Canada

Governor General criticized by sister over Boisclair jokes

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean is weathering fresh controversy over recent comments she made about André Boisclair, the frontrunner in the race to lead the separatist Parti Québécois – and this time the critics include her sister.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean is weathering fresh controversy over recent comments she made about André Boisclair, the frontrunner in the race to lead the separatist Parti Québécois – and this time the critics include her sister.

Jean has had to fend off criticism since Ottawa announced she would replace Adrienne Clarkson on Sept. 27. Some people questioned her loyalty to Canada, accusing Jean and her husband of sympathizing with Quebec separatists, while the separatists condemned her for taking the post.

On Saturday, the province's newspapers were filled with a new uproar over comments Jean made at a recent National Press Gallery dinner, which is typically a light-hearted gathering where politicians and reporters make fun of themselves and others.

In her remarks at the dinner, the Governor General joked about holding a lunch for Boisclair, who recently admitted to using cocaine while he was a Quebec cabinet minister.

"We can have sandwiches and coke. Well, should André Boisclair, decide to attend, it will be coke for sure."

Boisclair always follows the "party line," she said.

The comments outraged some people in Quebec, including the Governor General's sister, Nadeje Jean, who, in a story she wrote in the Saturday edition of the Montreal newspaper La Presse, accused Jean of going too far.

"You have disregarded your duty to respect the strictly symbolic nature of your position," she wrote. "You have also had the bad taste to put your feet into political waters."

"The next time you are asked to make a toast, avoid speaking out of turn and mocking ... all those who aspire to make Quebec a sovereign country."

Earlier in the week, Boisclair had also said he didn't feel the comments were appropriate.

Radio-Canada reporter Emmanuelle Latraverse, who is the president of the National Press Gallery, said it wasn't the first time the annual dinner has generated controversy.

She said speakers are "asked to give funny, spicy, daring speeches to entertain the crowd that evening; that's always been the rule of the game, and this year was no exception."

Others said the uproar wasn't over what Jean said, but the fact that she dared to criticize a separatist.

"They see Michaëlle Jean, in a sense, as having been a sympathetic supporter of their cause and now has gone over to the other side," said Michael Behiels, a professor of Canadian history at the University of Ottawa.

"She has become a traitor, ... and that has rankled all the separatists in Quebec and they are attacking her as well as the office."

The Governor General's Office has refused to comment on the controversy, only saying that Jean's sister is a member of the Parti Québécois whose comments were clearly made for partisan purposes.

now