A message approved by the JSF Board of Governors at the June 22 2020 Quarterly Board Meeting
Madame Sauvé’s vision for the Jeanne Sauvé’s Foundation sprung from her own experience as a youth leader. She moved to Montreal in 1942 at the age of 22 to work with Jeunesse Étudiante Catholique (Young Catholic Students Group) and within a year became the national president of the women’s section (her co-president Gérard Pelletier became a close friend and fellow federal Cabinet minister in subsequent years). She served as a spokesperson and advocate for the JEC until 1947. 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 served as its first secretary. At this time, she was working as assistant to the Director of the Youth Secretariat at UNESCO. Like her fellow co-founders at the WAY, she was a woman ahead of her time for her belief in the benefits of exchanges between youth from different parts of the world.
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 encountered 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 invaluable assets to them as leaders in their later lives.
She founded the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation to offer a voice to new generations of youth leaders so they could express their aspirations and concerns about a better world, in an environment that would transcend differences: cultural, linguistic, religious, political, racial, social, and that would address all sectors: businesses, universities, political parties, science, unions, the arts, agriculture, etc. She celebrated diversity and promoted inclusion and dialogue throughout her life. This was symbolic even in her state funeral which was an ecumenical service.
The state of affairs of the world today reminds us that the vision and goals of Jeanne Sauvé are still just as significant as ever. Current events related to racism taking place in the United States, Canada, and around the world, remind us that many inequities and injustices remain in our societies. We are very moved by the recent movement and calls for action to build more just and inclusive societies.
Over the years, the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation has run international conferences, events, and programs that bring together youth from many different nations, religions, races, ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations with different lived experiences, fields of action, political opinions and socio-economic status. We have faith that this ongoing investment in youth plays an active part in building the sort of more equal, tolerant and compassionate world Jeanne Sauvé envisioned.