Far, far away in Rideau Hall . . .
We voted well, but with elections over, let’s change the channel and cross the river to Rideau Hall.
Not only do we have a new Governor General, an astronaut-scientist-engineer, but she’s not shy. One of Mme Payette’s first speeches -- to a science forum -- has generated an uproar. Most GG’s avoid controversy, and many conservatives are complaining.
Curious, because aren’t these the folks who insist that “political correctness” is drowning us? Today they’re outraged that our GG isn’t following “the rules” of her office. She’s not being politically correct, is the essence of most of the comments I’ve heard from National Post implants to the CBC or political pundits on the Right.
Who says that a GG cannot make a statement of interest to Canadians? What a bizarre expectation of any political office-holder -- and the GG is a political office. If anything, politicians seem too timid in what they say, so it is refreshing to hear an intelligent leader make a statement with some substance to it.
Our municipal election campaigns bathed us in carefully constructed political statements and positions. So look, politicians, you too can make a statement with real content – just like our GG! What a remarkable, and sad, message.
Should the Queen’s rep censor herself? Did Adrienne Clarkson? Shouldn’t we grant this national leader the right to inform us of her opinions on subjects on which she is an authority (scientific topics)?
More to the point, Ms Payette took on issues that need addressing, and which elected people will not touch: religion’s effects upon our views. She did not question anyone’s “freedom of religion”, nor should we. That’s a valuable freedom. What she did unpeel is the big variance about freedoms some people take for themselves but refuse to others.
Among her critics are some politicized evangelical organizations and individuals portraying themselves as defenders of “freedom of religion”. Apart from the fact that this freedom isn’t under any threat, by Ms Payette or anyone in Canada, isn’t it strange that these religious-rights crusaders have been mute on another big news question of the day: Quebec’s face-covering law.
Muslims feel this law targets their religion, its practices and customs. Islam is clearly a religion, so why are these defenders of religious freedoms not stepping up to this plate?
Religious freedom, let’s be clear, is not the “freedom” to proselytize one’s religious views within public spaces. Nor is it the “right” to shut down people, student groups, or periodicals that are critical of one’s religious-motivated actions. It’s a right to one’s personal beliefs, and to the personal exercise of them within the personal domain.
In the end, this teapot tempest will fade, but I’m afraid such aggressiveness by political extremists will only grow, inspired by the giant machine south of our border. That’s not a benefit for our rights, since they are usually exactly what’s targeted. It is good the Governor General is speaking out – to us.