The time of Canada's two solitudes has passed, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean said Tuesday as she called for greater unity and a steadfast commitment to the national values of respect, tolerance and sharing.
In her first speech since being installed as the Queen's representative in this country, Ms. Jean - who endured questions about her commitment to federalism after her appointment was announced - also vowed to use her position to give voice to all Canadians.
"The time of the two solitudes that for too long described the character of this country is past," she said, speaking in the Senate chamber after she was formally appointed.
"The narrow notion of every person for himself does not belong in today's world, which demands that we learn to see beyond our wounds, beyond our differences for the good of all."
On the contrary, she said, Canadians must "eliminate the spectre of all solitudes" and promote solidarity among the citizens of the country, offering up a picture harmony to the rest of the world.
Ms. Jean and her husband, documentary filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, came under fire this summer over claims from hard-line separatists that they were sympathetic to that cause.
She has dismissed the suggestions and in Tuesday's speech again expressed her love of the country she came to as a young girl in 1968, when her family fled Haiti.
"I am determined that the position I occupy as of today will be more than ever a place where citizens' words will be heard, where the values of respect, tolerance, and sharing that are so essential to me and to all Canadians, will prevail," she said.
"Those values, which are paramount for me, are linked inextricably with the Canada I love."
Throughout her remarks, she emphasized the importance of Canada's diverse population as well as the value of its young people.
She also spoke of her own youth before coming to Canada, quoting her uncle - exiled Haitian poet René Depestre - to describe Haiti as a nation "draped in barbed wire from head to toe."
"The story of that little girl, who watched her parents, her family, and her friends grappling with the horrors of a ruthless dictatorship, who became the woman standing before you today, is a lesson in learning to be free," she said.
"I know how precious that freedom is, I know what a legacy it is for every child, for every citizen of this country."
Ms. Jean was sworn in Tuesday on Parliament Hill as Canada's 27th Governor-General, taking the torch from Adrienne Clarkson as the Queen's representative in this country.
Breaking with tradition, Ms. Clarkson was in attendance to see her successor take over the post - the first time in more than 100 years that a departing vice-regal representative has gone to the ceremony.
Ms. Jean arrived at Parliament Hill about 10:40 a.m. EDT. She was greeted by a military guard of honour before joining Prime Minister Paul Martin to enter the building.
Televised imaged showed tears running down Ms. Jean's cheeks as she listened to singers greeting her while she made her way to the Senate chamber.
Inside, Ms. Jean's family members sat in the front row, listening as her appointment was formalized rousing applause from the crowd.
Mr. Martin characterized Ms. Jean during Tuesday's ceremony as "a woman of rare perspective, sensitivity and under standing."
"Madame Jean is renowned for her compassion, her eagerness to listen - and for her desire to act," he said.
"During a rich and varied working life - as a social activist, a writer and lecturer, a public broadcaster - she has often been the voice of those who must struggle to be heard."
Even before it was made official Tuesday, the 48-year-old former CBC journalist, who came to Canada as a young girl from Haiti in 1968, has proved a popular choice as Governor-General.
A poll conducted before Ms. Jean was sworn in showed broad support for her among Canadians in general, and particularly among Quebeckers. In that province, 71 per cent of people polled said they thought she was a good choice for the job. When told of her personal history, that percentage rose to 85 per cent.
She was also an extremely popular choice with Canadian youth, reflecting in part her relative youth and her role as both a successful journalist and as a mother to a six-year-old daughter.
The polls findings were seen by many as suggesting Ms. Jean's selection for the position created an historic opportunity to strengthen the vice-regal role both in Quebec and the rest of the country.
The findings also suggested that Canadian's were not upset over the questions raised this summer about her position on Quebec's sovereignty.
Earlier this week, Ms. Jean also renounced her French citizenship, which she received when she married Mr. Lafond, who is originally from France. The two married in 1992. In a letter to Ms. Jean, French President Jacques Chirac offered his congratulations and invited her to visit France in the coming months.
Mr. Chirac's letter says exceptional ties bind France and Canada - starting with history and language - and he assured Jean of his wholehearted support.
With Canadian Press