The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, née Poy (伍冰枝 in pinyin: Wu3 Bing1 zhi1; in Cantonese: Ng5 Benk1 zi1) (born February 10, 1939 in Hong Kong) is the current Governor General of Canada (since 1999). She is the first Chinese Canadian and second woman, after Jeanne Sauvé, to hold this position.
A Hakka raised in Ontario, Clarkson's ancestry is Taishan, Guangdong, China. She came to Canada as a refugee with her family during the Second World War in 1942. Clarkson is the daughter of William Poy (伍英才) and Ethel Poy.
Clarkson studied at Ottawa public schools, until 1956, when she studied in the University of Toronto's Trinity College. It is during this time that she won a governor-general's medal in English. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1960, after which she travelled with her parents to East and Southeast Asia.
She began working on her Master's degree in 1962, wit a thesis on George Meredith's poems. She married next year to Stephen Clarkson, a University of Toronto political science professor, until their divorce in 1975. Her post-graduate studies were done at the Sorbonne.
She is well-known from her work in broadcasting, having hosted and produced several shows for the CBC; these include Take Thirty, Adrienne at Large, the 5th estate, Adrienne Clarkson's Summer Festival, and Adrienne Clarkson Presents. She was the president and publisher of McClelland & Stewart from 1987 to 1988 and has written several books.
In 1999 she was nominated Governor General by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and approved by Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Canadian Head of State. She is the first non-white Canadian Governor General, the second female, and the first without a military or political background.
She has been criticized about the way she and her office spend money. Her recent 19-day circumpolar "northern identity" tour to Russia, Finland, and Iceland, along with 50 other prominent Canadians has been seen as a waste of money by some of the Canadian public, particularly after a recent similar scandal involving George Radwanski; but her office defended the trip as successful, particularly with regard to her warm reception in Russia and her meeting with Vladimir Putin. The trip was commissioned and paid for by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Despite the criticism, Ms. Clarkson and her husband have travelled across Canada to meet the people more than any other Governor General in Canadian history. She has been to Kosovo to meet the troops, spent Christmas with the troops in the Persian Gulf on a Canadian destroyer and, most recently, announced that she would be spending New Year's with Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Ms. Clarkson also writes her own speeches.
She is married to Canadian author and philosopher John Ralston Saul, whom she has lived with since 1984 and married in 1999. From her previous marriage with Professor Clarkson, she has 2 daughters (Kyra and Blaise) and a boy who died as an infant. The daughters later chose to be adopted by Christina McCall, Professor Clarkson's second wife. Adrienne Clarkson is also the sister-in-law of Vivienne Poy.
While some Chinese Canadians feel pride in Clarkson's literary and political achievement, other Chinese Canadians point out that Clarkson has never made much of an effort to embrace her Chinese heritage. For example, although her parents are fluent in Chinese, Clarkson is not. In addition, some found Clarkson to be without regard for her Chinese ancestry when she chose to abandon her Chinese maiden name after her marriage, and again after her second marriage. Neither of Clarkson's husbands were Chinese, either.
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