I was more than willing to give Michelle Jean the benefit of the doubt at first but when Pierre Bourque can dig up a dozen stories a day with fun little tid-bits from her separatist past, it’s becoming very difficult to defend her. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
1. This video shows Michelle Jean, with six well known Quebec separatists, toasting to independence. To be fair, it’s not clear to whose independence they are toasting but given that they are six separatists, including one FLQ leader, I suspect it’s not to Basque independence or to the independence you get when your wife is out of town.
2. There is also this exchange from that same video:
During the scene, Front de Liberation du Quebec leader Pierre Vallieres says his book Negres blancs de l'Amerique was inspired by Cesaire's writings on colonialism, explaining that being a "white nigger" means "being exploited, dominated, held up to contempt."
"And Quebec's white niggers also have their black niggers more and more," adds Jean, referring to Quebec's growing black population.
Seated next to Vallieres, Jean supports the separatist's statement that Martinique "should not only go for independence, but towards a revolution, like Quebec also."
"In general, yes, independence is not something that is given - it is something that is taken," Jean says.
Now, once again, notice how she doesn’t say that Quebec independence should be taken, merely that “independence is something that is taken”. Mind you, when it’s in response to a comment that Quebec independence should be taken…by an FLQ leader…uhh…
3. There’s also this:
Ms. Jean is also featured joining in a toast to "independence." She says, "C'est fini, les petis peuples!" (Which translates roughly as, "No more, dominated people!") She also notes that there are "three choices for independence." She says that in Haiti, the country of her birth, the choice was "painful." In Martinque, it is that of "compromise" and in Quebec it is "on hold."
Once again, I suppose it’s possible that “no more dominated people” is in reference to other people and that the fact that Quebec separatism is “on hold” is merely her analytical interpretation of the situation rather than wishful thinking that it will one day resume. But if I went to a white supremacist meeting and started making borderline racist comments, I think there would be just cause to assume the worst in those statements.
4. Her husband, Daniel Lafond, meanwhile, is also getting in trouble with this:
"So, a sovereign Quebec? An independent Quebec. Yes, I applaud with both hands and I promise to attend all the St-Jean Baptiste Day parades," the cinematographer wrote.
I’ve got to admit, I’m salivating at the prospect of Scott Reid trying to explain this one.
5. It also appears that the new GG won’t say how she voted in 1995 which, I guess, is fair enough. I just find it odd how many people in Quebec forget how they voted in 1995.
Maybe there’s a rational explanation for all of this. But I think it’s gotten to the point where there “some ‘splaining to do”. First, by Madame Jean, to reassure Canadians that she is committed to Canada. I’m not even that keen on the fact that Canada is still a subservient to the British crown but if we’re going to be, it’s absolutely essential that our head of state’s representative believe in Canada.
Secondly, it wouldn’t hurt for the PMO to explain their screening procedures. Did Jean Lapierre run the background check? I find it hard to believe that Paul Martin could have known about these video clips and still appointed her, but I find it hard to believe that the RCMP could have missed them. I am relatively certain that someone like Jean Chretien who was obsessed with fighting separatists would have damn well made sure his GG appointment wasn’t a closet separatist (or, in Mr. Lafond’s case, pretty much openly separatist). Even if this isn’t Martin’s fault, it’s quickly turning what looked to be an inspired GG nomination into another mishap. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the “hardline independentists” trying to “smear” Jean:
Bourgeois said yesterday his target in the revelations about Lafond, and now Jean, is Prime Minister Paul Martin.
"We want to show that Paul Martin is a washed-up incompetent who made a nomination like that without checking anything," he added. "For us, the hardline independentists, it is a bit comforting."
UPDATE: Paul Wells has found someone willing to stick up for Jean!