It was the struggle of the students of Cole
Harbour District High School to overcome their problems and
live down their reputation that prompted a visit from Her
Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor
General of Canada on Friday, February 18th.
The focus of the visit by Clarkson, who was accompanied by
her husband, John Ralston Saul, was an open forum with the graduating
class. The event began with greetings from both Principal de
la Mothe and Student Council President, Tracy Hawthorne, who
welcomed Clarkson to "the home of the red, white, and blue."
In an eloquent and heartfelt speech from Hawthorne, Cole Harbour
High was proclaimed to be synonymous with home for the students
and staff, "a place beyond stereotypes, a place without
Her Excellency the
Governor General of Canada
Clarkson then addressed the group, professing that forgiveness
is the key to peace. She stated that "in Canada, we forgive,"
while other countries punish. Forgiveness, she said, "enables
us to begin again." Referring to the Apartheid regime in
South Africa, she cited Anglican Bishop Desmond TuTu's declaration
that there can be "no truth without forgiveness". Clarkson
proceeded to offer congratulations for the initiation of a school
and community radio station, which she sees as a valuable effort
to "control communication." She concluded by acknowledging
a student gift on which was written, "You Rock. You've made
my day." The Governor General returned this gift to the
spectators, stating that it was indeed the students who "rock."
Following her introductory remarks, Clarkson invited questions
from the audience which ranged from Joe Keefe's "How does
it feel when they make fun of you on This Hour Has 22 Minutes?
(to which she replied "humour is a good thing, lighten up"),
to her thoughts on the importance of the Senate (Chris Turner).
Concerning the Senate, Clarkson believes that the Senators play
a role in reflecting on issues in the House of Commons. She says
that it is an important political institution and it is wrong
to judge it by its cost because the Senators work extremely hard.
Clarkson responded to a series of questions about constitutional
changes and her role as Governor General. When asked "Si
vous devez amender notre Constitution, quelle chose est la plus
importante a changer selon vous et pourquoi?" (If you had
to amend our Constitution, what do you think is the most important
thing to change and why?), Clarkson responded with a somewhat
curt "No." This left the poser of the question, Glenn
Patriquin, with nothing to say. It was not until Patriquin was
leaving the microphone that Clarkson said that she did not think
that money should be spent on amending the constitution when
we have so many real problems in society upon which we should
focus our energy. However, when asked "Do you think that
the expenditures of the office of Governor General are justified
at a time when cuts are being made to social programs such as
healthcare, education and social assistance programs and when
Canadians are living and dying in the streets?" she replied
that the office of the Governor General is an important part
of Canadian society and has been for hundreds of years. Clarkson
believes that we should be able to have both the position of
Governor General and adequate social programs.
Perhaps the most light-hearted question came from Matt Baird,
who asked what Clarkson's response would be if, while picnicking,
a spaceship landed and from the spaceship emerged a little blue
man who asked "What is Canada?" After laughing with
the students, the Governor General said that she would define
Canada as "a place where a lot of people can live freely."
In a later private meeting with the reporting staff of the
Cava-Chronicle and the
radio station, both Mme Clarkson and her husband Mr. Saul appeared
at ease, even going as far as to snack during the interview.
Clarkson fielded questions from the aspiring journalists about
what it takes to make it in the profession, the official duties
of Her Excellency, and the messages Clarkson brings about Canada
when representing our country in other nations.
Clarkson's Cole Harbour High excursion left students hoping
to see positive publicity in the media and they were not disappointed.
Although several news sources focussed on the school's past troubles
and concentrated on the idea that Clarkson came to the school
simply because of the tension, most reports centered on the intelligent
and educated questions posed by the inquisitive young adults.
CHDHS students have often in the past felt animosity towards
the news community due to the constant negative publicity and
hope that future news will follow this recent trend of positive