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(DV) Petersen: The Need to Speak Out







The Need to Speak Out:
Canada’s Governor Generalship

by Kim Petersen
October 11, 2005

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“The silence of a friend commonly amounts to treachery. His not daring to say anything in our behalf implies a tacit censure.”


-- William Hazlitt


There is a lot of hullabaloo recently on the swearing in of a youthful, attractive Haitian-Canadian governor-general. The GG is the politically appointed Canadian representative of Canada’s head-of-state who absurdly happens to be a foreigner ensconced on a throne in Great Britain. That the anachronistic institution is undemocratic and represents a paucity of Canadian sovereignty is bad enough, but what about the person that embodies the governor-generalship? Outgoing GG Adrienne Clarkson downplayed the titleholder: “I want to say … it's the institution that is most important.”


As a beneficiary of having had a luxurious post bestowed upon her, Clarkson could afford to be magnanimous in her praise. Nevertheless, to the extent that the governor-generalship is important, surely, it is germane which person holds the ceremonial title of GG.


The political thoughts and views of the GG certainly were deemed to be relevant. GG Michaëlle Jean was compelled to declare “unequivocally” that she and husband Jean-Daniel Labond “are fully committed to Canada” after being linked to Quebec separatism.


After criticism, Jean also renounced her French citizenship.


It is generally conceded that a GG should be apolitical. But is a GG also required to be amoral? What kind of institution would require amorality? And what kind of person would practice amorality?


It would seem not Jean who has a history of working with battered women and immigrant women. Jean did speak to values and morals in her speech on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.


“My dream is that we reflect much more deeply on citizenship, on belonging, which is not a negation of where we come from or our heritage, whether we are from Abitibi or Haiti or somewhere else. It’s not that. But what are we doing together?


“Right now, we are living through all kinds of absurdities surrounding this separate development. There are even values that we would profoundly like to adhere to, here in Quebec, and also in the rest of Canada, that are undermined in the name of this separate development and ‘multiculturalism.’”


It is sanguine that the GG spoke about “values that we would profoundly like to adhere to.” As a person who escaped the reviled dictatorship of François (Papa Doc) Duvalier in Haiti at age 11 and reached privileged status in Canada, it seems morally incumbent upon Jean to speak out on behalf of Haitians who have languished under the terrorism of US-Canada-France-backed forces since their democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed and forced into exile. Haitians, who suffer grinding poverty, deserve at least to live in a peaceful society where their votes may be cast and the outcome respected.


Morality calls upon Jean to condemn Canada’s role in the coup d’êtat. The Canadian state put troops on the ground at the time of Aristide’s ouster and has trained the notorious Haitian police force that has allegedly been committing atrocities against the civilian population, much of which still supports Aristide. Haitians are being massacred [1];  their children are being sold into slavery [2]; amorality in such a case is tantamount to immorality.


Amorality will condemn Haitians and relegate Jean to the historical abyss of ribbon- snipping GGs. The governor-generalship may be a dowdy ceremonial post but with courage and principle Jean has an opportunity to reach out to her kinsfolk and transform her dowdy ceremonial post into an inspirational platform for social justice.


Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives in the traditional Mi'kmaq homeland colonially designated as Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:

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[1] Tom Luce with AUMOHD investigators, “5000 soccer fans in Haiti witness machete and hatchet massacre by police and death squads,”, 26 August 2005.


[2] Gary Younge, “Haitian children sold as cheap labourers and prostitutes for little more than £50,” The Guardian, 22 September 2005.


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