- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Canada’s new governor general, who holds dual French nationality, has been accused of divided loyalties and her husband of having ties to French-speaking separatists in a bitter row that has exposed the country’s historical fault line.

Haitian-born Michaelle Jean, a broadcast journalist, was appointed by Queen Elizabeth as her representative in Canada on the recommendation of the Canadian government led by Prime Minister Paul Martin. She is due to be sworn in next month, the first time a black woman has held the post.

But the decision has dredged up the ghosts of Canada’s troubled past, in particular the sometimes bloody campaign by French-speaking separatists for an independent Quebec.

The nationwide political fracas has been fueled in part by the revelation that Mrs. Jean holds dual French nationality through her husband, documentary maker Jean-Daniel Lafond.

That provoked some to call for the renunciation of her French passport. Pierre Poilievre, a member of the Canadian Parliament, said Mrs. Jean should either “disavow” her French citizenship, or renounce Quebec separatism to prove she is willing to stand up for Canada.

But the most explosive accusation appeared in Quebec publications, where hard-line separatists said Mrs. Jean’s husband was a secret supporter. One claimed he was a “declared sovereigntist.”

They also said the couple had backed independence for Quebec in the referendum on the issue 10 years ago. The vote was defeated by a razor-thin 1 percent margin. Some politicians and commentators are now calling for the couple to reveal how they voted.

The accusations have prompted a furious response from Mr. Martin’s office, which accused the separatists of a smear campaign to discredit Mrs. Jean.

“We’re not about to start turning over their underwear drawer. When the prime minister says that Madame Jean and her husband are committed Canadians, you can rest assured that they are committed Canadians,” said the prime minister’s spokesman, Scott Reid.

But three of Canada’s powerful regional premiers and Conservative opposition leader Stephen Harper waded into the debate.

Mr. Harper said Mrs. Jean should declare to Canadians that she and her husband are not separatists.

Mr. Martin telephoned Mr. Harper and assured him the governor general had been properly vetted by the security services. His spokesman later added: “Understand this: The governor general is not selected from a scratch-and-win ticket.”

One diplomatic observer said the row separated Canadians suspecting that the appointment had been made for reasons of political correctness, against those who saw it as a triumphant tale of the new Canada.

“A lot of Canadians feel that it’s a good thing that an attractive black woman who started life in a poor country has risen to become the governor general,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide