Canadian PM Trudeau names new clerk of privy council as Janice Charette announces retirement

By on 31/05/2023 | Updated on 31/05/2023
A photograph of clerk of the privy council and secretary to the cabinet Janice Charette
Janice Charette. Photo: Government of Canada

Canada’s most senior public servant, Janice Charette, is to retire as clerk of the privy council and secretary to the cabinet and will be replaced by John Hannaford, the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced.

Charette will retire on 24 June, ending a near 40-year career in the public service, which included two stints as clerk – first between 2014 and 2016, and then again from March 2021, initially on an interim basis while Ian Shugart received treatment for cancer, and then permanently after Shugart retired in May 2022.

Trudeau said Charette had had an outstanding career as a public servant, which has earned her great respect and recognition both nationally and internationally.

“I am especially grateful for her advice and leadership as interim clerk and then clerk of the privy council, where she helped navigate Canada’s recovery out of the pandemic and provided steady leadership to the Canadian public service,” he said. “I wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”

Charette, the second woman to hold the post of clerk, will be appointed to the King’s Privy Council for Canada in recognition of her exceptional contribution to public service.

‘Steadfast in maintaining services’

Her second spell as clerk coincided with the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent economic recovery – something Charette acknowledged last year in a video to mark National Public Service Week.

“We’ve been steadfast in maintaining services for Canadians, as we have for 155 years. And we’ve done it while facing new and unexpected challenges,” she said.

“The impacts of that support are evident as we work to bolster the economy and recover from the pandemic. Canadians had food on the table despite lockdowns and closures [and] we’re seeing record lows in the national unemployment rate.”

In the video, Charette also highlighted how the government is working to fight climate change and helping to reduce emissions, as well as offering refuge to displaced people from around the world, including from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Charette worked on improving diversity during her time as clerk, calling moves to become more equitable, diverse, inclusive and accessible “everyone’s priority” in her 2022 annual report to Trudeau.

Read more: ‘Much more needed’ to combat racism and improve diversity in Canadian public service, says chief

John Hannaford to become clerk of the privy council

Hannaford will take up the post of clerk on 24 June from his current role as deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada. He joined the federal public service in 1995 and has served in a number of senior-level positions, including as deputy minister of international trade and foreign and defence policy advisor to the prime minister. From 2009 to 2012, he was Canada’s ambassador to Norway.

Hannaford will be appointed as a senior official at the Privy Council Office from 1 June until he assumes the role of clerk in order to support “a seamless transition at the highest rank of the public service”.

Mollie Johnson, currently associate deputy minister of natural resources, will assume the duties of deputy minister of natural resources on an interim basis, until a new deputy minister is appointed.

Trudeau said that Hannaford brings a wealth of experience and a strong reputation to the role. “I am confident that his longstanding commitment to serving Canadians will allow him to lead our world-class public service as it continues to implement the Government of Canada’s agenda and make life better for people across the country.”

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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