"Those willing to follow"

I’m happy to second Colby Cosh’s “even stronger than usual recommendation” of Andrew Coyne’s column this week, in which he dwells on David Johnston’s prolonged reference to Samuel de Champlain in his remarks upon being named Canada’s next governor general. Johnston made it clear he believes his lineage to extend back to Champlain. It’s all quite deliciously subversive, Andrew says. Worth a read.

But is it new? No. (Indeed, Andrew does write that “Harper is not the first to have taken this line.”) Adrienne Clarkson’s installation speech in 1998 used, as its central connecting thread, the notion that the ancestor of all Canada’s governors, general and otherwise, was Champlain:

I take on the responsibility of becoming Canada’s 26th Governor General since Confederation, fully conscious of the deep roots of this office, stretching back, to the Governors of New France and to the first of them, Samuel de Champlain. In our beloved Georgian Bay, which lies on the great water route he took from the French River to Huronia, there is a cairn, placed on a small island, between a tennis court and Champlain’s Gas Bar & Marina, which commemorates his passage and quotes from his journal:

Samuel de Champlain
by canoe

“As for me, I labour always to prepare a way for those willing to follow”.

Those willing to follow have embodied the institution of the Governor General in ways which have demonstrated the evolution and constant reaffirmation of this country.

In concluding lines that would have given Marci McDonald a spot of trouble if she had mentioned them in her recent book, Clarkson said:

I pray that with God’s help, we, as Canadians, will trace with our own lives, what Stan Rogers called “one warm line through this land, so wild and savage”.

And in the footsteps of Samuel de Champlain, I am willing to follow.

Anyone else? Sure. Roméo LeBlanc:

Today I accept the responsibility of being Her Majesty’s representative with humility and with pride. Pride as the first Atlantic Canadian, and the first Acadian, to be called to this office and humility as I trace its history back to the one who is seen as the first Governor of this land, Samuel de Champlain. It was Champlain who explored the waters of the Bay of Fundy and established there the Acadian presence in the new world. Isle St. Croix in 1603. And Port Royale in 1604. We Acadians have been around for quite some time!

From there the trail grows cold, I’m afraid. Michaëlle Jean made no mention of Champlain in her own installation, but if I had to bet, I’d say LeBlanc wasn’t the first. This can be an odd country. Not only is the date of its founding open to dispute, but the nature of the dispute isn’t even widely understood.