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For the first time in Canadian history, a person who is not of British or French descent will hold the post of the queen's representative -- the top ceremonial position in the country.

Adrienne Clarkson, 60, who was born Adrienne Poy and came to Canada as a Chinese refugee when her parents fled the Japanese invasion in 1942, will become governor-general on Oct. 7.

An outspoken author, filmmaker, journalist and diplomat, Ms. Clarkson becomes the first refugee to fill the post once held exclusively by members of the British nobility to oversee the affairs of the colony. "I am the first immigrant. I am originally a refugee, and I think this is a very important evolution for Canada," she said.

Her assignment to the post also marks the first time the governor-general's spouse will be an important figure in the job. Her husband, economic nationalist and author John Ralston Saul, has said he will work alongside his wife in the ceremonial post. Her first husband was Stephen Clarkson, a University of Toronto political science professor, from whom she is divorced.

In Canada, the prime minister serves as the head of government, while the British monarch is the head of state. As the queen's designate in Canada, the governor-general attends hundreds of functions each year and is often responsible for meeting visiting heads of state.

Educated at the University of Toronto and the Sorbonne in Paris, Ms. Clarkson was a journalist on several CBC TV programs, including "Adrienne Clarkson Presents" and "The Fifth Estate," an investigative show similar to "60-Minutes." She has also served as agent-general for Ontario in France and most recently as the chairwoman of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. She has written three novels and written, directed and produced films.

An outspoken opponent of the free trade deal with the United States and a staunch feminist, Ms. Clarkson and her husband said they will continue to speak out on issues of concern to them, despite their diplomatic status.

The job carries with it a tax-free salary of $65,000 (U.S.), use of the Rideau Hall estate in Ottawa and a similar mansion in Quebec City known as the Citadel.

While the governor-general holds considerable theoretical power in Canada, in practice, the governor-general acts primarily in a ceremonial capacity.

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