On Paul Martin’s recommendation, Michaelle Jean will become Canada’s 27th Governor General on October 1st, an appointment that comes with widespread dispute. The question at the forefront of most Canadians’ minds is, “Is Jean a Quebec sovereigntist?” Rumour has it that she voted in support for Quebec’s independence during the 1995 sovereignty referendum.
The Haitian born successor to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson came to Canada in 1968 with her family to flee the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier. She has since made her name as a popular journalist and television host on CBC’s Rough Cuts (http://www.cbc.ca/roughcuts/host.html) and The Passionate Eye, as well as RDI’s (Reseau de l’Information) Le Monde Ce Soir, Grands Reportages and many others. As a Francophone, Jean has spent most of her Canadian years in Quebec, and according to Le Quebecois (a popular sovereigntist magazine), she campaigned for Quebec sovereignty during the 1995 referendum, but is this true? She has yet to address the issue herself, but Prime Minister (PM) Paul Martin is fervently defending his choice for head of state. The fact that Jean has been so closely involved in French Canadian politics — separatist tendencies or not — makes her a strong candidate for the position of Governer General, the PM argues. Certainly her background qualifies her as a liaison with our large French minority in Canada, but what about her other responsibilities as Governor General?
The position requires Jean to represent the Crown in Canada. She will be our nation’s ultimate figurehead (http://www.gg.ca/governor_general/role_e.asp). She will have numerous symbolic duties, but mostly will be expected to promote Canadian sovereignty, celebrate Canadian excellence, and encourage national identity and unity. This is of course where her credentials wear thin. Can a former sovereigntist truly serve Canada in these prescribed duties? Paul Martin says yes. Many Canadians agree with him, but it seems just as many feel that Jean has been chosen despite her history and not because of it. In other words, the position could only have been filled by a high profile, female individual representing an ethnic minority. Indeed, there can be heard much sentiment in the way of, “Do not try to tell me a white male multi-generational Canadian from the West ever had a chance here” (Landry, 2005). I am inclined to agree, but that’s beside the point.
The suitability of Michaelle Jean as our next Governor General will not have anything to do with her ethnicity, first language, country of origin or even her political past. All we really need to know is whether or not she is a Nationalist now. By accepting the role as Canada’s head of state, I think that question has been answered. Once the accusations and anger die down all across the country, Jean will hopefully find herself in the perfect place to finally unite all facets of Canada into one — just as a good Governor General should.
The Prime Minister just might have made a good decision here. I don’t know whether it’s the accountability that comes of leading a minority Parliament or a misunderstanding of Martin’s character from day one, but Paul is really starting to grow on me.
All the best to Michaelle Jean and may she usher in a new era of strong Canadian sovereignty.
Landry, S. (2005, August 4). Small animals, the roadkill diaries: Why Michaelle Jean? Retrieved from http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/002441.html