Women's History Month (5 of 5): The Honourable Jocelyne Bourgon

The Honourable Jocelyne Bourgon, P.C., O.C., the first female Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, discusses her work experience.

Women's History Month (5 of 5): The Honourable Jocelyne Bourgon - Transcript

On screen: The women who have achieved success in the various fields of labour have won the victory for us, but unless we all follow up and press onward the advantage will be lost. Yesterday's successes will not do for today! Nellie McClung, Member of the Famous Five

There's a special burden of responsibility when you're the first.

On screen: The Honourable Jocelyne Bourgon, P.C., O.C., first female Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, 1994

You want to do the job in such a way that forever thereafter it will be seen as the normal thing.

On screen: Working session with the Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, P.C., O.M., C.C., Q.C., and the Hon. Jocelyne Bourgon, P.C., O.C.

Prime Minister Chrétien had the occasion to introduce me many times to heads of state as they were visiting Canada. And he was always proud to say that Madame Bourgon is the first Secretary to the Cabinet and Clerk for the Government of Canada. And each time, I think he was really proud about it, but each time he was establishing this is the Canadian way. We don't only talk about equality we act in a manner that recognizes equality of men and women in this country.

On screen: First female Clerk guardian of the Great Seal during the swearing-in ceremony of Governor General Roméo Leblanc, 1995

And I think the pride was not only the fact that he was the one making that appointment, but he was proud of the values that it did represent.

On screen: Ms. Bourgon on work-life balance

There was this meeting at the Prime Minister's residence, and it went on and on, much longer than I had expected.

On screen: Working session with Hugh Segal, C.M.; Paul Tellier, P.C., C.C.; Jocelyne Bourgon, P.C., O.C.; the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney, P.C., C.C., G.O.Q.; the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, P.C., C.C., A.O.E.; Jim Judd; and an unidentified person,

And that was Halloween night, and I told my son that I would be there to do his makeup because it was the time where Cats was very popular, and my son was going to go out for Halloween disguised as a cat. And I was needed at home to do that.

So I kept watching my watch, and eventually the Prime Minister said, "Jocelyne, I mean you seem to be checking the time." And I said, "Well, Prime Minister, I have to excuse myself. I've promised my son that I would be there to do his makeup for Halloween." There was this silence in the room like you're not supposed to tell the Prime Minister that you're going to prepare your son for Halloween.

On screen: Ms. Bourgon's son, Francis, disguised as a cat,

He said, "That's a very good idea. My children, too, would like me to be there. Let's adjourn." And we all went home, and we did the makeup for the kids and we had a good time.

If you do it well, people will forget that it was the first.

On screen: Ms. Bourgon receiving the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal from Governor General David Johnston, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., 2012

They will simply remember that in Canada, men and women can do these jobs.

On Screen: The Hon. Jocelyne Bourgon, P.C., O.C., as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

I think it's a great, great privilege to see that a second woman is now doing the job and we consider that it's normal. You see, that's what you do when you're the first. You open that path, and you make sure that never again will there be a discussion that if these jobs can be done by women.

Special thanks to
The Honourable Jocelyne Bourgon

For its gracious collaboration, thank you to
Privy Council Office


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