Sauvé Foundation - Governor General of Canada - in Office

In Office

Sauvé was on May 14, 1984, sworn in as governor general in a ceremony in the Senate chamber, during which Trudeau said: "It is right and proper that Her Majesty should finally have a woman representative here," though stressing that the Queen had not appointed Sauvé simply because she was a woman. Almost immediately, Sauvé made it clear that she would use her time as vicereine to promote issues surrounding youth and world peace, as well as that of national unity.

The Governor General kept up to date with cabinet papers and met every two weeks with her successive prime ministers. She would not speak openly about her relationship with these individuals, but there was reported friction between Sauvé and Brian Mulroney, whom she had appointed as her chief executive adviser in 1984. It was speculated that Sauvé disapproved of the way Mulroney elevated the stature of his office with more presidential trappings and aura, and his insistence that he alone greet American president Ronald Reagan upon his arrival at Quebec City for the colloquially dubbed "Shamrock Summit" was taken by the media as a snub against Sauvé who, as the head of state's direct representative, would otherwise have welcomed another head of state to Canada.

She did, however, greet a numbers of Canada's Royal Family, including the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; The Queen Mother; and Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York. Prince Edward met with Sauvé at Rideau Hall on June 4, 1988, to present the Governor General with royal Letters Patent permitting the federal viceroy to exercise the Queen's powers in respect of the granting of heraldic arms in Canada, leading to the eventual creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, of which Sauvé was the first head. Among foreign visitors welcomed by Sauvé were King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Hussein of Jordan, Pope John Paul II, Secretary-General of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, French president François Mitterrand, Chinese president Li Xiannian, Romanian president Nicolae Ceauşescu, Mother Teresa, and, eventually, President Reagan. A number of these state visits were reciprocated when Sauvé travelled to represent the Queen in Italy, the Vatican, the People's Republic of China, Thailand, France, Uruguay, and Brazil.

Also in her capacity as vicereine, in 1986 Sauvé accepted on behalf of the "People of Canada" the Nansen Medal, and, two years later, opened the XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta. But, one of her favourite events that she hosted was the annual Christmas party for the Ottawa Boys & Girls Club and its French-language counterpart, the Patro d'Ottawa; the children came to Rideau Hall to visit with Santa and attended a lunch in the Tent Room, which Sauvé personally hosted and wore a paper party hat to celebrate the special occasion.

Ironically, as with the speculations about Sauvé's standing in protocol vis-a-vis Mulroney, the Governor General herself was accused of elevating her position above its traditional place; she was criticised for her own presidentialisation of the viceregal post, with pundits at the time saying she occupied "Republican Hall". For instance, it was revealed that Sauvé's staff had meddled in Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Frederick Johnson's plans to host a dinner at Government House, at which the Governor General was to be a guest. Further, municipal event organisers were told that singing of the Royal Anthem was not allowed and the loyal toast to the Queen was to be replaced with a toast to the Governor General, all of which not only disregarded precedent but also grated on prairie sensitivities.

In her final address as vicereine, at Christmas, 1989, some of Sauvé's words were perceived as veiled warning about the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and she was criticised for this suspected breach of neutrality. The Premier of Newfoundland at the time, Clyde Wells, said it was "inappropriate for the Crown to be intruding in political affairs that way," and Bill Dawson, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario, described Sauvé's use of the word "pact" as "injudicious." Sauvé, though, always held that she had been speaking about Canadian unity in general, and not the Meech Lake Accord in particular, or any side of the debate around it.

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