Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Michaelle Jean's Haitian Fans Want Her Term Extended, Appeal to PM

OTTAWA — The capital might be chattering about who will be the next governor general, but Michaelle Jean's substantial fan club in Haiti would like to see her stay put.

Jean is a beloved figure of success in her country of birth, and has been a high-profile champion of support and assistance for Haiti in the aftermath of January's earthquake.

As Jean opened a two-day conference Tuesday on rebuilding the Caribbean nation, Haitian leaders confessed to some chagrin at seeing her term draw to a close this fall.

It's not unusual for a governor general to have his or her mandate extended, but it is widely believed Prime Minister Stephen Harper is already seeking her successor.

"She has opened a lot of doors for us and she's been our messenger, and we've been taking advantage of that," said Port-au-Prince Mayor Jean-Yves Jason.

"If the government is listening, I'd tell them to renew the mandate of Michaelle Jean."

Said Josseline Fethiere, Haiti's trade and industry minister: "We would have hoped that she be renewed, because for we Haitians to have Michaelle Jean as Governor (General) is really one more source of support."

Haitian diplomats stopped short of saying they'd like to see her term renewed, but underlined her important role in bringing attention to their country and its issues. Jean fled the Duvalier regime as a child in the late 1960s and relocated to Quebec.

"The Governor General is a native Haitian and she has never hidden her intentions for Haiti and her attachment to her country of birth, a country she has visited many times," said Haiti's ambassador to the United Nations, Leo Merores.

"It's evident that her interest and her attachment goes directly to the hearts of all Haitians."

Nathalie Gissel-Menos, the charge d'affaires at the Haitian embassy in Ottawa, said Jean is dear to Haitians and Canadians alike.

"She's a star for us and represents hope for us."

The Prime Minister's Office said it had no comment about whether a definitive decision had been made against renewing Jean's five-year mandate.

Speculation about who might be on the shortlist to replace her includes spinal cord research advocate Rick Hansen and Inuit Leader Mary Simon.

Jean's predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, stayed on an extra year. Jeanne Sauve was also there for six years, Roland Michener for seven and Georges Vanier eight. Jean was appointed to her post by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

Jean told the crowd assembled at the University of Ottawa for the Haiti symposium that any effort to rebuild Haiti must emphasize education, the country's various regions, and the strength of Haiti's young people.

"It is our responsibility to get this large and daring generation of young people involved in reconstruction efforts and to engage them by developing their ability to act and supporting their willingness to work," she said.

Source: AP

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