Jules Leger, 1913-1980
Date of Issue
April 2, 1982
Perforation or Dimension
Designed by Pierre Fontaine.
Jules Léger was admired for his broad culture, strong religious faith, and hard work. One newspaper characterized him as "a quiet man eternally thinking about what's going on and how he can help..." delighting in "getting others to think and act". His diplomatic career gave him "a sense both of the relativity of facts and of the universality of man ..." He showed courage when, with the help of his wife Gabrielle, he fought off the effects of a stroke that befell him shortly after he became Canada's twenty-first Governor General since Confederation. Jules Léger was born at Saint-Anicet, Quebec, in 1913, son of the local storekeeper and postmaster. The boy's first contact with the federal government came when he cancelled stamps for his father. He remembered Saint-Anicet as a place where everyone "lived and worked together as good neighbours", whether they were Indian, English, or French. This influenced his view of Canada, which he saw "as a land of toleration and diversity". In 1938 he earned a PhD at the Sorbonne in Paris with a thesis on the history of French Canadian literature. Later that year "Le Droit", an Ottawa newspaper, hired him as associate editor. In 1940 he joined the Department of External Affairs where he advanced rapidly. After working in Prime Minister King's office he received a posting to Chile from 1943 to 1947. In 1949 he became executive assistant to Prime Minister St. Laurent. In 1953 he became an ambassador, the youngest Canadian to hold such a post. In 1954 the government promoted him to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, instead of selecting an older or more experienced officer. From 1964 to 1968 he served as ambassador to Paris during a difficult period in Franco-Canadian relations. As Under-Secretary of State from 1968 to 1973, he helped "evolve national policies designed to ensure that our two official languages could truly thrive..." When Léger became Governor General in 1974, he planned to Canadianize the position further. He pointed out its Canadian roots, which he liked to trace back to Samuel de Champlain. It was during Léger's tenure that the Governor General began, on the Queen's behalf, to accredit Canadian diplomats abroad. Léger encouraged Canadians to visit Rideau Hall, which he filled with Canadian art. He strove to make the Canadian-born governors general and the Canadian system of honours better known. Through his initiative, the Post Office issued stamps in 1977 commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Canadian-born governors general in the modern era, and the tenth anniversary of the Order of Canada. Léger died in 1980. This special commemorative stamp was designed by Pierre Fontaine of Montreal, using a portrait by Ottawa photographer Michael Bedford. The photograph was taken in the study of Rideau Hall, shortly after Léger became Governor General.
Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1982.
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