Brother André is a saint — and Governor General of Canada is real head of state

Oct 18th, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief

Brother (and now Saint) André Bessette (1845–1937), among many other things founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.

You may feel that the pope in Rome has no real power to sanctify anyone. And we share that view. But if you harbour any attachment to Canada’s interesting province of Quebec, you may also feel some warmth towards the news that, this past Sunday “Pope Benedict XVI canonized the first male saint born on Canadian soil, Brother André Bessette, and urged Catholics to follow the example of the simple man who showed endless devotion to the poor and the sick.”

Whatever else,  André Bessette (1845–1937) was a remarkable as well as a humble and undeniably admirable man. Our correspondent Dominic Berry tried to capture something of what he has meant for one Canadian outside Quebec in his post from December 22 last year: “Did Wonder Man of Mount Royal work miracles? .. Merry Christmas Brother André anyway 2009.”

Also worth looking at, if you are especially interested in yesterday’s event in Rome: “All night in line to sit on the floor to bear witness in Montreal” ; “Brother André canonized in Vatican ceremony” ; “L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph fait le plein de fidèles” ; “Le portier de Notre-Dame devient Saint frère André” ; “Canonisation du frère André – Le Maurice Richard de la foi” ; and “Sondage Léger Marketing-Le Devoir — Un Québécois sur trois croit à ses miracles.”

Meanwhile, the eminent Canadian parliamentary authority, and Queen’s University professor emeritus, C.E.S. “Ned” Franks, published a perhaps only very vaguely related interesting article last week called “Canada’s real head of state.” It may be a sign of something that this article  seems to have appeared only in such smaller Quebecor Media properties in Ontario as the Kingston Whig-Standard, the Stratford Beacon Herald , and the Chatham Daily News. But certainly in our view it is authoritative enough — and deserves much wider discussion.

Along with his authoritative writing on Canadian parliamentary government, C.E.S. “Ned” Franks has also been “one of Canada's foremost voices on canoes.” His “seminal book” of 1977, The Canoe and White Water, “provided some clues about differences in how the canoe figures in English Canadian versus French Canadian history and literature.”

This latest article from Professor Franks is, in some respects, a kind of popular condensation of an argument he advanced  in an earlier and somewhat more formal document called “Should the Governor General be Canada’s Head of State? …  Remarks prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Study of Parliament Group … Ottawa, 26 March 2010. Revised 30 March 2010.”

Whatever else, the article that appeared in such places as the Kingston Whig-Standard last week is especially valuable for its tidy last-paragraph summary of what strike us as contemporary Canadian plain truths:  “UNESCO identifies the Governor General as Canada’s head of state, and there’s a good reason for this: any foreign government that wants to communicate with the office or person who fulfils the role of head of state for Canada would not get very far by trying to deal with Buckingham Palace. The term ‘head of state’ is a job description, not a formal, legal, or constitutional title. Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada. But the Governor General, not Queen Elizabeth, performs the job and should be recognized as Canada’s head of state.”

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