Degree he travelled to France where he attended the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1938 he was awarded his doctorate from that institution and married Gabrielle Carmel who he had met in France.

Léger, with an interest in international relations, returned to Canada and moved to Ottawa where he was an associate editor for a publication and taught at the University of Ottawa in 1938 and 1939, In 1940 he left the academic world and joined the Ministry of External Affairs and started a successful career as a diplomat. By 1953 he had be named Canada's ambassador to Mexico, and moved up quickly in the Ministry with terms as Ambassador to Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

On January 14th, 1974, he was appointed as Governor General of Canada but while at an official event, six months later, he suffered a stroke and left him with severe speaking problems and a paralytic left arm. Rather then retire and give in to the setback, he, with the help of his wife Gabrielle and his therapist worked intensely to rehabilitate himself and regain the use of his speech. During this process, Gabrielle was constantly at his side and in many cases represented him by giving speeches such as a portion of the throne speech and presided over events he had been invited to or was scheduled to attend.

In December of 1974 Léger was able to officially resume his duties as Governor General and perform the official functions of his office. As he healed he and Gabrielle were able to travel across the country constantly and during those trips they showed a devoted support for the fine arts. This was a period of rising tensions in Quebec and Canada, due to the rising tide of separatism which was to come to a head in 1980.

He established several awards such as the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, the award for heritage conservation and the  Jules Léger Scholarship for academic excellence in bilingual projects.

His official portrait included his wife Gabrielle because of her devoted support during his illness and her willingness to step into his role when required. This is the only portrait which has the consort of the Governor General included.

Léger left office in 1979 but remained in Ottawa and on November 22nd, 1980 he passed away.

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