Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson was Canada’s 26th governor-general.
There have been news stories in recent days about my expenses since leaving Rideau Hall. Given that taxpayers’ money is involved, I want to address this matter.
Postgovernor-generalship, I have continued to participate in public life in an active and meaningful way. I believe in public service. I always have. It has been the joy of my life. Playing golf was not an option.
The financial support I’ve received is in line with what was extended to my predecessors, and has been to my successors, since the program was put in place in 1979. The existence of this program has never been secret. Other democracies similar to ours also provide postmandate support for the equivalent office to the governor-general. In the expenditures that I’ve incurred, I have always followed the instructions from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor-General.
Last year, I fulfilled 182 commitments, many of them public events. I gave 16 speeches with no honorarium or fees, and 10 pieces of writing for no fee. All of this was related to my life as Canada’s 26th governor-general, and all of this came to me at the request of Canadians. These numbers represent about 25 per cent of the total requests and invitations I received in 2017. I try to do as much as I can.
When you accept the invitation to become governor-general, you go through an intense briefing period. One of the things you are told is that this is not a job like any other – you will be engaging in a unique relationship with Canadians. And by its very nature, when you finish your term, that relationship will continue. My predecessors, whom I admired, all emphasized the importance of this to me.
When I became governor-general, I was told that upon leaving office, former governors-general receive support for continued public activity. I was presented with a briefing book which explained that at the end of my formal term, my life would likely remain in the public domain.
Our government created this support program in 1979 to acknowledge and recognize that the life of a former governor-general would continue to be lived in public service. As with my predecessors, it was understood that I would be reimbursed, with proper justification and receipts, for administrative and research salaries, office space and furniture, professional services, travel and accommodation, when appropriate.
Each year, I receive between 500 and 700 requests and invitations, in addition to substantial correspondence from individuals from all walks of life. I consider all invitations individually and I read each and every message because I enjoy hearing from fellow Canadians, and I feel it is my responsibility.
Each week, I receive dozens of invitations to public appearances – from attending local community events to high-level international speaking engagements. Manuscripts arrive asking me to endorse the work, or to provide introductions to books. Even though I may not know the writer, I try to help because I understand how important and precious it is to them.
I am asked for my patronage and support of many arts and culture organizations, and I try to encourage them by supporting their work and becoming involved with them to the extent that I can.
I serve on various juries and advisory boards if they further the causes that I embraced as governor-general. I do not receive compensation for these activities.
Each commitment requires preparation, planning and organization, research and writing. Each invitation that I must decline also calls on my time and energy, but the standard held in my office is that we evaluate each request equally.
Soon after leaving office, I was named the first Canadian Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, which is a lifetime appointment. While I was governor-general, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was one of my proudest duties. It is a great honour to continue to serve by taking part in the activities of PPCLI – first spending time with them in Kabul and Kandahar in 2007-08 during the Afghan war, and always in Edmonton and Shilo, Man., where their Battalions are based. I am deeply involved with the soldiers and their families. We are currently working very hard on an antisuicide program.
My belief in women’s hockey led me to establish the Clarkson Cup, and my belief in public service led me to create, with Massey College, the Clarkson Laureateship at the University of Toronto.
All this has meant that, at nearly 80 years old, I am committed to an active life for five days a week. It is a great privilege to be doing this work. I am alternately humbled and moved, but always inspired by the energy, insights and emotions of Canadians.
The invitations that I receive in the capacity of a former governor-general are diligently kept separate from the work I do with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, my legacy project that I created upon leaving Rideau Hall. The institute is a stand-alone organization, from which I do not draw a salary. In line with my predecessors Georges Vanier, Jeanne Sauvé and Ray Hnatyshyn – as well as my successor, Michaëlle Jean – I was guided by the Privy Council Office and given a startup grant to found the organization on a matching-grant principle with the federal government.
I had the privilege of being Governor-General for six years. This work confirmed my conviction that I would continue to do as much as I could with Canadians after I left office. I feel that Canadians expect me to remain active. Certainly, it’s what I expect of myself. I have always seen myself continuing to do the things which have been appropriate to my former role, and which express my love for our country. I will be forever grateful that I live in a place such as Canada, where anyone, no matter their beginnings, can meaningfully contribute in their own way. As a refugee, I will never lose the feeling that I came to a place which helped me to belong.
From the day I was installed as governor-general, I pledged myself to the Canadian people as long as I lived, not just as long as I held this office. It was an honour to serve throughout my mandate as Canada’s 26th governor-general, and it is an honour to continue my promise to Canadians.