A Hong Kong refugee and former CBC journalist, Adrienne Clarkson became Canada's 26th governor general in 1999, bringing more flare to the viceregal office than past political appointees. While she earned much praise from the artistic community and literati during her tenure as the Queen’s representative, Clarkson was also criticized at the time for pricey foreign tours, among other expenditures.
Her six years in office were marked by frequent visits to the troops in Afghanistan, trips to Northern communities and the more public role she carved for herself at Rideau Hall.
An author with several books to her credit, Clarkson founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship with her husband, John Ralston Saul, in 2006. The charity seeks to promote active citizenship among Canada’s newest citizens.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Travelling in Italy with my husband John.
What is your greatest fear?
Being caught in quicksand.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is your greatest extravagance?
My garden – I buy every plant and bulb available for sale at Fiesta gardens.
On what occasion do you lie?
To avoid hurting someone’s feelings when they ask, 'how do I look?' – I’ll always like it!
Why did you start the Institute for Canadian Citizenship?
I was the first immigrant to be appointed Governor General, and during my term I received many letters from new Canadians who were thrilled that someone with a story like mine could reach the highest office in Canada. My appointment was proof that Canada is a place where the sky is the limit, and I wanted to do more to ensure new citizens felt they had the same access to everything Canada has to offer – just as I felt.
So, in 2006, I founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a non-profit charity that works to ensure our country’s newest citizens feel welcomed and included, and engages all Canadians in active citizenship. The ICC helps create a sense of belonging for all Canadian citizens regardless of whether their family has been here for five years or five generations.
What is the one thing you'd like to change?
I want to change perceptions about our country’s new citizens. New citizens simply want to be welcomed and included. They’re proud to be here, and are eager to jump in and participate economically, socially, politically and culturally
When and where were you happiest?
In Paris – any time.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
To have lived an interesting life.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Norman Bethune and Leonard Cohen.
How would you like to die?
Quickly and as myself.