So, yesterday, I was totally oblivious to Micaelle Jean's investiture as Governor General of Canada. But this morning, as I walked past the newspaper boxes on my way to the subway, I couldn't help but notice the pictures and headlines. Writers from the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and, yes, even the National Post seemed to be falling over themselves to heap praise on the new vice-regent.
Huh? What happened to the hasty appointment, the lack of background checks, the ties to Quebec sovereigntists and the FLQ? I picked up a copy of the Globe to find out more.
Here's what happened: Canada got to see and hear Michaelle Jean.
Now we understand what Paul Martin must have seen when he first met her, immediately deciding that she should be Governor General. I wonder if he's been laughing to himself a lot over the past few weeks, as an anglophone press that clearly knew nothing of the woman questioned her allegiance to Canada.
In her installation speech yesterday, Mme. Jean answered their concerns beautifully, and went far beyond:
Canada is known for its values: freedom, tolerance, respect, and generosity. It's on those values that we've built our remarkable society, and it's in those values that we will find our better future. The soveriegnty movement isn't just misguided -- it's irrelevant.
The time of the "two solitudes" that for too long described the character of this country is past. The narrow notion of "every person for himself" does not belong in today’s world, which demands that we learn to see beyond our wounds, beyond our differences for the good of all. Quite the contrary: we must eliminate the spectre of all the solitudes and promote solidarity among all the citizens who make up the Canada of today. As well, we must make good use of our prosperity and our influence wherever the hope that we represent offers the world an extra measure of harmony.
And that is how I am determined that the position I occupy as of today will be more than ever a place where citizens' words will be heard, where the values of respect, tolerance, and sharing that are so essential to me and to all Canadians, will prevail. Those values, which are paramount for me, are linked inextricably with the Canada I love.
And, on the subject of the future, this:
In every photo, Jean is stunning, with her warm smile radiating youthful vitality. It's a marked contrast to the series of old, white men who held the post before Jean and her predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson. She is dignified and glamourous, yet comes across as authentic and relatable. She's an truly an exciting personality in political climate that seems nasty, disconnected and irrelevant.
Most of all, I want our young people to be our standard-bearers. I want them to dip into the enormous treasure trove that is Canada. I am the mother of a little girl whose story opened my eyes to certain very harsh realities that we must not ignore. My daughter, Marie-Éden, has changed my life. She has taught me that while all children are born equal, they don’t all have the same opportunities to flourish. This is as true for children here as it is for children in the third world...
Nothing in today’s society is more disgraceful than the marginalization of some young people who are driven to isolation and despair. We must not tolerate such disparities. After all, our young people are helping to redefine the great family we all belong to, in a world that is less and less impermeable, more and more open. They are the promise of our future and we have a duty to encourage them to join us in this reinvention of the world.
As John Ibbitson gushed in the Globe, "but here is this beautiful young Canadian of Haitian birth, with a smile that makes you catch your breath, with bemused older husband by her side, and a daughter who literally personifies our future, and you look at them and think: Yes, this is our great achievement, this is the Canada that Canada wants to be."
As for me, I'm proud. Proud that Michaelle Jean has chosen this country to live in, and of the words she choses to describe it. Proud that this country recognized this woman and lifted her to one of its highest offices. And today, I'm hopeful for its future.