Born and raised in West Pubnico, N.S., Mr. Surette has intimate knowledge of the importance of fisheries to the people who live in Nova Scotia and other parts of Atlantic Canada. He is deeply aware of the historical and current nature of the relationships among the residents of Nova Scotia, including First Nations and commercial fish harvesters.
He was elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1993, representing the riding of Argyle. He held several political offices until 1998, including senior roles such as Minister of Human Resources and Acadian Affairs. During his tenure as Minister, Mr. Surette oversaw successful negotiations between the provincial government and various Nova Scotia unions to reach final contract agreements.
From 1998 to 2003, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Collège de l’Acadie, Nova Scotia’s only French-language community college. Upon his arrival in 1998, Mr. Surette oversaw the adoption of a new strategic direction and new operational structure, in order to better position the Collège for the 21st century.
Beginning in 2000, Mr. Surette played a key role in the creation and development of today’s Université Sainte-Anne. In 2003, he was named Université Sainte-Anne’s VP Development and Partnerships, a position he held until his nomination as President and Vice-Chancellor in 2011.
Mr. Surette has previously acted as a facilitator to resolve conflicts between parties in the fisheries, including the lobster fishery. In December 2003, Mr. Surette was appointed facilitator by the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to lead discussions between herring fishers from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, as well as the provincial governments of these two provinces, in order to seek solutions to the conflict in the herring fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. And, in March of 2006, again appointed by the Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Surette facilitated an independent process to resolve a dispute between fishers from Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands regarding lobster fishing on MacLeod’s Ledge.
Mr. Surette has served in various capacities on numerous committees and boards including the Organizing Committee of the 3rd Congrès mondial acadien, the Conseil de développement économique de la Nouvelle-Écosse, the Western Regional Enterprise Network, the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, the Board of Directors of Landscape of Grand-Pré Inc., the Board of Directors of Assumption Life, and the Réseau des cégeps et des collèges francophones du Canada.
He is currently the Co-Chair of the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne, Chair of the Fondation canadienne pour le dialogue des cultures, Chair of the Conseil de développement économique de la Nouvelle-Écosse, and Chair of the Association of Atlantic Universities.