OTD: State funeral for Roméo LeBlanc

On today’s date in 2009, a state funeral was held in Memramcook, N.B., for Roméo LeBlanc, Canada’s Governor-General from 1995-99.

LeBlanc died about a week earlier, on June 24, following a lengthy illness with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81 years old.

Dignitaries in attendance included then Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff. Eulogies were delivered by Phil Fontaine, then national chief of the Assembly of First Nations; Jean Chrétien, former prime minister; Naomi Griffiths, former dean of arts at Carleton University; and Dominic LeBlanc, then a Liberal MP and the son of the late Governor-General.

“I thought I knew my father very well, but I’ve learned many things about him,” said the younger LeBlanc. “I heard wonderful stories from wonderful people and it meant a great deal to my family. It made us realize that it wasn’t only his family that appreciated my father, but many people as well.”

It was the first state funeral in Canada since 2002, when previous Governor-General Ray Hnatyshyn was remembered in Ottawa. Since LeBlanc’s ceremony, only two state funerals have been held in Canada—one in 2011 for Jack Layton and another in 2014 for Jim Flaherty, both long-time politicians.

As noted by CCN reader David Moore, of Toronto, who has a “small collection” of about 10 Academic Medals in bronze and silver, an Academic Medal depicting LeBlanc and his wife Diana was issued during LeBlanc’s tenure. The medal’s reverse depicts LeBlanc’s personal coat of arms.

The obverse shows the couple’s right-facing conjoined busts. Inscribed around the rim are the words “GOUVERNEUR GÉNÉRAL – CANADA – GOVERNOR GENERAL” at the top and “ROMEO LeBLANC – DIANA FOWLER LeBLANC” at the bottom; each phrase is separated by an inward-facing maple leaf. The medal has reeded edges on both sides and a 53-mm thickness.

The Academic Medal depicts LeBlanc alongside his wife Diana on the obverse.

GOVERNOR GENERAL’S ACADEMIC MEDALS

In 1873, Lord Dufferin – Canada’s third Governor General since Confederation six years earlier – established the Academic Medal to “encourage academic excellence across the nation,” according to the Governor-General’s website.

Since then, the medals have gained prominence as one of the most prestigious awards a Canadian student can receive.

“For more than 140 years, the Governor General’s Academic Medals have recognized the outstanding scholastic achievements of students in Canada,” reads the website, which adds the award is given to the graduating student with the highest grade point average from a high school, college or university.

More than 50,000 Canadians, including Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Kim Campbell and Robert Bourassa, have received the medal.

Today, the Governor General’s Academic Medals are awarded at four levels—bronze at the secondary school level; collegiate bronze at the post-secondary diploma level; silver at the undergraduate level; and gold at the graduate level. The medals are presented by participating schools on behalf of the Governor-General and include personalized certificates signed by the current Governor-General.

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