Notes for a column, never written

(I have some less-flippant things to say about this seal heart business, but first, this: — pw)

Michaëlle Jean fits in. It’s what she does. Three times she has found herself amid strangers as they do what they often do. Three times she has joined in with them, only to be astounded, later, at how upset outsiders become when they stumble across a record of her action. Raising a glass with separatists in a Montreal tavern in the early 1990s. Delivering a very funny, self-deprecating speech (“Because I’m hot“) at a Press Gallery Dinner. Gobbling a chunk of raw seal heart in Iqaluit. She has a simple rule. “I am with others. They have rituals. All righty then.”


Michaëlle Jean visits New Jersey and ices a Teamster boss with a shiv down by the dockyards. She drops by London to file fraudulent expenses at the House of Commons. In Paris during Fashion Week she offers provocative ideas about hemlines. At the Berlin Love Parade she has a moment with a tattooed performance artist and votes Green. But back home in Ottawa, she meets her match. The one man who can fit into odd situations better than her. Michael Ignatieff. They try to become each other. He writes a book about his third parent, who was Haitian. She writes a long article for the New York Times admitting she was wrong about Iraq and the carbon tax.

It’s a standoff. Spectators come from miles around to watch their Zelig-off. Ignatieff dumps Zsuzsana for an eccentric Québécois documentarist. Jean promises to “mess with you until the sun don’t shine.” Ignatieff starts speaking very slowly in a hoarse whisper. Jean holds her breath until her eyebrows grow bushy.

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