Governor General’s Open House

Governor General’s Open House

Article and photos by Farnell Morisset

I’ve heard it said that the British monarchy represents a brilliant separation of patriotism and politics.  One could suppose that would be a fitting role for the Queen’s representative in Canada, the Governor General… except in Québec, where patriotism itself is a matter of debate.

So, in what is now an annual double-serving of military and monarchist public relations, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston invited the public over to his official summer residence at the Citadelle in a bizarre 21st century equivalent of the pre-revolution France’s Politics of Display… and the whole thing came off rather well.  After all, it’s not every day the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the country Cordially Invites Your Presence.

One should first realise that despite its title as “official summer residence” of the Governor General, the Citadelle estate is functionally closer to a high-class hotel designed for meetings between foreign dignitaries and Canadian officials.  This knowledge makes visiting the place seem considerably less surreal between in-depth explanations of French versus Russian meal service etiquette by the small army of local servants, collections of museum pieces, and stunning grand pianos that are rarely if ever played… all against a backdrop of what is arguably the best view in the city.  And once a year, we mere mortals get to take a look, under the watchful but discreet and human eye of black suits, red dress uniforms, and green camo smocks.

But it’s not like taking a walk through a few (million) dollars’ worth of lavishly-spent tax funds is the only purpose of the day.  A fair number of local community clubs, hobby groups, and sports teams were on the grounds, and I admit a good number of them were groups I did not know existed before today.  Everything from amateur marksmanship clubs (oddly appropriate given the Citadelle’s setting) to Irish step dancing and badminton teams had areas set aside.  On their home turf, the Royal 22e’s music was also a crowd favourite.  This gave as much enjoyment to the crowds of elderly as to the families with young children.

The Governor-General himself, as well as his wife Sharon Johnston, were on the grounds and, according to most voices overheard, were quite amicable and welcoming.  The day must be as bewildering to them as it is to everyone else… imagine spending the day being thanked for by people for allowing them into a home they technically own and you rarely ever visit while strangers run around lifting weights and playing wheel-chair basketball on the lawn.  Such are the oddities that come with being the Queen’s Loyal Representative, one supposes.

So regardless of how you feel about the monarchy and it’s representatives, if you can put that on hold for a day next year and manage to walk over to the oldest active military base in Canada, I do think you’ll find the experience as interesting – and a little surreal – as I did today.  After all, it’s not every day the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the country Cordially Invites Your Presence…

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About the author:


Born and raised in Québec City, Farnell Morisset attended English school throughout his primary, secondary, and CEGEP studies, before ultimately choosing to stay in Québec City and study civil engineering at Laval University.

While at Laval, he served as president of the civil engineering student association. It was there that he discovered his affinity for writing and commentary, preparing a weekly column in the student newspaper dealing with the issues he, as president of the association, felt were important and relevant.

Farnell is passionate about discussing (amongst other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québecois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québecois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

He is also alarmed by what seems to be an invasive and aggressive polarization of complex social issues for which there are no black-and-white answers. This eventual identity crisis, he feels, will only be solved through good faith in, and honest communication with, all sides pulling on our ever dwindling “pure laine” blanket.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our, in-house, writing team.

Categories: News

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.

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