Canada Day Musings on the Arctic and the Governor General
Over at the Globe and Mail, Canada Day seems to have prompted a bit of soul-searching. Franklyn Griffiths invites us all to “grab a cold one and think pan-Arctic thoughts”, which is a pretty good line. Unfortunately, I found the rest of the column to be a bit mushy. Griffiths seems worried that Canadians are indulging in “[e]xaggerated worry over Arctic sovereignty”, whereas we should “be persuaded of new opportunities to enhance the quality of Canadian sovereignty under the conditions of environmental and political interdependence that exist throughout the Arctic” as part of a “project that could yield a 21st-century equivalent of international peacekeeping” (cringe-inducing sanctimony, muddled objectives, and lots of corpses, then).
I think Griffiths is basically saying that we should pay more attention to potential areas of cooperation with other circumpolar nations, and worry less about maintaining sovereign control over the Canadian Arctic. I’m all in favour of cooperating, especially in areas like wildlife management that are intrinsically international, but surely maintaining control over our territory and resources is important too. If we proceed as if the 21st century equivalent of international peacekeeping might someday have to be supplemented by the 21st century equivalent of the War of 1812, we’re unlikely to go too far wrong.
In other Canada Day soul searching, Jeffrey Simpson seems to have developed an alarming case of heroine worship with respect to Governor General Michaëlle Jean. Apparently she’s “very Canadian, contemporary, bilingual, multicultural, modern, [and] worldly” and incidentally “a woman of fashion, grace and elegance”. She also happens to be “a great deal more charismatic than the dull white men running our national political parties”. It presently becomes clear that Simpson’s real target is another white man, Prince Charles, who will be visiting in November. The “very presence” of this “stodgy British prince”, we’re told, will “drive up the number of people who want to clip their umbilical ties to the British monarchy”.
This noxious cocktail of hysterical adulation for our Governor General and vitriolic loathing of our next monarch seems like a pretty dismal way to celebrate Canada Day. The white men running our political parties have their shortcomings, but the last thing they should do is cultivate the superficial, media-friendly qualities that Simpson seems to find so irresistible in Michaëlle Jean. As for Prince Charles, I wish he’d drop the nonsense about alternative medicine, but he seems like a thoughtful and dignified man who will make a fitting head of state when the time comes.
And Michaëlle Jean herself? Well, her charisma is an asset, she served us well in agreeing to prorogue Parliament last fall, and you’ve got to respect a woman with the gumption to gut a seal. However, she’s valuable to Canada primarily as our link to the monarchy, and to the centuries of British tradition that have contributed so much to our national DNA. Sometimes, especially on this Canada Day, I wish she would pay a bit more attention to that part of her job description.