The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation (JSF) was established in 1989 by the Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé, former Governor General of Canada, as her legacy to the youth of the world.

Her intention was to create an incubator for leadership through a permanent forum that would offer exceptional young people the opportunity to come together, meet and discuss the major global issues of the day.

Madame Sauvé's Vision
Madame Sauvé’s vision for the Foundation came from her own experiences as a youth activist and leader. She had moved to Montreal in 1942 to work with Jeunesse étudiante catholique (Young Catholic Students Group) and within a year had become National President of the women’s section (her co-president Gérard Pelletier, was to become a close friend and fellow federal Cabinet minister in subsequent years). She served as a spokesperson and advocate for the JEC until 1947. Then, in 1949, with her husband, Maurice Sauvé, she became actively involved in the founding of the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), an international youth congress that was being established as an adjunct to the newly-minted United Nations, and was designed to promote global cooperation and understanding among the young people of the world. Maurice Sauvé served as WAY’s first president from 1949 – 1952 and Jeanne Sauvé was its first Secretary. At this time, she was working as assistant to the Director of the Youth Secretariat at UNESCO.

In later years when she traveled the world, whether in her capacity as Minister, Speaker of the House of Commons, or Governor General of Canada, Madame Sauvé was to encounter many of her former WAY colleagues. She was convinced that the international relationships and exposure to ideas that resulted from their participation in these international assemblies in their youth were an invaluable asset to them as leaders in their later lives. Through the JSF forum, she hoped to offer this opportunity to generations to come.

The Jeanne Sauvé Foundation in her own words

Jeanne Sauvé Foundation Youth Forum (1989-1996)
In her address at the inauguration of the first Jeanne Sauvé Foundation Youth Forum in 1991, Madame Sauvé articulated her aspirations for the work of the Foundation:

I have always believed that the young of the world were entitled to a tribune from which they could be heard. I have always been deeply convinced that all would gain if youths had a voice amidst all the voices – too often dissonant – of the world. (…) Therefore, the conferences of the Foundation give [youths] the opportunity to defend [their] opinions, to draw closer together, to seek out points of contact, and to denounce confrontation as being the rule in international relations. 

While it was clear that her intention was to draw in youth leaders from every field of interest and preoccupation, she was unapologetic in her decision to accept only participants who could legitimately lay claim to this elite level of representation. If fostering the development of leadership was to be the Foundation’s ultimate goal, it was self-evident that only those who had proven their capacity for the role through the exercise of power within their respective organizations should have access to the benefit of this experience. She felt it particularly important that these young people be exposed to the dynamics of international discussion in their youth so that they might be influenced by the breadth of ideas, perspectives and belief systems that would emerge through the assemblies’ open deliberations.

In defining the objectives of the JSF International Conferences for Young Leaders, it was of key importance to Madame Sauvé that the conferences not require the participants to reach consensus on the issue under discussion or to focus their energies on the development and acceptance of general resolutions. In her words, the forum is essentially a meeting place, open to all. It is not meant to allow for votes…or final statements. The forum will inhibit no one; it must always be hospitable to all expressions of thought and opinions and must serve to nurture the minds and hearts of those who will attend. Thus she defined the experiential nature of her design: it was to be a forum with no prescribed agenda other than to cultivate and inspire the breadth of vision and knowledge that inevitably results from experiences of intense social and intellectual engagement in contemporary issues of global importance.

Madame Sauvé’s preoccupation with the issue of global leadership arose in part from her own dismay with the discredited reputation of political leadership throughout the world and what she perceived to be an almost universal disdain for “power”. Having always sought positions of authority throughout her life in the belief that power was the instrument by which one could influence and accomplish positive change in society, Mme Sauvé was disheartened by the prevailing notion that all power was corrupt and all political ambition, by extension, suspect. She alluded to this demise of credibility in leadership in her opening address to the conference when she noted that,

Leaders in all spheres of activity and, notably, in politics have lost a great deal of their credibility. It is a world phenomenon inherent in part to the crisis of authority that blows over the world…another cause of this loss of credibility is the lack of transparency of too many leaders….

Through the Foundation’s focus on the development of leadership, Madame Sauvé hoped to encourage a renaissance of the nobility of this vocation, quoting through the words of Aristotle, her aspirations for the leadership ideals that the Foundation would promote:

A good leader must have moral fortitude, which will allow him to persuade people, to convince them, and to act; he must have passion which will allow him to obtain their affectionate support; he must have intellectual vigour which will allow him to found his action on solid reasons.

To the attributes of moral fortitude, passion, intellectual vigour and solid reason, Madame Sauvé added the need for transparency, noting that, “the true leader brings the people to bear witness to his actions and knows how to develop a climate of confidence between himself and those he administers.” Thus a blueprint was laid out for the encouragement of a new generation of leaders to take their place on the world stage; one that would be inspired by the highest ideals, their ideas tested by the challenge of vigorous debate, and their friendships forged by the product of common experience.

Madame Sauvé died three years after the launch of her Foundation. Her son Jean-François Sauvé succeeded her as President and, with his wife, Diane de Mailly-Nesle Sauvé, and long-time associate Harold Sonny Gordon came to the conclusion that the assembly format that had worked so magnificently for the young leaders of the post-war generation was no longer as vital and unique in the age of international non-governmental organizations and new media. A new mechanism was sought to encourage the promotion of internationalism and communication that had been the tenets of Mme Sauvé’s life.

Sauvé Scholars Program (2003-2013)
The Sauvé Scholars Program (2003-2013) evolved from the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation, created in 1991 by the Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé.

Each year, up to 14 remarkable young leaders were invited to come to Montreal for the academic calendar year. They lived together in a beautifully restored mansion, enjoyed access to McGill University’s academic programs and other resources – including lectures, conferences and events suited to the advancement of their individual professional and intellectual goals – while benefiting from the communal life and multi-faceted exchanges with their fellow Scholars.

The Sauvé Year, a period of personal and professional growth, was founded on:

  • Intense exchange of ideas and experience, supported by communal life
  • Extensive intellectual freedom, allowing each participant to develop according to his or her needs and aspirations
  • Focus on action accompanied by a clear commitment to the community —including the host community
  • Commitment to dialogue among cultures, which allows participants to understand and assimilate viewpoints built within multiple frames of reference

Over the course of ten years, the Sauvé Scholars Program empowered 126 Scholars from 50 different countries. Sauvé Scholars are highly motivated independent thinkers between 23 and 31 years of age with demonstrated skills as agents of change, who were offered a unique opportunity to spend nine months away from their studies, careers or other formal commitments, for a period of reflection and self-realization – both personal and professional.

Each Scholar was expected to undertake a new project in his or her chosen field – for example, arts, advocacy, business, communications, government or research – or complete one that is underway. Scholars were also invited to participate in some form of social or civic engagement for the benefit of the Montreal community.

The absence of pressure from academic or professional deadlines allowed Scholars to research, question, enlarge and act on their understanding of the world by expanding their intellectual, professional cultural horizons through a program of activities, individualized mentoring and vibrant exchanges in their communal home, Sauvé House. It is an opportunity to assess what they have accomplished to date, reflect on their future activities, and explore their innate leadership qualities that will help them to effect change in the world.

The Sauvé Scholars Program has served as the foundation for the inaugural Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program, launched in 2015.

Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program (2015-2019)
In 2013, following the ‘graduation’ of the 10th cohort of Sauvé Scholars, the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation announced the designation of the next year as a period of reflection and reinvention. This allowed the Board, staff, alumni and numerous stakeholders to take stock of the strengths and impact of the Sauvé Scholars Program in light of the evolving needs for global leadership.

After completing an exhaustive examination of a number of scenarios, the Foundation devised an exciting new program focused on public leadership development. Launched in the spring of 2014, the new pillars build on the strengths of the Sauvé Scholars Program, feeds directly into proposed new alumni programming, while it complements and is supported by the Foundation’s public education activities.

The Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program is intensive, in-house, intercultural and international program. Every cohort brings together a group of young leaders from Canada and around the world to live and work together and to share their passion for addressing a particular globally significant challenge. Participants bring to the program their own expertise and perspectives, shaped by their experiences working to address this issue in their respective contexts, communities and countries. Every two years, the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation focuses its activities on a different globally significant challenge.

For the 2015-17 Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program, the Fellows were challenged to collectively re-imagine the role of public leadership in supporting social cohesion within culturally diverse societies. They chose to collectively reflect upon and rethink refugee integration in Canada.

For the 2017-19 Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program, a new cohort of Public Leadership Fellows will collectively explore how focusing on strategies of inclusion can help public leaders respond to the complex challenges facing culturally diverse societies.