June 24, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The following statement on the death of former governor general Roméo LeBlanc was issued today by Premier Shawn Graham:
We were saddened to hear today of the death of former governor general, federal minister of fisheries and long-time Member of Parliament, Roméo LeBlanc after a long illness.
Mr. LeBlanc was a seminal figure in the Acadian renaissance and a senior voice for New Brunswickers of all backgrounds throughout Canada and the world.
Born and raised in Memramcook, Mr. LeBlanc studied at his hometown Collège St.-Joseph and the Université de Paris before returning to New Brunswick to work as a teacher and then as a journalist for Radio-Canada in Ottawa, the United Kingdom and the United States. He entered the political realm as press secretary for former prime ministers Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.
Mr. LeBlanc was elected to represent the people of Westmorland-Kent in Ottawa in 1972. In 1974, then-Prime Minister Trudeau named him minister of fisheries and oceans, a portfolio he would occupy for eight years as Canada's longest-serving fisheries minister.
As minister, Mr. LeBlanc was responsible for introducing Canada's 320-km territorial limit and for introducing fishery management and conservation to the industry to curb overfishing and overexpansion. He fought to preserve the quotas and way of life of small-boat fishermen in an industry increasingly dominated by large vessels and large corporations.
Mr. LeBlanc was appointed to the Senate in 1984, serving as speaker of the Senate until he was appointed as Canada's 25th governor general in November 1994. He was the first Acadian and first Maritimer to serve as our nation's head of state.
As governor general, Mr. LeBlanc made it his mission to recognize and honour the great spirit of volunteerism shared by Canadians from coast to coast. To honour exceptional volunteers, he created the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award in 1996.
Mr. LeBlanc was also passionate about Canadian history and the rights and heritage of Aboriginal Canadians, proclaiming the first National Aboriginal Day in 1996 and instituting awards in the teaching of history and the arts. In 1999, he presided over the creation of the new territory of Nunavut.
Mr. LeBlanc also made the house and grounds of Rideau Hall open to all Canadians and making it truly a house for all Canadians.
No matter how far he went in his career, no matter how high the position or important the event or audience, Mr. LeBlanc was always the same man from Memramcook. He never forgot where he came from, and he delighted in meeting with people from small towns and villages in every corner of Canada.
He was a proud New Brunswicker and a proud Acadian whose vision, leadership and compassion made a significant difference to his home province and our entire nation.
On behalf of all New Brunswickers, I want to express my condolences to his wife, Diana, their four children, and their families. We all join with them in mourning the loss of this exceptional New Brunswicker and Canadian.