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Biography

THE RT. HON. ADRIENNE CLARKSON, PC, CC, CMM, COM, CD

 

The 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005), Adrienne Clarkson is universally acknowledged to have transformed the office during her six years at Rideau Hall and to have left an indelible mark on Canada’s history. Her tenure as Governor General was remarkable for the considerable attention she brought to the courage of Canada’s Armed Forces and increased our vigilance to Canada’s commitment to international peace and security. Her passionate interest in Canada’s North, and in the circumpolar nations as a whole, led her to establish the Governor General’s Northern Medal, awarded annually to an individual who has contributed outstandingly to our understanding and development of the North. In particular, her interest in the Aboriginal peoples was remarkable and has helped push the question of native peoples in Canada to the forefront of national discussion.

Madame Clarkson’s official titles include membership in the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (PC), Companion of the Order of Canada (CC), Commander of the Order of Military Merit (CMM), Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (COM) and the Canadian Forces Decoration (CD). National Post Columnist John Fraser once remarked that she “has the ability, unique among public officials, of making Canadians feel good about themselves and their country.” This talent was recognized by the Blood Tribe of Alberta who adopted her as an honorary chief. Madame Clarkson is proud to have the title “Grandmother of Many Nations.”

A leading figure in Canada’s cultural life, Madame Clarkson has had a rich and distinguished career in broadcasting, journalism, the arts and public service. She worked as host, writer and producer of several influential programs on CBC Television, including Take Thirty, Adrienne at Largethe fifth estate and Adrienne Clarkson Presents. She served as the first Agent-General for Ontario in Paris from 1982 to 1987, promoting Ontario’s business and cultural interests in France, Italy and Spain. In recent years, she has served as the chair of juries for several awards including the Glenn Gould Prize, the Giller Prize for Literature, the Banff World Television Festival’s Awards, the Gold Medal for Architecture given by the Royal Architectural Institute, the Man Asian Literary Prize, and the Royal Canadian Mint’s My Canada, My Inspiration coin design contest celebrating Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial in 2017.

Upon leaving the office of Governor General in 2005, Madame Clarkson co-founded the Institute for Canadian citizenship (ICC), with her husband, John Ralston Saul. The Institute seeks to accelerate the acculturation of new citizens into Canadian life so they can participate fully and add their important voice to Canada's pluralistic society. In September 2016, the ICC launched 6 Degrees – a "citizen space" focused on inclusion and citizenship in the 21st Century. The inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was presented to His Highness the Aga Khan.

On March 17, 2007, she became Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), the first Canadian to be Colonel-in-Chief of a Canadian regiment.

Since its inception in 2007, Madame Clarkson has been on the Board of Directors for the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP). This initiative is the outcome of a partnership between His Highness the Aga Khan and the Government of Canada with a global mission to serve the world by fostering informed dialogue about the benefits of diversity as a global value.

In 2009, the Clarkson Cup was established as the Championship Cup for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and Madame Clarkson has enjoyed watching the CWHL and women’s hockey grow in popularity. The Clarkson Cup now resides permanently in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Since 2004, the Clarkson Laureateship for Public Service has been awarded annually to two post-graduate Fellows at Massey College at the University of Toronto, where Madame Clarkson is also a Senior Fellow. She is also an Honourary Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Trinity College, and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Has been honoured abroad with the Grand Cross of l’ordre de la Pléiade from France and the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation, the only Canadian to be so honoured.

An eminent writer, Madame Clarkson has written several books since she was Governor General, including her bestselling memoir Heart Matters that was received with acclaim in 2006, a biography of Dr. Norman Bethune for Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series in 2009, and stories of the Canadian immigrant experience entitled Room for All of Us was published in 2011. In 2014, she delivered the CBC Massey Lectures, Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship, which were also released as a book published by House of Anansi Press. 

Madame Clarkson was born in Hong Kong and came to Canada as a refugee in 1942. Her family settled in Ottawa, where she attended public schools until graduating from Lisgar Collegiate Institute in 1956. She obtained both an Honours B.A. and her M.A in English Literature from the University of Toronto’s Trinity College, followed by studies at La Sorbonne. Her work has been recognized with dozens of awards in Canada, the United States, and Europe including 32 honorary doctorates.

Adrienne Clarkson lives in Toronto and is currently working on her next book to be published by Penguin Random House Canada.