Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Was she or wasn't she?

Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General designate, has issued the following statement:

I am deeply touched and wish to thank all those who have so warmly greeted the news of my recent nomination to the office of Governor General of Canada. Others have questioned my attachment to Canada and that of my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond.

I want to tell you unequivocally that both he and I are proud to be Canadians and that we have the greatest respect for the institutions of our country. We are fully committed to Canada. I would not have accepted this position otherwise.

We are equally proud of the attachment to Quebec that we have always shown beyond any partisan considerations. Let me be clear: we have never belonged to a political party or the separatist movement.

The French version has the words "nous n’avons jamais adhéré à un parti politique ou à l’idéologie souverainiste." So in one version she's saying she didn't belong to the separatist movement, and in the other version, that she didn't adhere to the sovereigntist ideology. Does that put to rest the controversy over her loyalty to Canada? It should. Notice, though, that she doesn't say how she voted in the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. But that shouldn't matter. Even if she had sovereigntist leanings in the past (without actually belonging to the movement or adhering to the "ideology"), a convert to the cause of Canadian unity is likely to be especially clear about her reasons for embracing federalism. And there's no reason to believe that she would have accepted the appointment if she were not fully committed to Canada, as she affirms in her statement today. The fact that she and her husband were well acquainted with separatists is hardly surprising. You cannot live in Quebec without doing so, especially if you are an academic, an intellectual, or an artist. Being in favour of Quebec independence is a perfectly legitimate option, as our political parties and the Supreme Court have recognized. When the Bloc Québécois formed Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in Parliament, they merited the title, for, like nearly all Quebec sovereigntists, they have adhered to the democratic principles of the Constitution in seeking their political goals. Whether Ms. Jean ever had sympathies for Quebec sovereignty should be irrelevant today with respect to her vice-regal position.

Chantal Hébert argues that separatists hoping to "out" Ms. Jean and embarrass Paul Martin may have shot themselves in the foot.

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