Friday, October 09, 2009

Canada's Governor General Not Queen, says PM

Canada's Haitian-born Governor General Michaelle Jean referred to herself as "head of state" - twice- at an executive meeting of UNESCO, prompting a rebuke from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Jean, who sees herself as representative of Canada's multiculturalism, would no doubt serve her country better and represent "the promises and possibilities of that ideal of society" if she could get her own job description right.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a clear message to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean that she should not call herself Canada's head of state.

"Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and Head of State," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued to Canwest News Service on Thursday. "The Governor General represents the Crown in Canada."

The extraordinary reminder from the country's head of government to its top viceregal representative follows an uproar over Jean's use of the phrase "head of state" when referring to herself during a speech in Paris on Monday.

Twice during the Governor General's address at an executive meeting of UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — she called herself Canada's head of state.

Her speech focused on promoting cultural diversity as a way to help achieve international harmony.

"I, a francophone from the Americas, born in Haiti, who carries in her the history of the slave trade and the emancipation of blacks, at once Quebecoise and Canadian, and today before you, Canada's head of state, proudly represents the promises and possibilities of that ideal of society," she said.

Later in the speech, while discussing the importance of education, Jean described meeting "remarkable young people" in the many places "that I have travelled as head of state."

But the "head of state" position — as surprised constitutional experts and perturbed officials with the Monarchist League of Canada quickly pointed out to Canwest News Service — is held exclusively by the Queen.

The statement issued Thursday by Harper's office struck one expert — constitutional expert David Smith, University of Saskatchewan professor emeritus of political science — as history-making.

"I can't recall that ever happening before," said Smith, now at the University of Regina and co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics.

The full story can be found here.

1 Opinion(s):

Viking said...

The pic is in serious need of a Caption Competition :)