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‘An ardent defender of women’: Justin Trudeau heaps praise on Michaelle Jean at Armenia Francophonie summit

‘An ardent defender of women’: Justin Trudeau heaps praise on Michaelle Jean at Armenia Francophonie summit
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YEREVAN, Armenia — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Michaelle Jean in his speech at the opening of the summit of la Francophonie on Thursday in Armenia, just hours before the former governor general finds out whether she’ll be able to continue on as secretary general.

Jean, who has been in the top job at the organization of French-speaking nations since 2014, is facing an uphill climb as she seeks a second term.

In front of the heads of state and government, Trudeau praised the “remarkable work” done by the former governor general, who focused on women, youth and human rights while in the post.

“Michaelle affirmed herself as an ardent defender of women, notably by asserting their right to education and fighting for their emancipation,” Trudeau told dignitaries, lauding her dedication and contagious energy.

After months of supporting her, the Canadian and Quebec governments announced earlier this week that they would rally around “consensus” candidate, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. Mushikiwabo also has the support of French President Emmanuel Macron and several African Union countries.

Michaelle affirmed herself as an ardent defender of women, notably by asserting their right to education and fighting for their emancipation

Traditionally, the selection of a secretary general is by agreement, not through a vote.

But, Jean has refused to back down despite her chances of securing another term being described as slim.

Her spokesman, Bertin Leblanc, has said consensus must be reached by the heads of state and governments behind closed doors.

French President Emmanuel Macron holds a stamp with a portrait of French singer Charles Aznavour during the opening ceremony of the Francophonie Summit 2018 in Yerevan, Armenia, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Davit Hakobyan/PAN Photo via AP

According to Radio France International, the Haitian-born Jean, a former journalist, hopes to have the support of up to 18 delegations going into Friday’s vote. The French public radio service based the numbers on a final tally done in Yerevan on Tuesday.

Despite not backing her, Macron also paid homage to Jean’s fight for women’s rights.

“La Francophonie must be the space that fights for the rights of women, and I want to salute the work that was done by Michaelle Jean, to whom I pay tribute, who strongly mobilized in this fight,” Macron said near the end of his opening remarks.

“La Francophonie must be feminist, and you were right, madame secretary general, not to give up in this fight.”

Trudeau also paid tribute to the late Charles Aznavour, whose music was playing throughout the Karen Demirchyan complex in Yerevan, where the event is taking place.

The French-Armenian singer passed away on Oct. 1 and his contribution to the French language and culture was highlighted by both Trudeau and Macron.

“When I arrived in Armenia, I immediately thought of a great man I loved so much, a great lover of the French language who died last week, the incomparable Charles Aznavour,” Trudeau said.

“In the days following his death, francophones and francophiles of the world united in mourning through his work. This momentum of solidarity was perhaps the greatest tribute that could have been made to him.”

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