Our Founders

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, C.P., C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.


Michaëlle Jean is the 27th Governor General, Commander-in-Chief of Canada, sworn in September 27, 2005, for a five-year mandate. As soon as the mandate ended, on October 1st, 2010, the United Nations immediately called on her to become UNESCO Special Envoy to support reconstruction efforts in Haiti, her country of birth devastated that same year as a result of a powerful earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, with as many wounded and displaced. From 2011 to 2014, Michaëlle Jean also served as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa, where her offices as UNESCO Special Envoy were hosted. On November 30, 2014, Michaëlle Jean then becomes the 3rd Secretary General of La Francophonie at the 15th Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Dakar, a position to which she devoted her whole energies from January 5, 2015, to January 3, 2019.

Seasoned stateswoman and diplomat, her voice is gifted with the power to convene everywhere in the multilateral sphere, in every UN forum, from New York to Geneva, all the way to the Security Council, as well as within the European Union, the European Parliament, the OECD, the African Union. Michaëlle Jean knows how to persuade, mobilize, educate, unite, and testify eloquently to the key issues and state of the world she has travelled extensively, from one continent to another. She is best known and appreciated for her convictions, her deep sense of the universal values, principles and rules of democracy, of the rule of law, of justice, and of the rights and freedoms which she never betrays. She has a proven capacity to engage with heads of state and government, in conjunction with players from the private sector, alongside local populations, women and youth in particular, innovative and sustainable multi-sectoral projects and programs, with a view to revitalizing economic, environmental and cultural ecosystems. Michaëlle Jean believes in the unique potency of fieldwork, in making investments in human capital, in capacity and knowledge building, and in modernizing education as well as vocational, technical and technological training. She knows how to mobilize youth with passion and gusto, how to inspire and help them identify opportunities for co-operation, how to create new and diversified synergies.

A woman of action and vision, Michaëlle Jean has demonstrated fearless commitment in the promotion of peace, including in countering terrorism, radicalization and extremism. Humanistic values, courage, tenaciousness, along with indomitable optimism and creativity are hallmarks of her character. 

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1957, Michaëlle Jean comes to Canada in 1968 with her parents, one of thousands of families fleeing the dictatorial regime of François Duvalier. She experiences the great trials of a forced exile, what it means to start from scratch, to rebuild oneself. Quebec becomes her new homeland. At the Université de Montréal, she earns a Bachelor of Arts in modern literature and languages (Italian and Spanish). She is so gifted that she is entrusted with teaching Italian language and literature for two years, while pursuing with equal success her Master’s in Comparative Literature. Three scholarships allow her to pursue her studies at the University of Perugia, the University of Florence, and the Catholic University of Milan. Michaëlle Jean is fluent in five languages: French, Haitian Creole, English, Italian, Spanish, and she reads Portuguese.

Starting in her 20s and for over 10 years, Michaëlle Jean is active within the Quebec women’s movement, working tirelessly to help build a vast network with hundreds of emergency shelters for battered women and their children. The network will spread throughout Quebec into other Canadian provinces. 

From 1988 to 2005, Michaëlle Jean enjoys an outstanding career as a journalist, presenter and news anchor on Canadian public television, both French and English networks. Her accomplishments in journalism earn her numerous awards, including from the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, which highlights her outstanding merit by naming her to the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade. She also takes part in documentary films produced by her husband, filmmaker, essayist and philosopher Jean-Daniel Lafond: “A State of Blackness: Aimé Césaire’s Way,” “Tropic North,” “Haiti in All Our Dreams,” “Last Call for Cuba,” and “A Woman of Purpose.”

Together, they founded and have chaired since 2010 the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, whose programs support, through art and culture, civic initiatives alongside some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised—yet so eager and creative—young people in Canada.

Titles and Awards

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 elevates Ms. Jean to the dignified rank of the Grand Cross, the highest distinction granted by the order of the Legion of Honour, in recognition of “her acute awareness of the rights and freedoms that she defends on all fronts,” her “deep sense of solidarity,” “her unwavering courage to fight the injustices of this world,” her “strong connection with France” and her “eminent contribution to Franco-Canadian friendship”. 

On June 30, 2014, the country of Benin elevates Ms. Jean to the rank of Grand Cross of the National Order of Benin. On Aprils 14, 2015, Cameroon honours and decorates her with the distinction of Grand Officer of the Order of Valour of Cameroon. On June 17, 2016, the President of the Republic of Mali elevates in turn Michaëlle Jean to the honour of Grand Cross of the National Order of Mali, the country’s highest distinction, as an expression of gratitude for the role of the Secretary General of La Francophonie in supporting Mali through its current crisis.

In 2003, the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie had highlighted her outstanding merit by naming her to the Ordre des Chevaliers de La Pléiade. The City of Montréal and the Ministère de l’Immigration et des relations avec les citoyens du Québec also made her an Honorary Citizen.

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

On June 20, 2016, the President of Mali, HE Ibrahim Boubacar Kéïta, elevates Michaëlle Jean to the rank of Grand Cross of the National Order of Mali.

January 20, 2017, Michaëlle Jean is elevated to the rank of Grand Officer of the National Order of Niger by Prime Minister, Head of government, HE Brigi Rafini.

On March 20, 2017, in Côte d’Ivoire, Ms. Jean is made Honorary Citizen of the city of Abidjan by Mr. Robert Beugré Mambé, minister to the President of the Republic in charge of the VIIth Games of La Francophonie.

On September 14, 2018, Michaëlle Jean is honoured to be invested by the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Zohrab MNATSAKANYAN, into the National Order of Armenia.

Honorary Doctorates

A number of universities have conferred honorary doctorates recognizing her commitments and accomplishments:

  • 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);
  • Laurentian University (2014);
  • University of Yaounde I–Cameroon (2015);
  • University of Bangui (2017).
Jean-Daniel Lafond, C.C., R.C.A.,Ch.A&L

Jean-Daniel Lafond is a filmmaker, a writer and a producer of documentary films, and a former professor of philosophy. As the very active spouse of the former Gouvernor general and Head of State Michaelle Jean (2005-2010), he has steadfastly supported his wife. He has directed his passion and ideas towards the institution of the governor general and to the Canadian people. With the objective of enriching national dialogue, he has enthusiastically embarked on two ambitious projects:

  • a series of forums, entitled Art Matters, which provide exciting opportunities to bring together laureates, artists, academics, administrators and members of the public to observe and discuss the challenges related to culture in our society. Over 50 Art Matters forums have been held at Rideau Hall, during visits to the provinces and territories, and during official visits abroad.
  • and the Citizen Voices website. An innovative and dynamic tool, it allows people to communicate easily, expand their networks and connect . Citizen Voices has become a platform to sound off on a variety of topics and issues, such as citizen engagement, youth, women and the arts. Visitors have had the opportunity to read blogs by their Excellencies and by guest bloggers; to participate in online forums, in particular Youth Forum and Urban Forum two important pilars of the former Governor general’s mandate.

To reflect their complementary action during the mandate, The Honourable Michaëlle Jean and Jean-Daniel Lafond co-founded with a group of philanthropists, creators and cultural workers the Michaelle Jean Foundation wich became at the end of the tenure the official legacy of the 27th Governor general of Canada. Jean-Daniel Lafond became (october 1st,2010) the co-president and the Executive Director of the Foundation ( www.fmjf.ca )


Jean-Daniel Lafond was born in France at the end of the Second Wolrd War. At a very early age, he discovered his first passion – the theatre – while attending school. He performed on the stage on a regular basis until 1971, and again in June 2000.

After studying literature and philosophy, Mr. Lafond taught philosophy from 1966 to 1971, while pursuing research in audio-visual training and communications. He worked closely with the research branches of the Service de radiodiffusion télévision française, the Institut National de la Recherche Pédagogique and the Atelier de Création Radiophonique de Radio-France.

He contributed to the publication La Revue du Cinéma from 1968 to 1986, and has published numerous theoretical and critical reviews of the film industry. During this period, he also participated in many educational or experimental productions.

In 1974, he left France for Quebec, Canada, and became a Canadian citizen in 1981. As a visiting professor and researcher in education sciences at the University of Montreal, he worked on the development of an experimental training program for teachers in the audio-visual field. In the early 1980s, he left the university to focus solely on his true passions: film-making, radio and writing.

In 1985, at the National Film Board, he directed his first Canadian documentary: Les Traces du rêve (1987 Genie nomination for best documentary). He has since produced some fifteen documentary films, including Le Voyage au bout de la route, Tropique Nord (TV5 award for best French-language documentary), Haïti dans tous nos rêves (best political film award, Hot Docs Festival, Toronto), Salam Iran, a Persian Letter (2002 Gemini Award) and Le cabinet du Docteur Ferron ( 2004 Gemini Award).His documentaries encourage viewers to reflect on the destiny of individuals and peoples.

In addition to film, he has developed a body of original works for radio (for France-Culture and for Radio-Canada) and has authored many books. Since 2002, he has also been a regular contributor as a guest philosopher on the program Indicatif Présent on Radio-Canada’s radio network.

An advocate for fictional and documentary cinema, he has been a Board member and Vice-President of l’Association québécoise des réalisateurs et des réalisatrices de cinéma et de télévision, as well as co-founder and President of the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal and of the Observatoire canadien du Documentaire (Canadian Documentary Network). In 1999, he was awarded the Prix Lumières by the Association québécoise des réalisateurs in recognition of his advocacy for the profession and for creative freedom. He is Companion of the Order of Canada (CC) and was elected in 2009 member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art (RCA).

Mr. Lafond is married to Michaëlle Jean. Their daughter, Marie-Eden, is 16 years old. He has two other daughters, Estelle and Élise, from a previous marriage, as well as two granddaughters, Éléonore and Justine and a grandson Adrien.


The Films of Jean-Daniel Lafond

The cinema of Jean-Daniel Lafond is a species of conversation. More precisely, it is an ongoing and engaged Socratic dialogue investigating Canada and ‘Canadianness’ and its place in the world. His work stretches from Canada’s far north down south to Haiti, from the cinema of Pierre Perrault to the poetry of Aime Cesaire, from the turbulent politics of contemporary Quebec to the unsettling realities of Iran and Cuba, from the 20th Century arrivals to Canada of Haitians to the 17th Century French colonial experience in New France. It is an extraordinary record of our times. More than that, though, it is a philosophical inquiry into our times, a series of absorbing conversations about the world we inhabit together.

This retrospective features his works from 1986 onward, spanning 22 years of award-winning filmmaking. Fascinated by how societies develop and function, Lafond’s work is populated by artists, citizens, and intellectuals who are attempting to imagine, articulate, and realize a vision of culture and society. Whether the subject is the complexities of Canada, the Caribbean, or Iran, Lafond’s searching cinema is propelled by ideas and questions of cultural history, geopolitical forces, and individual imaginative energy, all in constant play. His work offers a broad set of lines of inquiry, an absorbing investigative skein of intellectual, civic, and emotional entanglements

His latest film, the astonishing FOLLE DE DIEU, weaves these inquiries together and broadens the canvas upon which they are depicted to include the metaphysical, the spiritual, the ecstatic. Ideas of colony, gender, political power and cultural specificity are here located and in some senses embodied in the extraordinary life of Marie de l’Incarnation, who left her family in France to become a nun in 17th Century Quebec, then New France. Her journey, in its historical detail and its fictional re-enactment, is a fascinating chapter in the history of the relationship between northern North America and those who arrived from elsewhere to dream it, in however flawed a manner, into some kind of new shape.

The cinema of Jean-Daniel Lafond is a cinema of dialogue, a cinema of inventive philosophical inquiry. It allows its subjects to speak, to reveal their paradoxes and contradictions. Lafond’s work asks: what is Canada? What do we understand to be its past, present, and possible futures? From the political to the personal, from Europe to the Caribbean to the snows of Quebec City, then, Lafond’s films trouble safe assumptions about history, politics, economics, ethnicity, power, and even documentary film practice itself. His impassioned, sceptical films refuse to sit still. They keep investigating, seeking, asking; for, as Wittgenstein’s famous maxim reminds us: if a question can be asked, it can be answered. It is in the asking of better questions, perhaps, that better answers can be imagined.

Tom McSorley , director of the Canadian Film Institute (Ottawa)

  • Dream Tracks* (Les traces du rêve), feature film, National Film Board production, Canada, 1986.
  • Le voyage au bout de la route ou la Ballade du pays qui attend, feature film, National Film Board production, Canada, 1987.
  • Le visiteur d’un soir, medium-length feature, National Film Board production, Canada, 1989.
  • *A State of Blackness: Aimé Césaire’s Way (La Manière Nègre ou Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant), feature film, Canada-France co-production, ACPAV (Quebec) and RFO (Martinique), 1991.
  • *Tropic North (Tropique Nord), feature film, ACPAV production, Canada, 1994.
  • *Freedom Outraged (La liberté en colère), feature film, National Film Board production, Canada, 1994.
  • *Haiti in All Our Dreams (Haïti dans tous nos rêves), feature film, Canada-France co-production: InformAction Films and Équipage. Canada-France, 1995.
  • *Last Call for Cuba (L’heure de Cuba), feature film, InformAction Films, co-production with the National Film Board, Canada, 1999.
  • The Barbarian Files (Le temps des barbares), feature film, Alterciné production, co-production with the National Film Board and the Rogers Fund, in conjunction with Théâtre des Fédérés-Montluçon (France), Canada, 1999.
  • Salam Iran, a Persian Letter (Salam Iran, une lettre persane), feature film, InformAction Films production with Télé-Québec and TV5, Canada, 2002.
    Le faiseur de théâtre, medium-length feature; Les Films d’Ici et INA production, France, 2002.
  • The Cabinet of Doctor Ferron (Le Cabinet du Docteur Ferron), feature film, National Film Board production, Canada, 2003.
  • American Fugitive or The Truth about Hassan (Le Fugitif ou les vérités d’Hassan), feature film, Télé-Québec, Radio-Canada, InformAction Films production, Canada, 2006.
  • Truth and Controversy (Vérité et controverse), 6-film DVD box set featuring interviews with the director; National Film Board and Imavision co-production, 2006.
  • Madwoman of God (Folle de Dieu), feature film, National Film Board production, Canada 2008.
  • A Woman of Purpose (Un film avec toi), InformaActionfilms, National Film Board, Majda Films International, Canada, 2015.

* denotes films included in the DVD box set Truth and Controversy.

  • Près du sol (based on a novel by Émile Guillaumin, 1900). Adaptation and script: Jean-Daniel Lafond, Olivier Perrier, Angela Serreau. Direction: Olivier Perrier, with the collaboration of Jean-Daniel Lafond. Production: Théâtre des Fédérés-Montluçon/Centre national Dramatique (France). Staged July 2000 as part of the 25th Rencontres Théâtrales d’Hérisson (France).
  • Marie ou la Déraison d’Amour (based on the writings of Marie Guyart or Marie de l’Incarnation). Play, in collaboration with Marie Tifo (2005). Production : Théâtre du Trident (Québec), Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (Montréal) with Marie Tifo, mise-en-scène by Lorraine Pintal. Premiere: Fall 2008, for the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. Toured in France. Reprised in June 2009: Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Montréal.
Radio Productions
  • Robert Flaherty, prospecteur et cinéaste ou le rêve d’un prince, radio broadcast (four hours), Atelier de Création radiophonique, Radio-France (1983).
  • Jacques Cartier, le voyage imaginé, series of 13 hour-long broadcasts, Radio-Canada and Radio-France co-production (1984).
  • Vol AF033 Paris-Montréal via Fantômas ou Georges Franju, le rêveur immobile, radio broadcast, ACR/Radio-France production (1985).
  • Subsonique, radio poem with original score by Francis Dhomont, ACR/Radio-France production (1985).
  • Les traces du rêve ou Pierre Perrault, cinéaste, chasseur et Québécois, ACR/Radio-France production (1988).
  • Trois voyages à l’Acadie, series of three two-hour broadcasts, ACR/Radio-France production (1988).
  • Mystère, original soundtrack created for an animated film series (produced by Animathon, Leduc and Awad), 1987.
  • Chili, la mémoire et l’oubli, radio production in 10 episodes, SCAM (Paris) and Radio-Canada co-production, 1992
  • La Manière Nègre, genèse d’un film, radio production in three, hour-long episodes, Radio-Canada production, 1993.
  • Cinq ballades acadiennes, five-episode radio series, each an hour long; new version of Trois voyages à l’Acadie, 1994.
  • Tiroirs sonores: des bruits et des voix (“Fou de la radio”, CIBL, April 1996, 90 min.)
  • Les quatre saisons de Pierre Perrault, conversations, Radio-Canada, 1996.
  • Images d’un doux ethnocide, (co. Arthur Lamothe), AAVQ, Montréal, 1979.
  • Le film sous influence, Édilig, Paris, 1983.
  • Les traces du rêve, Hexagone, Montréal, 1989.
  • La Manière Nègre, Aimé Césaire, chemin faisant, récit. Hexagone, Montréal, 1993.
  • La liberté en colère, le livre du film. Hexagone, Montréal, 1994.
  • Les tours de Babel, la paix après le 11 septembre, coll. under the direction of Jean Pichette. (Au matin du sens), Éditions les 400 coups, Montréal, 2002.
  • “Écrire avec une caméra,” in L’écriture cinéma au Québec. Co. Coord. S.-A Boulais, Fides, 2006.
  • “Les utopies nécessaires,” in Métier réalisation, Éditions les 400 coups, 2006.
  • Iran, les mots du silence (co. Fred Reed), Éditions les 400 coups, 2006.
  • Conversations in Tehran (co. Fred Reed), Talon Books, 2006.
  • “Le Nègre en soi,” in Ainsi parla l’Oncle and Revisiter l’oncle (Jean Price-Mars). Éditions Mémoire d’encrier, 2009.
  • La déraison d’amour, Théâtre, Leméac, 2008
  • Un désir d’Amérique, fragments nomades, Édito-Gallimard, 2015.