I was well into a different blog on world citizenship when Julie Payette gave her inaugural speech on 02 October 2017 without notes and in three languages - English, French, and Algonquin, the language of the original inhabitants of the Ottawa area. Among the attendees was Perry Bellegarde, president of the First Nations Association. Over 600 bands, speaking over 60 languages, make up 5.6% of Canada’s 36 million people. Again I was impressed. My association with Julie is limited to a 15-minute discussion after a mess dinner held by Canadian personnel stationed here at NORAD. She had been invited as guest speaker. I was delighted to find we shared similar views. So, I thoroughly endorse her appointment as the 29th Governor General of Canada.
As head of state, the governor general may not be nominated by, or be part of, any political party. Representing the Crown and Country, where sovereignty resides, she, or he, must remain above petty politics.
Yet, should the need arise, a governor general can dismiss a prime minister and dissolve parliament if they lose the confidence of the House of Commons.
Julie, a business woman, an engineer, and an astronaut, was born in Montreal in 1963. She earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at McGill University in 1986, then worked for IBM Canada for 2 years before earning an MA from the University of Toronto in 1990, returning to IBM for a year of research in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1992 she joined BellNorthern Research in Montreal to work on telephone speech comprehension.
She also has a Baccalaureate diploma from the United World College in Wales, UK.
She can converse in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.
She is twice divorced, and has a son, Laurier, now age 14.
She is also a pilot logging 1,300 hours, 600 of which were on high performance jets.
In June1992 Julie was one of four selected, from among 5,330 applicants, by the Canadian Space Agency. She worked in advanced robotics systems before reporting to the Johnson Space Center in 1996.
For 11 days in 1999 Julie was part of the crew of space shuttle Discovery, the first shuttle to dock with the International Space Station on which she operated the Canadian robotic arm. This STS-96 mission made 153 orbits of the Earth in 9 days and 19 hours.
Of the eleven Canadian astronauts who have flown in space only two were women.
Julie’s second space flight was in 2009 on STS-127, using space shuttle Endeavour. During this 17-day space station stay, she joined Canadian astronaut, Robert Thirsk. Julie had brought a signed sweater from Maurice “The Rocket” Richard of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team to honour the team’s 100th anniversary.
During my discussion with her, Julie spoke of her delight at finding the Montreal area cloud free, permitting her to take pictures from space of her home-town area.
From 2000 to 2007, Julie was Chief Astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency.
From 2010 to 2011, she worked at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington while representing the Quebec government as scientific delegate to the USA. Then for 3 years she was CEO of the Montreal Science Centre as well as Vice President of the Canada Lands Company.
As if that was not enough, Julie also participates in a confusing assortment of responsibilities including: airport development, drugs-free children, women’s olympic sports, university boards of directors, and so on. She plays the piano and has sung with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
Queen Elizabeth II welcomed Julie to Balmoral Castle, 20 September 2017, investing her as an Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, an Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, and a Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.
When I met her, Julie presented herself as just another inquisitive member of the human species.
In her new role, Julie is already urging Canadians to work on world problems such as climate change, refugees, poverty, and to reach goals for the common world good.
Canada, and the world, are indeed fortunate to call her a citizen.
Ye Olde Scribe