Canada’s new Governor General is a rocket scientist
Back in November, some Canadians got their trousers in a tizzy when our new Governor General, Julie Payette, expressed an opinion about “science.”
Ms. Payette has an electrical engineering degree from McGill and a Master of Applied Science degree in Computer Engineering from U of T. But most Canadians know her because she was a Canadian astronaut, and served two separate missions on the Space Shuttle. She clocked 401 orbits of the earth and traveled 17 million kilometres. Like that brilliant comedy sketch by Mitchell and Webb, brain surgeons are over-rated when you’re a rocket scientist.
So, at a science conference filled with scientists, she took on the astrology industry, commenting on how strange it was that some people still believed that one’s life could be determined by the positions of the planets relative to the (invented) constellations.
Then she said, to a room filled with scientists, how shocked she was that we were still debating whether the activities of eight billion humans, (not to mention the one billion automobiles we drive and the 23 billion cows, pigs, and other animals we raise to eat), have had any role in changing the Earth’s climate.
Finally, she criticized the “evolution-is-still-a-theory” proponents, and wondered why there was still a debate as to whether life arose from divine intervention or through evolutionary processes. (I only wish she had said that gravity is also still a theory... until one jumps off a cliff.)
I suppose the astrologers didn’t see that zinger coming, which says a lot about astrology. And of course, the climate change deniers never like it when scientists speak about science to other scientists. As for evolution, the manufactured outrage machine went completely gaga, conveniently forgetting the fact that “evolution” is why we need flu shots every year. The leader of the opposition, (that fellow who looks like John Diefenbaker) tangentially implied that Payette’s views on evolution offended millions of people of faith. This was interesting in light of Pope Francis’ recent statements that God was not a magician who waved a magic wand to create the universe, and that both the Big Bang and evolution were compatible with church doctrine.
Some outraged media pundits said that she had “overstepped her role” by ridiculing astrology, challenging the climate change deniers and defending evolution. They called for her immediate resignation, claiming that taking a position on science was somehow “political.” Frankly, I suspect some of them were Russians, stirring up trouble for Moose and Squirrel.
But the more I read, the more the critics/pundits/Russians looked like they were “mansplaining” the job of the Governor General… to the Governor General. I guess some people can’t accept the fact that the best man for a job is often a woman.
So, to the outraged critics of our new Governor General, I would raise a toast and quote Canada’s other famous space traveler, William Shatner, who said: “get a life.”
Frankly, I’m proud to have a head of state who isn’t afraid to speak her mind about science. I’m also thrilled that our head of state in Canada can be a University Professor, a journalist born in Haiti, a broadcaster born in Hong Kong, a distinguished former politician, or an astronaut. In the UK, the Brits usually get the next in line to the Throne, whoever that is. We get the astronaut.
Which brings me to the real problem with the Governor General. He or she is still the representative of a foreign country’s monarch; a foreign country Canadians can’t even visit for the weekend without a passport.
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, as the Beatles said, but when Queen Elizabeth passes, Canadians should seriously examine our relationship with the United Kingdom, and ask ourselves whether it’s time to cast off the vestiges of the feudal past, and dispense with foreign monarchs altogether.
Tony Wilson, QC is a franchise lawyer at Boughton in Vancouver and a Bencher of the Law Society. The views expressed herein are strictly those of Tony and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society, CBABC, or their respective members.