Canada's No-Bull Governor General Just Took On Climate Change Deniers, Astrologers

Speaking at a science conference in Ottawa yesterday, Canada's newly appointed governor general, Julie Payette, directed some harsh comments towards climate sceptics, astrologists, and believers of "divine intervention". Critics complained that it isn't the governor general's place to get involved in such matters, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the speech.

Julie Payette (Image: Prime Minister's Office of Canada)

Astronaut Julie Payette of the Canadian Space Agency. (Image: CSA)

That Julie Payette, 54, would be a such staunch supporter of science is hardly a surprise. The computer and electrical engineer flew on two Space Shuttle missions (in 1999 and 2009), logging 25 total days in space. She was appointed governor general on 13 July 2017 by the Trudeau government, and she hasn't wasted time in making her mark - particularly when it comes to the promotion of science.

At this week's Canadian Science Policy Conference, Payette argued for greater public acceptance of science, saying it's time for Canadians step away from false beliefs such as astrology and divine intervention, while speaking out against people who insist that human activity isn't responsible for climate change.

Such language isn't typical of a Canadian governor general. As a state-appointed representative of the Queen, it's a position of mere symbolic importance. As governor general, Payette is supposed to be an impartial overseer of the democratic process, and not get involved in politics or spiritual matters. That said, there's nothing in the Canadian constitution that precludes the governor general from speaking out. And indeed, this latest governor general is not like the others, and she isn't holding back.

"So many people... still believe - want to believe - that maybe taking a sugar pill will cure cancer... and that your future [and your personality]... can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations," she said during the speech. In a clear reference to Creationists, Payette said we're "still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention" or whether it came from the natural, random process of Darwinian natural selection.

On the topic of climate change, Payette said: "Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we're still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period?"

This isn't the first time that Payette has dared to address climate change, having mentioned it in two of her three previous public engagements (including her acceptance speech as Canada's new governor general). As Canada's new GG, she appears to have taken up climate change as a main cause.

Later, Prime Minister Trudeau praised Payette's speech, saying she stands in support of science and the truth. "We are a government grounded in science," he said. "Canadians are people who understand the value of science and knowledge as a foundation for the future of our country."

Critics from both the media and within politics wasted no time in attacking the speech, which they criticised for its overreach and insensitivity.

"Those who read and write horoscopes would be entitled to take offence," said reporter Aaron Wherry in CBC News. "[And] however strongly one feels about the science of evolution, religious belief might generally be considered sacrosanct, or at least a topic that the appointed occupant of Rideau Hall should avoid commenting on."

Alise Mills, a political strategist for the Conservative Party, said Payette's speech inappropriately ventured into politics, and that it was mean spirited. "I definitely agree science is key but I think there is a better way to do that without making fun of other people," she said.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer blasted into the Prime Minister for his support of the speech. "It is extremely disappointing that the prime minister will not support Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and other faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion," he said in a statement posted to Facebook. "Respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs, and Justin Trudeau has offended millions of Canadians with his comments‎."

In his condemnation, Scheer is obviously reading way too much in Payette's speech, but this episode shows how difficult it is to advocate for science and "the truth" (in Trudeau's words) without impinging on people's personal beliefs. Payette's tone may have been harsh, but in this bewildering era of anti-science, her words were a breath of fresh air.

[CBC News]

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Comments

    Good on her.

    The ignorant have no right to protection from criticism.

    This is exactly how you do it. Less kowtowing to superstitious imbeciles, more actual doing something useful. If her words seem harsh to some, well the truth is known to hurt sometimes, isn't it?

    What a self serving talk, that done nothing except stroke her own inflated ego.
    Clearly not respectful of her title.

    Damn, where can Australia get a politician like her. We need someone like her and we need it now.

      For someone who is smart science wise, she certainly doesn't have the sense to not alienate the 70+% of Canadians who identify as belonging to one of the Abrahamic faiths (based on the last census) with her creationist comments.

      She's not a politician. She wasn't elected, she was Selected. She was appointed because she was French Canadian and a former astronaut.

      BUT she has a very checkered past, filled with adultery, home-wrecking, a fatal car accident in the U.S. she tried to hide from Canadian officials, a messy divorce, and word is the courts gave her ex-husband their child to raise (not the mother, as typical). Her vetting for a Selectee was slapdash. She is considered by some to be unstable and her attack on the myriads of religions practised in Canada, all of believe in some sense of Divine Intervention, is not going well. She mocked the spirits of the Indigenous peoples, the God of organized religions, and the faith of ordinary people, as she placed herself upon a pedestal for having spent 25 days floating around earth in a tin can, chosen because of her sex.

      The Trudeau Govt, Canada's most shallow, and worst since his father's party was tossed out of Ottawa in 1984 with the largest electoral majority in Canadian history, is known for its incompetence and that is evident again. Clearly their pr outreach efforts reached innocent ears at Gizmodo. But, no doubt, Payette's foolish attack on the Divine wasn't aimed at horoscopes and astrologers which all treat as mild entertainment. It was a haughty shot over the bow of all those who believe in something beyond mortal life on earth.

      The smug Payette sung the praises of science, but she will find none who doubt applied science and engineering, the kind that drives rocketry and trajectory calculation. But, indeed, she showed disrespect to science, which is a process that seeks truths, and is therefore rarely settled. Indeed, her embrace of the religion of human-generated climate change is the most anti-science position possible, calculated as it is on generating grants and status, not solving larger questions.

      When Payette has half a clue on the mechanisms of El Nino and La Nina, and can predict solar behaviour accurately, and can assure that all there is to be known is known, and 'discoveries' can stop being reported, she can mock. Until then, the frizzy-haired, anti-Godster who spent most of the last 20 years living and working in the U.S., not Canada, but paid by Canadian Government teat, isn't worthy of representing Queen Elizabeth II anywhere.

        The education system has failed you badly.

        I often wonder how much climate change deniers hate their children and grandchildren.
        A lot, I would guess.

        Religion was invented by man to control the uneducated masses. It served it's purpose years ago and should now be dropped. It's purely idiotic that some people still believe in this rubbish in this day and age.

          Much easier to steer them with myth and superstitions than remove their common believe.

        So divorce is some kind of unforgivable sin and a personal flaw? Who she bangs is her business. Get off your moral high horse buddy, before you fall off.

        our post is a "laugh a minute" of dribbled shit.
        filled with adultery, home-wrecking, a fatal car accident in the U.S. she tried to hide from Canadian officials, a messy divorce, and word is the courts gave her ex-husband their child to raise (not the mother, as typical)
        What! You mean she was in a car accident? No ones "e-v-e-r" been in one of those ;)
        So I can only draw a conclusion that you think a woman's "place" is in the fuckin kitchen, with a kid sucking on each nipple? (Just a reminder its 2017, not 1917 dearest) Oh, and what divorce, is every "tidy", they all suck, period. Do you work for a gossip mag?
        She is considered by some to be unstable and her attack on the myriads of religions practised in Canada, all of believe in some sense of Divine Intervention, is not going well
        ...and when the fuck does that ever go "well"? People who believe in pixies, ghosts, goblins and fairies generally don't like it when the "little" walls of their belief systems are jabbed with REALITY.
        It was a haughty shot over the bow of all those who believe in something beyond mortal life on earth
        I'm really not to sure why any of these people should be concerned...I mean, they will still be alive after death wont they? What have they got to fuckin worry about?
        But, indeed, she showed disrespect to science, which is a process that seeks truths, and is therefore rarely settled Crap, you said something slightly correct, that science is the process of seeking truth, but, its NEVER settled, not "rarely", and she didnt disrespect it all. Of all the things she said about science, and this means climate change also, she can show you evidence to back up what she says (unlike you and your dribble). What evidence can all those who believe in fairies show me? None, they leave the burden on science to prove, why? Because they are fucking lazy...like you, one of the many "sheeple" that cherry picks the science that fits their belief system, and through nothing but sheer ignorance, leaves the rest...no ones hiding it from you, science certainly doesn't fear your scepticism.
        This is the ultimate cherry on your "pièce de résistance" of literary excrement...
        and can assure that all there is to be known is known, and 'discoveries' can stop being reported, she can mock
        So in other words, the only people that can be critical of anything, are people who know all there is to be known? Talk about going "full fuckin retard"! Tell me, if she was a male, would you judge her differently?

        Had this been a man, would you have brought up the messy divorce?

        Was there some old dude in a robe that stopped fiddling you? Do you not feel loved any more?

        What baffles me is the religious nutters are using technology to drabble, y'know, stuff that was created out of pure science? I don't ever recall reading any where of any situation where some divine spirit came into existence and said "yo if you heat this weird coloured rock up enough, you'd get some crazy liquid thing that'll cool into a new, harder thing called a metal"

          "What baffles me is the religious nutters are using technology to drabble"
          Exactly...
          I always find that point the most ignorant of all. Ive said this in here before, but look at a transistor, the humble building block of every electronic device, it literally only works though a very clear understanding of both Chemistry, and Physics, at an atomic level mind you, and we squeeze billions of them into a space no bigger than your little finger nail. Im an electronics engineer and it still humbles me to watch a CPU being made, or a USB stick. But because so much time has passed nizmo, most people are no longer "amazed" by it (such a shame). What I personally find is, so many people just see a mobile phone or a computer as a "box", without ever questioning the monumental amount of work and experimentation that went into getting into your hands, over 100 years of sweat and tears, all the while we have stood on the shoulders of other great achievements, and like a theme expressed in Jurassic Park, have we have lost respect for that effort? I have often brought that up with religious types, but I always get the "science is a gift from god" rhetoric, pointless really arguing with them rationally if that's the only comeback you get. But they will continue to use their phones, GPS, and head along to the doctor for some antibiotics...thank god for science ah ;)
          Cheers

    She's an engineer and an astronaut. She's seen the world in a way that few others have and none of them are the critics whose heads exploded at what she said. Good for her, saying what she did. Science recognises that it doesn't have all the answers, and probably never will, but it provides a more rational world picture than an abject surrender to mysticism.

    Our pms name is Justin not Pierre.
    And Julie is his lackey.

    Just wanted to point out that the Prime Minister's name is Justin Trudeau. Pierre Trudeau was his father and was a previous PM.

    I agree with Payette. The problem is her position is based on the belief of the Divine Right of Kings. As such she should do everything in her power to eliminate the office and, once successful, look for other work.

    Mr Dvorsky, I believe that it was Justin Trudeau who praised this speech. Pierre Trudeau can only be reached for comment via séance. ;)

    I would be really surprised if Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said anything at all recently. He died a number of years ago (Sept 2000). His son, Justin Trudeau is the current Prime minister. I tend to support the new Governor Generals pro-science outlook. It beats pandering to baseless superstition and quackery.

    Bravo! I wish more people of power would stand up to the forces of ignorance and arbitrary righteousness.
    Science works, that is proven by the notable gains in the last 200 years that religion couldn't manage in 8 - 12 thousand years. History shows that arbitrary power and dogma is always abused.
    Fort all those folks dissing science: go live in a community somewhere without it and leave the rest of us alone. You can go back to a pre-science lifestyle that is nasty, brutish and short (as God intended!), and live under the "leaders" you deserve.

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