Just when the summer looked like it was going to be all lemurs and kittens, it seems like something of a witch hunt is developing to liven things up. The controversy surrounds Governor General appointee Michaëlle Jean. Well, not her, so much as her husband, and his friends and home renovators.
But I’ll leave the game of Six Degrees for another blogger and another day, and focus on the sole allegation, if it can be can be called that, which actually concerns Jean herself. As Ralph Klein put it, if she voted for separation in the 1995 referendum, she isn’t fit to serve as Canada’s Governor General. Not that many people think Ralph Klein is a shrewd judge of fitness to hold a government post.
Jean’s stance on the subject of Quebec nationalism has not been made clear by any statement or action by her, so it has been necessary to surmise from rumour and conjecture. In particular, her husband’s perceived political views have been imprinted on her by those eager to captilize on her politics.
Certainly, her silence on the issue should allay any outlandish fears that she would use the post to actually advocate for Quebec sovereignty. No, we’re just concerned with her thoughts. Jean has behaved admirably in the face of such inappropriate questions by ignoring them. Prime Minister Paul Martin, unfortunately, has chosen to affirm the validity of this inquisition by denying the substance of the allegations, rather than telling the media and those premiers echoing Klein’s sentiment to back off.
But what if it was true? What if she publicly states that, in the darkness of the voting booth ten years ago, she thought it was in her province’s interests to separate from Canada? How can she then serve as the representative of the Head of State of this nation? What message would that send?
Well, it could possibly send the message to separatists that there is a place for them in this country, and that they haven’t been demonized by the rest of Canadians for wanting to part ways. It could demonstrate that their talents and experiences are valued, and that by remaining in Canada they will have more opportunities than if they separate. It could show to the rest of Canada that the 49.4% of Quebecers who voted for separation shouldn’t be dismissed or vilified, because they are an integral part of this country.
On the other hand, if Jean were to state that she had voted for separation, and if Martin were to subsequently deny her the viceregal appointment, it would be an immense victory for the sovereigntists. Martin is currently sending out a watered-down version of this message: there’s no way that he would ever, ever, ever appoint a separatist, or a former separatist to the position of Governor General. What could strengthen sovereigntist momentum more than the Prime Minister telling half of Quebec that they aren’t full Canadians?