Adrienne Clarkson

“When you get on the boat that’s saving you, don’t pull the ladder up behind you.”

Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada, 1939-present. 

Adrienne Clarkson was Governor General of Canada from 1999-2005, and is a member of the Order of Canada. She arrived from Hong Kong as a penniless child refugee and went on to become a prominent journalist and distinguished public servant. In 1965, at the age of 23, she became the first visible minority to host a television show in Canada, CBCs Take 30. Her 30-year career in broadcast journalism is “unprecedented and unmatched,” according to her official website.

Clarkson’s career has centred on public affairs and she has long been a champion of immigrant causes. In 2005, after her tenure as Governor General ended, she founded The Institute for Canadian Citizenship with her husband, the writer John Roulston Saul, to help new immigrants integrate into Canadian society. She also launched a Cultural Access Pass allowing immigrant families to access 1,400 Canadian cultural institutions for free for a year. 

During her time at The Fifth Estate and Adrienne Clarkson Presents, she addressed topics such as women’s issues, adoption and sex education in schools. She took particular interest in Northern Canada, and helped repatriate First Nations artifacts from museums to their rightful owners. The Blood Tribe of Alberta adopted her as their honourary Chief.

Clarkson also took an interest in women’s hockey, founding the Clarkson Cup in 2006 for semi-pro female athletes. 

Having been educated at the University of Toronto and the Sorbonne, bi-lingual Clarkson was appointed to an ambassadorial role in Paris for 5 years, encouraging trade relations with Ontario. She was also for a time the president and publisher of McLelland & Stuart. 

Clarkson is also an accomplished writer of memoir and non-fiction, including the bestselling Heart Matters, followed by Room for All of Us, about immigrant stories. She has two children and lives with her husband in Toronto.


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