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Searching for an Aboriginal governor general.

The selection of Haitian immigrant Michaelle Jean as governor general of Canada has fast-forwarded the need to do the thinking required for an eventuality that will happen in its own time: the appointment of an Aboriginal governor general. The outer fringes of the rumor mill surrounding this appointment contained the odd reference to the possibility of an Aboriginal person being considered for this job. As if we need an Aboriginal vice-regent now!

"Candidates" for the position, if they can be called that, are subjected to scrutiny greater than that applied to prospective senators, and only slightly less than those who might "run" for pope. A governor general prospect has to have a clean past, free of associations with fascist/anarchist organizations, and innocent of having worn a swastika on a lab coat in their youth, prank or no prank, especially if somebody has photographic evidence of such an indiscretion.


Being considered for governor general is serious stuff. It is not just old-stock immigrants appointing more recent immigrants to a ceremonial position. Nobody is picked willynilly off the streets. They don't look for Ordinary Joe or Plain Jane when they look for a Gee-Gee. The government of Canada searches the country from coast to coast to coast to the 49th parallel for somebody with the "right stuff" or the "royal jelly" to be the Queen's representative in Canada.

Down the timeline, enough immigrants will have had their turn at this post. The government's governor general search committee (GGSC) will one day turn its attention to processing possible Aboriginal candidates. Any candidate would certainly be expected to speak Canada's two official languages. There may be scores of Aboriginal people who can fit this bill. But many of the ones I know are fluently bilingual in the wrong two languages. That is, in English, and their own language. This alone would wash out whole classes of Aboriginal prospects.

More problematic than linguistic facility for the GGSC would be vetting candidates on their total devoted loyalty to Canada. This is entirely different from the issue of separatism in the Quebec context, or support for another brand of "independence" that a future candidate for the job might have been filmed drinking a toast to. Canada's search for an Aboriginal governor general will run head-on into a series of closets piled high with the political. skeletons of its settlers' history with Canada's original people.

Any Indian or First Nation candidates are likely to be members of "nations" who have suffered the negative consequences of the broken promises of any number of royal proclamations or numbered treaties that were entered into with the "Crown." It's hard to point to a showcase model of a treaty that did not serve as legal fiction allowing immigrants the run of the country. It's hard to think of success stories, which can serve as evidence of how greatly life has been enhanced for Aboriginals since immigrants from other lands arrived here.

A Metis governor general might want to fully rehabilitate Louis Riel, who was hanged for treason in 1885. Where would Sir John A. Macdonald's statue, and place in history, be readjusted and relocated to? An Inuk governor general might want to square away many Inuit forcedrelocation issues. One of these is the relocation of Inuit to the High Arctic in 1953 and 1955, which uniquely enhanced Canada's sovereignty over that area, at great sacrifice to those Inuit.

"Are you now, and have you always been, totally devotedly loyal to Canada?" would be one of the questions a prospective Aboriginal governor general would be asked. "Absolutely!" would be the expected answer. But the catalogue of historic wrongs inflicted upon the Aboriginal people by the Crown in right of Canada would have to be fundamentally corrected before that answer could be true. Each of the Indian, Metis, and Inuit peoples continue to have a variety of unresolved grievances with Canada.

Occasionally, real power is exercised through the office. Some governors general have refused prime ministers' resignations in a minority government situation, and ordered certain said prime ministers to forge a coalition with another party to continue governing. Prime ministers never issue a dictatorial order for an election. They seek the permission and approval of the governor general to go to the ballot box. Imagine an Aboriginal wielding these powers!

The power relationship between Canada and its Aboriginal peoples has first to be fundamentally renovated before any Aboriginal person can assume this position in any comfort. The purpose of the post is to represent the Crown in Canada, and the Crown has not always been just to, or done right by, Aboriginals.

Suppose an Aboriginal governor general took steps to give the country back to its rightful owners, and force immigrants into tiny reserves? Unlikely, maybe, but it would be a royal wrench thrown into Canada's political civility.
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Title Annotation:strictly speaking
Author:Nungak, Zebedee
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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