Hum­bled ‘to fol­low in the foot­steps of gi­ants’

As­tro­naut Payette 4th woman ap­pointed Gover­nor Gen­eral

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD -

OT­TAWA — Former as­tro­naut Julie Payette ap­peared emo­tional after be­ing of­fi­cially de­clared Canada’s next Gover­nor Gen­eral, tak­ing a mo­ment to salute her fam­ily, friends, and col­leagues on Earth and a few above the planet.

The 53-year-old from Mon­treal will be­come the fourth fe­male to be the monarch’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Canada when she is sworn in later this year, tak­ing over from Gov. Gen. David John­ston whose term ex­pires in Septem­ber.

“Just like it is in space travel, we don’t nec­es­sar­ily do things be­cause they’re easy, but be­cause they’re hard,” Payette said Thurs­day.

“And the task will be hard be­cause it re­quires (me) to fol­low in the foot­steps of gi­ants.”

Her ap­point­ment marks the next step in the evo­lu­tion of the of­fice, sug­gest­ing that po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence is no longer a re­quire­ment for the job — mak­ing Cana­di­ans re­think who could end up in the role, said the head of the Monar­chist League of Canada.

“It sounds kids of cliché, but it does put a mod­ern spin on the role be­cause you’re able to have a dif­fer­ent kind of per­son in that of­fice. I think that’s where there will be a good op­por­tu­nity for her to el­e­vate that of­fice right across the coun­try,” Robert Finch said.

But her ap­point­ment could also make Cana­di­ans ques­tion the need to tie the Gover­nor Gen­eral to Royal Fam­ily, said Philippe La­gasse, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs at Car­leton Univer­sity.

“The re­ac­tion might be, well, look, why do we need Roy­als when we can have such stel­lar peo­ple as our head of state, as op­posed to our head of state’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive?” said La­gasse, who fre­quently com­ments on Canada’s par­lia­men­tary sys­tem and in­sti­tu­tions. “It calls into ques­tion, I would say, the ne­ces­sity of hav­ing the monar­chy.”

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said he first reached out to Payette about tak­ing the job a few weeks ago. After a series of con­ver­sa­tions, he said it be­came clear that he should rec­om­mend her for the post.

Trudeau made his de­ci­sion with­out the help of a vicere­gal se­lec­tion com­mit­tee that former prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper used to choose John­ston. Trudeau de­fended the se­lec­tion process, say­ing Payette won the job on merit.

“Ms. Payette’s life has been one ded­i­cated to dis­cov­ery, to dream­ing big and to al­ways stay­ing fo­cused on the things that mat­ter most,” Trudeau said. “These truly Cana­dian traits, along with her years of pub­lic ser­vice, make her un­ques­tion­ably qual­i­fied for this high of­fice.”

Payette was the first Cana­dian fe­male to board the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion in 1999. She went on a sec­ond space flight in 2009.

Payette vowed to serve Cana­di­ans “of all back­grounds, of all walks of life, ei­ther new or not-so-new,” fo­cus­ing on what she de­scribed as core Cana­dian val­ues: “tol­er­ance, open­ness and work­ing to­gether.”

She will be in­stalled as Gover­nor Gen­eral dur­ing a cer­e­mony this fall.

But first, she will go through weeks of brief­ings and prepa­ra­tions to take over from John­ston, as well as have a meet­ing with the Queen.

Payette said she was still think­ing about how she’ll han­dle the role.

“You can imag­ine though that it might be re­lated, some of it, to science, tech­nol­ogy and mov­ing for­ward in a so­ci­ety of knowl­edge,” she said.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau looks on as Julie Payette talks to re­porters.

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