Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis was born in Chicoutimi. She received a classical education at Collège Bon-Pasteur in Chicoutimi and attended the École des Beaux-arts in Quebec City. She then obtained a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and a college certificate in educational psychology at Laval University. In 1981, when she was a teacher with the Louis-Fréchette regional school board, she became the first woman to be elected to the Municipal Council of the City of Sainte-Foy.
Ms. Fortin-Duplessis was active in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, serving as first vice-president of the Quebec wing. She was first elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Louis-Hébert in September 1984, and re-elected for a second term in 1988. She was appointed by the Prime Minister as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State for Science and Technology; Minister for Science; Minister for External Relations and International Development; and Minister of State for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. She was also Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for External Relations and International Development and to the Minister of State for Seniors. Ms. Fortin-Duplessis developed a keen interest in foreign affairs and international trade while sitting on the special committee on free trade between Canada and the United States and the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). She has always been aware of the importance of research in science and technology, and believes that research and development are key to Canada's prosperity and our youth’s future.
As a committed parliamentarian, she has played a leadership role within her party as chair of various legislative committees; vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Research, Science and Technology; vice-chair of the caucus committee on defence; vice-chair of the caucus committee on science and technology; and member of the caucus committee on regulations and other statutory instruments. She has also distinguished herself through her involvement as a member of the Canadian delegation to the Francophone Summits in Paris and Quebec City; vice-president of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union; and vice-president of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association.
Having learned the importance of civic involvement from her parents, she has been deeply committed to her community. In 1969, she became the director of the Œuvre des terrains de jeux, a charitable organization for Saint-Mathieu parish. She subsequently became church warden and parish secretary, serving from 1971 to 1973. In 1980, she was elected chair of the Laval University women's alumni committee and member of the board of directors of the Laval University alumni association. She was elected president of a chapter of the Teachers’ Union in 1981 and member of the board of directors of the Syndicat de la Régionale Louis-Fréchette in 1982. She was president of the Mont-Tourbillon golf club and a member of the Alzheimer Society board of directors, of the Altrusa Club and of the Fondation de l’Opéra de Québec board of directors. As a member of the Sainte-Foy Chamber of Commerce, she served on the community development committee and the transportation committee. She was also a member of the Laval Hospital and Saint-Sacrement Hospital foundations.
She served twice as president of the parish pastoral council and was also a member of the diocese pastoral council and the regional sectoral council. She has served as president of the Quebec Historical Society and of the Sainte-Foy Richelieu Club. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Cardinal Marc Ouellet Foundation. In 2008, she was appointed co-chair of the Conservative federal election campaign in Quebec.
She has received many distinctions and honours throughout her career. In 1991, she was named Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade by the Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue française. She received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation and was named a member of the Cercle Horace Viau by the Fondation Richelieu Internationale in 1997. The Quebec City YMCA recognized and highlighted her important contribution to enhancing the YMCA's social involvement in the community. In September 2008, the Institut national d’optique (INO) honoured her “for her outstanding contribution, vision and unwavering support, helping to make the INO a world-class research centre.”
On December 22, 2008, she was appointed to the Senate by the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper. She is a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and also of the Official Languages Committee.
In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, swimming and playing golf.
The Honourable Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis is married to Maurice Duplessis. They have two children and are the proud grandparents of seven grandchildren.