Often, it is chance that dictates your career’s path and graduates should be ready to embrace a multitude of unseen opportunities, said Chantal Hebert, national affairs reporter and political columnist for The Toronto Star.
Hebert spoke to graduates from the Faculty of Information and Media Studies and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the Wednesday, June 19, morning session of Western’s 301st Convocation.
Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon Hebert in recognition of her distinguished journalism career, which included coverage, both in French and English, of Canada’s constitutional and referendum wars.
“I don’t have very many life lessons. Do what you love and love what you do. They are not the same thing.” Hebert said.
“You can find love for whatever you are doing,” she added, noting this is possible even if the eventual job was never part of the original plan.
Hebert left Quebec at an early age and, not being able to speak English at the time, she experienced the challenges of living in a bilingual nation, firsthand, at an early age. She went on to pursue a degree in political science from Glendon College, York University, and her career took off in Toronto when she started working as a reporter in the regional newsroom of Radio-Canada in 1975. She then moved on to Queen’s Park and then Parliament Hill reporting for the outlet. She has served as the parliamentary bureau chief for both Le Devoir and La Presse.
Canada’s foremost political commentator, Hebert covers politics for the Toronto Star and is still a guest columnist for Le Devoir and L’Actualité. She is a weekly participant on the At Issue political panel on the CBC’s The National as well as Radio-Canada’s Les Coulisses du Pouvoir.
In 2007, Hebert published a book, French Kiss: Stephen Harper’s Blind Date with Quebec.
Hebert is also a senior fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto, and has been honoured with numerous awards and honorary degrees, among them two Asia-Pacific media fellowships in Malaysia and Japan, the APEX Public Service Award, the Public Policy Forum’s Hyman Soloman Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism as well as York’s Pinnacle Achievement Bryden Alumni Award. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2012.
Hebert told the graduates her educational and professional career have been marked by chance, all of which has led her to where she is today.
A very flimsy foundation ended up being the base of my career plan, one that wasn’t really working out, but I had an extraordinary journalistic voyage, she explained.
“Don’t make plans; it will save you from having to trash (them),” she said.
In his citation, Journalism professor David Spencer praised Hebert for her reporting skills in often-tumultuous waters of politics.
“Our soon-to-be colleague, Chantal Hébert, has forged a pathway into one of the more difficult venues, namely that of political journalism. … Her interest in Quebec politics and the impact on Canada has been perceptive and she has followed the tried and true path of the profession in her determination to be fair to one and all,” he said.
Hebert added those chance episodes in life may just take you where you wanted to go and where you were meant to be.
“Never lose your sense of humour. Never lose your curiosity – it will serve you better than your mind.”
Also during the ceremony, the status of librarian emerita was conferred upon Margaret Martin Gardiner while the status of professor emerita was conferred upon FIMS professor Jennifer Noon.