Thursday, December 31, 2009

Governor General's year end address

A few thoughts on the year end address from the Governor General that has, really, been overshadowed by the prorogation event of yesterday. This year end message is never really a big deal of an event, more of a pro forma thing but nevertheless, it does take on a bit of new meaning now. See below...

It's a hopeful message from Michaelle Jean, populated with idealistic expressions. She relates what she has been hearing from Canadians this past year and what their hopes are. She speaks of "solidarity," "an ethic of sharing," a fairer society, that is "more ecological," "more peaceful." Yes, that all sounds very good.

What's really timely, given the prorogation, is her statement that Canada has chosen to embrace the "luminous promise of the truth" in respect of our aboriginal schools history and the truth and reconciliation commission that will be travelling across the country.
It is Canada's desire to seek the truth and to make amends that makes it a symbol of hope for so many people around the world.
And you know, this is what a Governor General is for, right? Uplifting, idealistic inspiration from the person representing us all. It's hard not to listen to Jean and get that sense.

Yet in listening to that message, brief as it is and acknowledging that it is meant to be an idealistic statement, the word that comes to mind is "incongruent." Jean's words on what we are doing as a nation to reconcile historic wrongs are in jarring contrast to present reality, the history we are presently writing. What the government is doing in respect of the present truths it is responsible for does not measure up to any idealistic sense of what our parliamentary democracy should be about. What did it do when faced with torture allegations in Afghanistan? It won't tell us. We learn through leaks to the media and whistle blowers. The information is blacked out, the Military Police Complaints Commission is shut down, public servants like Peter Tinsley, the chair of that Commission, are dismissed, a respectable diplomat is attacked, and ultimately, Parliament is ignored and prorogued.

How wide is the gap between Jean's words and present day reality. The "luminous promise of the truth," eloquent as it is coming from Jean, seems to be for history, not the events we face today.