Sunday, December 17, 2006

# Posted 1:14 PM by Taylor Owen  

CW – MICHAELLE JEAN ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY, AND SHINES: For my money, one of Paul Martin’s best moves as PM was to appoint Michaelle Jean as Governor General. For those not familiar with the Canadian parliament, the Governor General is our head of state, acting as representative of the Queen. (How quaintly Provincial you may be saying, but constitutionally it’s actually not an easy role to get rid of, just ask the Aussies. Plus, while largely ceremonial, in a minority government, confidence in the governing party is not a science, so the GG can conceivably play a significant role.)

What makes Michaelle Jean particularly interesting, (other than not being 65, white and male), is that she is a Haitian immigrant, married to a Quebecoise filmmaker, and until being named GG, was a journalist and documentary maker for the CBC.

Well, you can imagine the uproar from the conservative punditry. David Frum and minions just about had aneurisms, shamelessly pushing a litany of ‘better suited’ candidates (all -surprise!- old, white, and male.) Harper, it seems, felt the same way. He has all but marginalised the GG, denying her repeated requests to travel to Afghanistan. (In a wonderful counter move, when Kasai was visiting Ottawa, instead of the usual several hundred person state dinner, the GG hosted an intimate dinner of 20 intellectuals to which the Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs had to attend.)

Recently Michaelle has been on tour in Africa and speaking with an eloquence, sensibility and wisdom that is rare in public figures of any stripe. Indeed, she seems a far better diplomat than the PM, who is markedly less sure footed on the the international stage than in question period. Here’s hoping Harper and co. can get over whatever it is that erks them about our GG, and allow her the voice she deserves.
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To be fair to the conservative punditry that didn't like it she and her husband were (are???) separatists!
Question from an ignorant American: Was there anything actually wrong with the old white male candidates for GG favored by the conservative punditry? Would you characterize as any of them as being equally or more competent than Ms. Jean?

Does having a black female GG represent a positive good in and of itself, or are the ideas and talents that Ms. Jean bring to the job what matter most?
I'll let Mr Frum speak for himself here.
The distain from a certain faction of the conservative right in Canada to Michaelle Jean's appointment was beyond 'reasoned critique.' Take a quick read through Frum's and others' pieces on her. They are filled a level of anger and resentment that whatever reasoned arguments may lurk, are masked by thick layers of vitriol.
His recommended alternatives where all qualified, certainly, and one was female, yes my mistake (they were all middle aged and white though, so I stand by that one). The main point is, they were all your typical voices of Canada. One of the wonderful things about MJ was that she represents a very different experience of Canada. One that is fundamentally are part of, and in many ways is the future of our country. This is precisely why she was so effective on her Africa trip and also why she is so popular across the country. As for the 'terrorist' connection - This is obviously hyperbole. Did she have separatist sympathies at some point in her life? So did Trudeau and many others who at some time in their lives, rightly questioned the status quo establishment Frum so conservatively seeks to protect.

ps. Even Frum's 'standards' could not catch that it is Porter, not me, who is the historian. that's it, now it's getting personal!
Taylor, is Frum incorrect when he says that Jean's husband made a sympathetic documentary about the men later convicted of murdering a Labor Minister? Could you point out what you consider 'vitriol' in that piece, or is that a word you use loosely, like 'male' in describing Hilary Weston, or 'middle aged' to exclude the 49-year old Michealle Jean?

Correct me if I am wrong, Taylor, but are you - like Frum's GG nominations, and 85-90% of Canadians - white? If so, could I dismiss you as presumptively uninteresting, as you did Robert MacNeil?
"could I dismiss you as presumptively uninteresting, as you did Robert MacNeil?" - probably
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