Politics·Power & Politics

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette on what she learned from her controversial comments on science, religion and climate

Julie Payette's first year as Canada's 29th Governor General has not been without controversy. She reflects on lessons learned over lunch with Vassy Kapelos.

'I have to adapt to the position,' Julie Payette says on Power & Politics

'I have to adapt to the position,' Governor General Julie Payette tells Vassy Kapelos in this clip of their exclusive sit-down interview. 1:15

For a former astronaut, it's a well known and familiar theory — for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. But the vocal public reaction to a speech by Governor General Julie Payette in her first year in office caught even her off guard.

"I learn from lessons, and I think in this particular case, I spoke very much like I have as an astronaut, but I'm no longer an astronaut," Payette told Vassy Kapelos in Power & Politics' inaugural Power Lunch interview.

"I have to adapt to the position and to the ways of saying that."

The controversial comments from November 2017 criticizing creationism and those who don't believe in climate change acted as a lightning rod for religious leaders and conservative politicians alike, who took issue with Payette's tone as well as choice of words.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to her defence, causing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to wade into the debate as well.

During a speech to a conference in Ottawa, Governor General Julie Payette made dismissive references to astrology, the notion of "divine intervention" in the creation of life, and those who doubt the science behind climate change. 1:01

Nearly one year later, Payette said the experience was a valuable one in her transition from astronaut to representative of the Queen. 

"Everything evolves, and I evolve too," she said, adding that the backlash illustrates the importance of debate and critical thinking.

But Payette refuses to walk back the content of her speech — namely, that climate change is real and junk science should be dismissed. 

Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos sits down with Governor General Julie Payette for the inaugural Power Lunch interview. (CBC)

"I learned that you have to be careful about how you say things, but not what you say," she said.

"I'm still convinced that — I'm sorry to say — the body of evidence shows that the planet is warming up. And it's warming up at a certain rate that has never been seen before in the history of the planet. We have to take that seriously."

Watch Power & Politics' full interview with the Governor General — an exclusive sit-down launching the first Power Lunch segment — on Tuesday, Sept. 4. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.