Roméo LeBlanc, teacher, journalist, politician, Senator and Governor General.
Acadian born in Memramcook south-eastern New Brunswick, Roméo LeBlanc grew up on his family’s farm, the youngest of a family of seven children. From a young age, he impressed his teachers with his exceptional ability to learn, an ability that earned him the privilege of a higher education. His doctorate degree thesis was titled "The teaching of French in a bilingual district Canada: New Brunswick, a case study." His interest in French-language education emerged from his studies he became a dedicated teacher.
At the launch of his biography, written by the specialist in Acadian history Naomi S. Griffiths, Dominic LeBlanc, MP for Beauséjour and son of Roméo LeBlanc explained:
"This is a book that taught me a lot about the life of my father before my birth. What surprised me the most is to see how he advocated in the early 1950s for the New Brunswick francophone students’ rights, such as being able to write their exams in French. (Francophone did not have the right to do that before the reform of Louis J. Robichaud in the 1960s). My father was a forerunner of Mr. Robichaud's reforms."
In 1959, Roméo LeBlanc became a journalist at Radio-Canada in Ottawa. He covered public affairs and parliamentary news and then accepted international assignment. In 1967, Roméo LeBlanc was propelled into politics when he became the press secretary of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and later, Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau. Romeo LeBlanc occupied this position during the difficult period of the 1970 October Crisis, stepping down in 1971.
After a short term as President of the Senate, Romeo LeBlanc was appointed the 25th Governor General of Canada on February 9, 1995. He became the first Acadian and the first person in the Maritime Provinces to assume this role. Serving as Governor General allowed Roméo LeBlanc to assert a particular mission and his best human qualities. In this role, Roméo LeBlanc demonstrated his dedication to demonstrating how Canadians shined. He often spoke of the generosity, tolerance and compassion of Canadians and of his admiration for their dignity and competence.
"If I am to be known for anything, I would like it to be for encouraging Canadians, for knowing a little bit about their daily, extraordinary courage. And for wanting that recognized." Installation speech, February 8, 1995.
It is through the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award, instituted by him in 1996, that Roméo LeBlanc payed tribute to the courage and dedication of ordinary everyday people, caregivers and other Canadians in the service of their relatives, their community and their country. Through his speeches, he expressed his deep love for Canada. His speeches were a platform to teach about the country's history and that of the builders of this country.
Roméo LeBlanc also declared June 21 as National Aboriginal Day. He spoke of the importance of reconciliation with aboriginal peoples, a topic which still makes today's headlines:
"We owe the Aboriginal peoples a debt that is four centuries old. It is their turn to become full partners in developing an even greater Canada. And the reconciliation required may be less a matter of legal texts than of attitudes of the heart." Speech on the occasion of the presentation of the 1996 Native Role Models, February 23, 1996.
Roméo Leblanc was a Canadian who exemplified the best of Canadian values. He combined talent and passion with humility, honor and integrity, and held one of the highest of positions in the country.