Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Toronto Sun applauds the appointment of a white male Governor General

An editorial in the Toronto Sun is praising Harper for his choosing David Johnston to be the next Governor General of Canada. This article praises him, not because of Dr. Johnston's past career or what he can bring to the position, but because he is a white male.

An old white guy for Governor General?

How novel, and yet how brilliant of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In fact, we're giving him a standing ovation. Right now.

Everyone on their feet!

In an age when the federal civil service has taken affirmative action to the extreme, with preference in the federal bureaucracy given to those who are bilingual -- preferably francophone, of course -- or persons of colour, or disabled or aboriginal, the appointment of David Johnston as Canada's next Governor General is a historic breakthrough.

You, like us, have no doubt seen the federal career ads where, written in invisible ink, are the words, "white men need not apply."

Well, this appointment trumps it all.

Can we really say that we have any preference to women, persons of colour, disabled or aboriginal people within Canadian politics? Granted, the past two Governor Generals were not white men, but look at the other positions within the country.

The only female Prime Minister was appointed until an election could be held, not elected. The House of Commons is currently only 22% female. The most recent detailed information I could find on other demographics was a study conducted by Jerome Black in the Canadian Parliamentary Review, which showed that in 2000 only 1.7% of MPs were aboriginal (down from 2.3% in 1997), and 5.6% were members of visible minorities, a term which is not explicitly defined in the study, (down from 6.3% in 1997). It is not a good sign when these numbers are decreasing. Also, it seems there have only been 3 MPs with disabilities.

Looking for these statistics, I was very surprised by how little information there is on the demographics of Members of Parliament... I can find a lot on how many women are in parliament, but very few other statistics that aren't related to provinces or political parties.

I'm not even going to go into wage gaps to show how well affirmative action, which, to my knowledge, has never existed in Canada, has worked to equal the playing field, but suffice to say that white men have a much higher income than any other group (lots of info with Statistics Canada if anyone is doubting this claim- check it out now before the end of the mandatory long form in the census further skews much of their results).

It is interesting that elected officials seem to be white men, and other people tend to get appointed to their positions. It is reflective of the authority that is given to white men, especially in that as you go to lower levels of government (provincial, municipal), you get a wider representation from other groups.

I'm not suggesting that David Johnston can't do the job... I have done very little research on him and am not sure what he stands for. He might be great, however, I have my doubts... first, because he was chosen by Harper, and secondly, because I am not too fond of university administrators as a group (comes with the territory of being active in the GTA union, I guess). I just don't think we should be happy that Harper appointed someone simply because they are a white male. We see enough white men in parliament as it is.

1 comment:

  1. I love it how whenever the normative state of oppression is challenged, however briefly, people suddenly assume that it's "radical" to reinforce the way things generally are. The Toronto Sun article is just another example of people believing that "affirmative action" (or whatever you want to call it) has gone "too far"... as if the non-white governor generals weren't qualified and were hired only because of some equity practice that, in truth, does not exist. Or as if David Johnston's qualifications cannot be in doubt simply because he is a white male.

    On the other hand, hiring someone who is minoritized to the position of governor general is progress only in form and not essence. Having a woman of colour as the chief of the Toronto police, for example, doesn't suddenly mean that the police are "equitable" in a broad and anti-oppressive sense--they're still the "special bodies of armed people" whose prime function is social control (defenders of the ruling classes) and the protection of private property. And let's face it: the governor general is a political position that is intrinsically wed to this specific capitalist state.