Saturday, October 2, 2010

David Lloyd Johnston, 28th Governor General of Canada

Had the opportunity to watch the installation of the new GG, yesterday. David Lloyd Johnston, father of five daughters, husband to another "doctorate" wife Sharon, former Dean of Law at University of Western Ontario, former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill, former President of University of Waterloo and also as an added footnote, fomer captain of the Harvard University hockey team, and son of a hardware store owner in Sudbury.
What an impressive CV, almost as if, as a male, he had to demonstrate that he was at least twice as qualified as his two predecessors, both charismatic, articulate, elegant and acomplished women of Chinese and Haitian ethnicity respectively. Almost as if an "old white male" no longer qualifies for anything, except perhaps a cermonial and inspirational role in Canadian life.
Well, wait! Not so fast! This is a government and a Prime Minister that are both headstrong, bullying of parliament and the Canadian people, appropriating a presidential kind of mandate (something they clearly do not have), and certainly likely to post another (or even more than one) threat to the Canadian constitutional government tradition. And only the kind of timbre, intellect, background, and savvy possessed in spades by David Johnston, or his equal, can be expected to counter such tendencies by either or both Parliament and the Prime Minister.
Support for families and children, support and leadership for learning and innovation, and support for the ideal of public service are Johnston's three pillars of his new term. Nothing shabby there, nor unworthy of a man who breaks with tradition in the most compelling and thoughtful ways: laying 26 roses each presented to him and his spouse upon entry into the Hall of Honors on the tomb of the unknown soldier, and hosting at least five grandchildren in the landau on the way back to Rideau Hall. And then there were the musical presentations in the Senate, as part of the ceremony itself, by a blind Newfoundland "old white guy" whose music, "Ties that Bind" evoked visions of listening to the locals in the bars in St. John's and two young chinese brothers, 13 and 15 respectively on violin and cello, playing their hearts out in another rousing, inspiring and atypical touch for this government, along with choirs of young girls from Christ Church and a second choir of "kids" on his way into the Senate...and the "Creator:Spirit" opening of the prayer of invocation by retired Archbishop of Toronto, Terence Finlay, closing with a familiar Christian "May the Lord Bless you and Keep you, May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you...etc. after evoking courage and strength for the new man in his new post...all of these somewhat "on the edge" for such ceremonies in contemporary, politically correct atmosphere, without offending any...and then there was the Shawn Atleo native prayer and the gift of the drum used while chanting the prayer, as a symbol of both the friendship and support from First Nations peoples for the new GG.
And when Tony Clement failed to actually read the inscription on the Great Seal of Canada as was his only scripted contribution to the swearing in ceremony, it was the Aide-de Camp who suggested that the new GG himself read it to what was otherwise a cermony without glitch..
And then, there was the unscripted, lengthy and effusive hymn to Johnston by one of his predecessors, Adrienne Clarkson, with Peter Mansbridge as part of CBC's coverage, followed by a kind of civics lesson on how Clarkson had wondered to herself, how her predecessors would handle various situations, drawing from their names inscribed on the wall of the GG's private office. She was given an open-ended opportunity by Mansbridge, took it and ran with it as only someone as articulate, and precise and dedicated to the depth and breadth of both the country and the office could do. And that piece of videotape will be replayed for decades, if not centuries, for civic students, law students and history students at all levels of their learning curve.
We can all breathe a little easier now that Johnston has assumed his duties, and a little less worried about such idiocy as John Baird and his utterings about subverting the will of both Parliament and the Canadian people by going over the heads of both, a la Ronald Reagan while president of the U.S. Why doesn't Baird go back to school and learn some of the differences between how things work north of the 49th as they do south of that line? With this new teacher, he may already have a seminar booked, by the GG, without his knowledge.

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