Childhood & Early Life
Julie Payette was born on October 20, 1963, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to Jacqueline, a theater accountant, and André, an engineer. She grew up in the Ahuntsic suburb of Montréal.
Payette attended the 'Collège Mont-Saint-Louis' and the 'Collège Regina Assumpta' in Montréal. She was one of the six Canadians to receive scholarships to the 'United World College of the Atlantic' in South Wales, U.K.
After receiving an International Baccalaureate in 1982, Payette attended the 'McGill University' in Montréal on a scholarship. In 1986, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
In 1990, she obtained a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering from the 'University of Toronto.'
Julie Payette plays the piano and has been a member of the 'Montreal Symphonic Orchestra Chamber Choir,' the 'Piacere Vocale in Basel' in Switzerland, and the 'Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Choir' in Toronto. She is also part of the 'Ottawa Bach Choir’.
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Between 1986 and 1988, while Julie Payette was in school, she worked as a systems engineer for the “Science Engineering” division of ‘IBM’ in Canada. While at the 'University of Toronto,' she worked on a high-performance computer architecture project and also served as a teaching assistant.
In 1991, Payette was a visiting scientist at the communications and science department of the 'IBM Zurich Research Laboratory' in Switzerland.
In January 1992, she worked on a ‘Speech Research Group’ project under 'Bell-Northern Research' in Montreal.
In June 1992, Julie Payette was selected at the 'Canadian Space Agency.' After a basic training session, she began working as a technical advisor for the agency’s ‘Mobile Servicing System’ (MSS). She worked on a robotic system project that eventually contributed to the 'International Space Station.' She also established the 'Human Computer Interaction Group.'
From 1993 to 1996, Payette was a technical specialist at the 'International Research Studies Group' (RSG-10), working on a speech recognition project for ‘NATO.’ Between 1995 and 1998, she served the 'Natural Science and Engineering Research Council' (NSERC) of Canada.
Julie Payette learned Russian as part of her space-travel training session. She traveled on different parabolic aircrafts, under reduced gravity, for more than 120 flight hours.
In February 1996, she was drafted to the 'Canadian Air Force Base' in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, as the captain of ‘CT-114 Tutor’ jet “Snowbird,” on which she recorded over 1,300 flight hours.
In April 1996, Payette became a certified deep-water scuba dive operator in Vancouver. Her preliminary astronaut training began at the 'NASA Johnson Space Center' in Houston, Texas, in August that year.
She completed her ‘NASA’ training in 1998 and became a mission specialist. She was then assigned to a technical project in the robotic wing of the ‘Astronaut Office.’
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In 1999, Payette became the first Canadian to join the 'International Space Station' (ISS) and work on an assemble project, when she was chosen for the space shuttle ‘Discovery' mission (from May 27 to June 6, 1999). ‘Discovery’ was one of the fully operational orbiters of the 'NASA Space Shuttle Program.’
While serving as a chief astronaut of the 'Canadian Space Agency' (from 2000 to 2007), Payette simultaneously worked as a lead capsule communicator (CAPCOM) on the space shuttle mission ‘STS-121’ at the 'Mission Control Center' in Houston.
In July 2009, Payette worked as a flight engineer and mission specialist 2, on an ‘ISS’ mission for the retired orbiter 'Space Shuttle Endeavour' (OV-105).
Between 2010 and 2011, Payette was in the U.S., working at the 'Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' in Washington, D.C., while serving as a U.S. scientific delegate for the Quebec government. She later represented the ‘Department of Economic Development, Innovation, and Export Trade’ of the Québec government.
Payette was a flag bearer in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 'Olympic Winter Games' in Vancouver. She then served as a director on the board of the 'Own the Podium Olympic' program and of the 'Canadian Olympic Committee.' She has also served on the directorial boards of 'Queen's University,' 'Canada's Montreal Science Centre Foundation,' the 'Montreal Bach Festival,' the 'National Bank of Canada,' 'Robotique FIRST Québec,' 'Drug Free Kids Canada,' and 'Développement Aéroport Saint-Hubert de Longueuil.' Payette is a faculty member of the ‘Engineering Advisory Board’ of 'McGill University.'
In 2011, Payette worked as a public policy scholar at the 'Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars,' Washington, D.C.
Payette retired from the 'Canadian Space Agency' in 2013. She subsequently became the vice-president of the 'Canada Lands Company,' a post she held until 2016. During this time, she was also the CEO of the 'Montreal Science Centre' (for 3 years, from 2013 to 2016).
In 2017, the 'International Olympic Committee' appointed Payette to its 'Women in Sports Commission.'
Politics & Criticism
In July 2017, Julie Payette was appointed as Canada’s 29th governor-general. She assumed office on October 2 that year.
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In 2018, Payette was criticized for making controversial remarks against believers of creationism. In her defense, she requested the public to give her some time to adapt to her new political status. However, Payette stuck to her stand on the significance of critical thinking and constructive debates.
Shortly after, Payette faced another set of criticisms due to her inefficiency as a governor-general.
Honors & Awards
Julie Payette has received the 'NASA Space Flight Medal' twice (1999 and 2009). She was also awarded the 'University of Ottawa Distinguished Canadian Leadership Award' (2009), the 'Engineers Canada Gold Medal' (2010), and the 'NASA Exceptional Service Medal' (2010).
She has also been honored with the titles of the 'Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Pléiade de la francophonie' (2001), the 'Knight of l'Ordre National du Québec' (2002), the 'Officer of the Order of Canada' (2010), the 'Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada' (2017), the 'Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit,' and the 'Commander of the Order of Merit for Police Forces.'
Payette was inducted into the 'Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame' in 2010. She is an honorary member of the 'Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec' and the 'International Academy of Astronautics.'
Family & Personal Life
Julie Payette was married to François Brissette from 1992 to 1999. She then got married to William Flynn in 2001. They had a son in 2003. The couple divorced in 2015.
After being appointed as the governor-general, Payette always found her personal life under the media radar. The media sensationalized the news of Flynn’s assault charge against Payette in 2011. However, he eventually withdrew the case.
Julie Payette was dragged into a media controversy after being accused of being involved in a car accident that killed a 55-year-old pedestrian with poor eyesight.
Her divorce proceedings with Flynn, too, attracted media attention. In August 2017, just before she was to be officiated as the governor-general, Payette filed a request to remove the divorce proceedings from the public records. However, she faced legal opposition from the 'Globe and Mail,' 'Toronto Star,' ‘CBC’, ‘CTV’, 'Postmedia,' and other such media groups. The media demanded political transparency from her at every level, as she was someone who was gearing up to hold a crucial position. In the wake of the controversy, Payette had to withdraw her request on August 21, 2017.