Adrienne Louise Clarkson, television personality, journalist and novelist, public servant, publisher, governor general (b at Hong Kong 10 Feb 1939). The daughter of a prominent businessman, William Poy, who lost his property after the Japanese invasion of HONG KONG in 1941, Adrienne Clarkson came to Canada with her parents in 1942. After attending school in Ottawa, Clarkson received an MA at the University of Toronto in 1961.
Adrienne Clarkson has continued her broadcasting career with "Adrienne Clarkson Presents" on CBC-TV (photo by Fred Phipps/courtesy CBC-TV).
From 1961 to 1963 she studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, and in 1965 she began an award-winning, 18-year-long career as TV host-interviewer for the CBC programs "Take Thirty,""Adrienne at Large" and "the fifth estate," gaining a unique reputation for her incisiveness, charm and poise. Between 1968 and 1971 MCCLELLAND AND STEWART published her 2 novels, A Lover More Condoling and Hunger Trace, and New Press published the interviews titled True to You In My Fashion.
She was appointed Ontario's agent-general in Paris from 1982 to 1987 and publisher of McClelland & Stewart from 1987 to 1989. In 1989 she returned to broadcasting as executive producer and host of CBC's national arts showcase "Adrienne Clarkson Presents." Clarkson later served as chair of the board of trustees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Qué, and was president of the executive board of IMZ, the international audio-visual association based in Vienna. She was also the executive producer and host of the CBC Television program Something Special. In September 1999 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Clarkson Governor General. She took office on 7 October 1999. Her appointment marked several "firsts" in the selection of Canada's governor general: she was the first without a military background and the first non-white Canadian to be appointed to the vice-regal position.
Clarkson faced intense scrutiny from MPs and the Canadian public for what was deemed lavish spending during her tenure as governor general. Her $5-million state visit to Russia, Finland and Iceland in 2003 provoked a great deal of anger and resulted in Clarkson's officials being questioned by a House of Commons committee inquiry, resulting in a reduction in her budget. Still others claim that the 19-day circumpolar "northern identity" tour, which included 50 other Canadian dignitaries, was a resounding success, enabling Canada to foster a successful relationship with the northern European countries. Clarkson's dedication to the vice-regal role was also questioned during her notable absence from important national events, such as the funeral service of Alberta's former lieutenant-governor, Lois HOLE.
Yet Clarkson's tenure had many successes. She continued to be an ardent patron of the arts and travelled overseas to support troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Clarkson maintained that she would attempt to forge stronger ties between Canada and northern aboriginal people during her time as governor general, which she achieved in part by the creation of the Governor General's Northern Medal, awarded annually to a northern citizen whose work has helped affirm the Canadian North as part of the national identity. She also travelled throughout Canada more than any other governor general, visiting its people and bringing a sense of modernity to the vice-regal position.
Though Clarkson's term was to have ended in 2004, prime minister MARTIN asked that she remain in office an additional year, believing that continuity in the vice-regal role would offer Canadians a sense of stability in the face of an insecure minority government. Though bothered by heart problems in 2005, she remained until 27 September 2005, when she was succeeded by Michaëlle JEAN.
Married to author and philosopher John Ralston SAUL, Clarkson has received numerous awards and recognition both during her career in broadcasting and her tenure as governor general. She was awarded ACTRA AWARDS in 1974 and 1982 and a Gemini Award in 1993 for her work in broadcasting. She has also received honorary doctorates from 7 universities: UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA; UNIVERSITY OF PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND; QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY; ACADIA UNIVERSITY; DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY; LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY; and UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO. She is a Companion of the ORDER OF CANADA. She published her autobiography, Heart Matters, in 2006.