With a special guest appearance by the Governor General? - Macleans.ca

With a special guest appearance by the Governor General?

A possible compromise to end Theresa Spence’s hunger strike

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While the Prime Minister’s Office and Ned Franks explain the reasons for not involving the Governor General in a meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders, Charlie Angus seems to try to articulate a compromise.

But NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose Northern Ontario riding includes Ms. Spence’s Attawapiskat community, said the Prime Minister should allow the Governor-General to open any future meeting in order to build trust and “dial down the rhetoric.” “I’m concerned about the symbolism if [Ms. Spence] got sick or something happened — I think it would really throw everything off track,” he said. “If [Mr. Harper] sends some message of goodwill, we could ratchet this down a lot.”

This sounds like a proposal to have the Governor General do what he did a year ago at the Crown-First Nations gathering.

There are a couple ways to question this proposal. The first is the practical: Would this be enough to satisfy Theresa Spence and those who are following her lead on this demand that the Governor General be involved? If the answer is no, this proposal is moot.

But even if this would be sufficient to appease Ms. Spence, there is the philosophical question: Is any compromise worth making when it is based on a very problematic understanding of how our democracy works? Is it worth finding a compromise at the risk of perpetuating—or seeming to give into—a very problematic understanding of how our democracy works?

I think I generally lean towards upholding the principles of our democracy and refusing demands that seem to be based on a very problematic understanding our how our democracy works, but if having David Johnston stand up and say a few words (presuming he then takes his leave and goes back to Rideau Hall) would be enough to get past this odd stand-off, I’m somewhat tempted to say go for it and be done with it. (Alternatively, you refuse a compromise, stick with the principled view and assume that this point of dispute will ultimately pass. I suppose this calculation involves judging Ms. Spence’s present and future health and the likelihood she’ll give up her protest or otherwise be fine.)