Are you now, or have you ever been…

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?

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10 Comments

  1. O'Smiley said,

    Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 7:16 pm

    Gnomes, I cannot disagree more on this post. In absolutely no way can Canada appoint a separatist as head of state. This would show, to the world, an advocation on the part of the Canadian government in support of the aspirations of separatists in Canada (which is, I should not need remind, the breakup of the country). An appointment of a head of state with separatist views would be an enormous embarrassment for Canada.

    Just some other things I need to point out:

    You have stated that the appointment of a separatist GG would “send the message to separatists that there is a place for them in this country”, but it is this country they do not want any part of (except the separating part of course).

    Also you stated “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.” I honestly don’t see how it could be taken this way. I would argue that it would demonstrate that the government doesn’t have a problem with the ideas of separation, and therefore, would help promote the reasons for separation as just.

    Finally you say, “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.” Nothing will show the rest of Canada that separatists are integral to the country, that is just an oxymoron.

    And Finally #2: What could strengthen sovereigntist momentum more than the Prime Minister telling half of Quebec that they aren’t full Canadians? As far as I am concerned a person stating that they do not want to be a Canadian is not a Canadian! They may be a citizen with all legal rights, but they are not fully Canadian. This is the way much of Canada sees separatists and this view will only get stronger with the appointment of a separatist GG.

  2. Gnomes said,

    Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 10:34 am

    I honestly don’t see how it could be taken this way. I would argue that it would demonstrate that the government doesn’t have a problem with the ideas of separation, and therefore, would help promote the reasons for separation as just.

    It wouldn’t endorse the ideas, it would endorse the person. Being appointed to a government post doesn’t mean the government must approve and support everything you have ever stood for.

    As far as I am concerned a person stating that they do not want to be a Canadian is not a Canadian!

    You’ve just revoked the citizenship of half of Quebec. You, my friend, are a separatist yourself.

  3. O'Smiley said,

    Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 2:02 pm

    “It wouldn’t endorse the ideas, it would endorse the person. Being appointed to a government post doesn’t mean the government must approve and support everything you have ever stood for.”

    Gnomes, you can’t possibly say that endorsing a person with very specific political views does not in turn endorse the ideas that that person stands for. This is the same as saying that you can endorse Osama Bin Laden without endorsing what he represents. You can’t endorse a person without endorsing the views, ideas, and organizations that they represent.

    “You’ve just revoked the citizenship of half of Quebec. You, my friend, are a separatist yourself.”

    If you read my comment fully (They may be a citizen with all legal rights, but they are not fully Canadian..)you would have noted that the statement was not one of citizenship but of nationalism and patriotism. I don’t see how this statement is separatist in nature, but rather nationalist.

  4. Gnomes said,

    Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 3:07 pm

    Gnomes, you can’t possibly say that endorsing a person with very specific political views does not in turn endorse the ideas that that person stands for. This is the same as saying that you can endorse Osama Bin Laden without endorsing what he represents. You can’t endorse a person without endorsing the views, ideas, and organizations that they represent.

    That’s a rather extreme example. I could support Jean for GG if it turned out she had done something only mildly reprehensible, like voting Conservative, without approving of that particular political choice.

    If you read my comment fully (They may be a citizen with all legal rights, but they are not fully Canadian..)you would have noted that the statement was not one of citizenship but of nationalism and patriotism. I don’t see how this statement is separatist in nature, but rather nationalist.

    It’s a question of exclusion. All doors in the country should remain open to Quebec sovereigntists, otherwise they have no reason to change their minds. If we answer separatism with hostility, we only encourage it.

  5. O'Smiley said,

    Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 4:07 pm

    My example was extreme but the issue of separation in Canada not a mild one. The point is still valid. Even using your example, an ultra conservative who has expressed views crontrary to those the governement approves should not be a candidate for head of state. To use a worldly example: do you support the appointment of a UN ambassador who has expressed extreme views against the UN that would greatly conflict with his appointed position. Appointing a separatist as GG is the same conflict.

    “All doors in the country should remain open to Quebec sovereigntists.” – I dissagree, positions which are to reflect a united Canada to the nations of the world, such as a GG, should not be open to a person who has expressed views against a united Canada.

  6. O'Smiley said,

    Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Whats with the Spam! All of a sudden our blog has recieved a torrent of spam postings.

  7. Gnomes said,

    Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 11:01 pm

    Even using your example, an ultra conservative who has expressed views crontrary to those the governement approves should not be a candidate for head of state.

    Jean hasn’t expressed any views on Quebec separation. The question isn’t about her record as a public person, but as a private citizen.

  8. Gauntlet said,

    Monday, 15 August 2005 at 5:56 pm

    Hey, boys. Calm down. 🙂

    I don’t want to be “Canadian”, by citizenship or otherwise, if it means I don’t have the guts to embrace people who have disagreed with me in the past, even on something as important as the value of being a part of that whole.

    In a democracy, we vote, and respect the result. That means the people who lose don’t pick up and leave (the seperatists are still here), and it also means the people that win don’t punish the losers.

    If we had held a referendum in Alberta in 1995 on whether or not Quebec should leave the country, a good portion of the population would have voted yes. I’ve heard it argued that a growing number would vote in favour of Alberta’s seperation. But an Albertan would not be subjected to the question, merely because Alberta did not have such a referendum. Lucky for us.

    There is no right answer in a referendum. If there were, the point of the referendum would be lost. I’m not sure what the line is between a job where your political voting record is fair game, and it’s not. I’d certainly prefer there be no line.

    All of this, of course, ignores the silliness of the whole debate. It’s the governor general, for chrissakes. She is the representative of a person who firmly believes in the inappropriateness of her own involvement in Canadian affairs. From what I’ve heard, the heir to the throne of Canada is embarassed at the fact that he will be, as the australian republicans put it, an absentee monarch. The GG could be a monkey, for all the difference it would make.

  9. O'Smiley said,

    Monday, 15 August 2005 at 7:35 pm

    I agree with Gnomes; although Gnomes post was on Michaëlle Jean in particularly, my comments have been directed to the seat of the GG rather, and the implications of appointed a person to the position with a specific publicized political point of view that is conflicting with the representation of that position. The fact is that the questions regarding Jean’s supposed separatist affiliations are only due to her husbands possible affiliation, and not her own. From what I know of Jean, I have no objection to her appointment, although I would have objection to the appointment of someone with known factual separatist affiliation.

    I do disagree with some of Gantlets comments though. Specifically:

    All of this, of course, ignores the silliness of the whole debate. It’s the governor general, for chrissakes. She is the representative of a person who firmly believes in the inappropriateness of her own involvement in Canadian affairs. From what I’ve heard, the heir to the throne of Canada is embarassed at the fact that he will be, as the australian republicans put it, an absentee monarch. The GG could be a monkey, for all the difference it would make.”

    The GG is a ceremonial position that is important to the traditions of our Parliamentary system. The position of GG is that of Canada’s head of state which is an important representative of Canada, both within Canada and abroad.

    Having a monkey for a GG would make a difference. It would be an embarrassing statement to the world, representing a Canada which does not take its government, system of government, and governing structure seriously (A very dangerous position to show, having enormous political and economic ramifications for the country).

    The issue of whether Canada should remain a Constitutional Monarchy does not really fit into the context of this post.

  10. Gauntlet said,

    Sunday, 21 August 2005 at 8:06 pm

    Wow. Mental note. O’Smiley takes everything you say literally.

    I’m not debating whether or not we should remain a Constitutional Monarchy. I just say we have more important things to worry about than the political leanings of a person appointed to an entirely ceremonial position. I’m not against tradition. I’m just against treating it as more important than it is.

    And just to clarify, GG is not Canada’s head of state. GG is the representative of Canada’s head of state, who remains the Queen.


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