|21st Governor General of Canada|
January 14, 1974 –January 22, 1979
|Prime Minister||Pierre Trudeau|
|Preceded by||Roland Michener|
|Succeeded by||Edward Schreyer|
|Born||April 4, 1913|
|Died||November 22, 1980 67) (aged|
Jules Léger –November 22, 1980) was a Canadian diplomat and statesman who served as Governor General of Canada, the 21st since Canadian Confederation.(April 4, 1913
Léger was born and educated in Quebec and France prior to starting a career in the Canadian Department of External Affairs, and eventually served as ambassador to a number of countries. He was in 1973 appointed as governor general by Queen Elizabeth II, on the recommendation of Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, to replace Roland Michener as viceroy, and he occupied the post until succeeded by Edward Schreyer in 1979. As the Queen's representative, Léger was credited for modernising the office and fostering Canadian unity.
On June 1, 1979, Léger was sworn into the Queen's Privy Council for Canada,giving him the accordant style of The Honourable . However, as a former Governor General of Canada, Léger was entitled to be styled for life with the superior form of The Right Honourable . He died on November 22, 1980.
Born in Saint-Anicet, Quebec, to Ernest and Alda (née Beauvais), Léger, along with his brother (and future cardinal), Paul-Émile, was raised in a devoutly religious family. After completing high school, Léger went on to the Collège de Valleyfield and then the Université de Montréal, where he completed a law degree. Léger subsequently enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris, from which he was awarded a doctorate in 1938, the same year that, on August 13, he married Gabrielle Carmel, whom he'd met at the University of Paris. The couple together had two daughters, Francine and Helene.
When Léger returned to Canada at the end of 1938, he was hired as an associate editor of Le Droit in Ottawa, but remained there for only one year before he went on to become a professor of diplomatic history at the University of Ottawa until 1942. Simultaneously, Léger joined in 1940 the Department of External Affairs, and in just over 13 years received his first overseas diplomatic posting as Canada's ambassador to Mexico. After his retirement from that office on August 1, 1954,he returned to Ottawa to act as under-secretary of state for external affairs, until, on September 25, 1958, he was commissioned as ambassador and permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council, occupying that post until 5 July 1962, as well as the Canadian representative to the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation in Paris. Then, from 1962 to 1964, Léger held the commission of ambassador to Italy, and, from 1964 to 1968 was the ambassador to France. It was during this time, in July 1967, that French president Charles de Gaulle visited Canada to attend Expo 67, and in Montreal gave his Vive le Québec libre speech. This event caused a diplomatic chill for many years between Canada and France; however, Léger attracted admiration for his subsequent sensitive handling of de Gaulle's policy towards Quebec.
By 1968, Léger had returned to Canada's capital and was appointed as under-secretary of state, providing the administrative basis for Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson's foreign policy, and the policies on bilingualism and multiculturalism developed by the Cabinet chaired by Pearson's successor, Pierre Trudeau.Léger left that position in 1972, and briefly served as ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg between March 1973 and January 1974. His daughter Francine committed suicide at the Canadian Embassy in 1968.
It was on October 5, 1973 that Queen Elizabeth II had, by commission under the royal sign-manual and Great Seal of Canada, appointed Pierre Trudeau's choice of Léger to succeed Roland Michener as the Queen's representative. He was subsequently sworn-in during a ceremony in the Senate chamber on January 14, of the following year.
Only six months later, just prior to a ceremony wherein he was to receive an honorary degree from the Université de Sherbrooke, Léger suffered a stroke, leaving him with impeded speech and a paralysed right arm. Though he returned to his viceregal duties not long after, presiding over an Order of Canada investiture in December 1974, his wife assisted him on many occasions, even reading parts of the Speech from the Throne in 1976 and 1978. Still, the Légers travelled across the country, encouraging Canadian unity at a time fraught with Quebec sovereignty disputes and perceived alienation by other regions,as well promoting the fine arts and artistic endeavours, aided at such by their friendships with painters such as Jean Paul Lemieux, Alfred Pellan, and Jean Dallaire. In 1978 Léger established the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music. He also established an award for heritage conservation and the Jules Léger Scholarship to promote academic excellence in bilingual programs at the University of Regina. Léger was credited with greatly modernising the Office of the Governor General, having, among other things, eschewed the traditional court dress of the Windsor uniform in favour of morning dress at state functions, though he was also negatively criticised for the same, as well as for asking that decorations, particularly those from the Second World War, not be worn at certain state events. He was further critiqued for remaining in such an important office despite his incapacitation. Still, he remained focused on the person and institution he represented, and was known to write to the Queen on a monthly basis. His official portrait was a first for including the viceregal consort, done to recognise Gabrielle's contributions to her husband's service.
After leaving Rideau Hall, the Légers continued to live in Ottawa. Léger died on November 22, 1980, and was survived by his wife and daughter.
|Ribbon bars of Jules Léger|
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| Governor General of Canada |
James Coningsby Langley
| Canadian Ambassador Extraordinary|
and Plenipotentiary to Belgium and Luxembourg
March 1, 1973 –January 8, 1974
| Canadian Ambassador Extraordinary|
and Plenipotentiary to France
February 20, 1964 –October 31, 1968
Paul André Beaulieu
| Canadian Ambassador Extraordinary|
and Plenipotentiary to Italy
28 May 1962 –April 17, 1964
Gordon Gale Crean
L. Dana Wilgress
| Canadian Ambassador and Permanent Representative|
to the North Atlantic Council
September 25, 1958 –July 5, 1962
Charles Pierre Hébert
| Canadian Ambassador Extraordinary|
and Plenipotentiary to Mexico
October 14, 1953 –July 8, 1954
Douglas Seaman Cole