Thursday, August 04, 2005

Governor-General, the New.

Canada is getting a new GG - Governor General. Two things immediately stand out to me: she is a journalist and a minority.

1) I am beginning to think that journalists should stay out of politics. California knew as much by giving journalist Arianna Huffington no support in her governor race. My dad always said you can go from politics to journalism but never the other way around. I think he is right. Consider this: Martin and Chretien have appointed CBC, National Post, and Globe and Mail journalists to high paying bureaucratic posts during their tenor. Because of this, suspicion has been drawn to the "free" aspect of the "free press." When I read the Globe or watch CBC, I can not help but think whether or not the journalist is gunning for a plush government post. These last two GG's have been CBC journalists: a supposedly objective and public media outlet now appears more government-leaning than ever. This hurts the credibility of not only CBC, but other media outlets as well.

Thus, the independent aspect of journalism has been quashed; objectivity has been lost. It happens via the relationship of the state and journalists. If the government has picked journalists in the past to plush positions, it is all the more incentive to become less free, less critical, and more inclined to appease the governing party - which is and has been the Liberal party.

Thus, I do not think it is great that a journalist was chosen by the government to be the GG.

2) She is a minority - black and a woman. This is a slightly more controversial point. But one that I cannot help think that she has been chosen based on her skin. The last two GG's have been minorities who have been born outside of Canada. Was this done to show what a multicultural and tolerant country Canada is? I hope not. She certainly has good qualifications - she is fluent in 5 different languages, she seems smart, intelligent, accomplished, etc.

I may not have thought deeper on the subject had it not been for comments by the insiders at the PMO, who said that "Canadians will fall in love with this woman. Her story, her nature and her character are nothing short of inspirational." In a very backwards looking way, this can be construed as looking down on different minority groups. A very multicultural interpretation might be that minorities need to be inspired in order to achieve what she has achieved. I mean, she even says as much:

"Being a black journalist on TV – for many black children and Asian children and, I say, even native children – it's a symbol because when they see me they say, 'OK, something is possible.'"

So, basically what is being conveyed is that minorities are full of despair and need high achievers in public positions to look up to in order to achieve in life. Appointing such a figure as her perhaps adds to this stereotype of minority desparation, that minorities are oppressed and their possibilities are actually limited unless they see a minority in a high position.

In the end, history does play a factor. Visible minorities and women have not had their share in political and economic positions - the view is that there needs to be a remedy, a correction for past sins of oppression and exclusion.

However, I think this may be the reverse racism and sexism that we so ought to condemn. US Supreme Court Justice Thomas (who is black) had this to say about affirmative action and "correction":

The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all. (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003).

In sum, if the motives of the PM were in the pursuit of a "racially aesthetic" GG, then shame on him. As Justice Thomas noted,

"This problem of stigma does not depend on determinacy as to whether those stigmatized are actually the “beneficiaries” of racial discrimination. When blacks take positions in the highest places of government, industry, or academia, it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement. The question itself is the stigma–because either racial discrimination did play a role, in which case the person may be deemed “otherwise unqualified,” or it did not, in which case asking the question itself unfairly marks those blacks who would succeed without discrimination."

Likewise with the pick for GG. The issue is not so much whether she is qualified per se, but the fact that such a pick raises questions and suspicions over whether her skin colour and sex played a role in her advancement. This is unfair to Michaelle Jean and unfair to women and minorities in general.