An outspoken Quebec sovereigntist wants governor-general-designate Michaëlle Jean to say how she voted in the 1995 referendum.
The call comes after an article in a sovereigntist publication that says she and her husband supported Quebec independence and that Ms. Jean's spouse, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, was friendly with former Quebec terrorists.
"In the nationalist circles, many people were sure that Mme. Jean and her husband were sovereigntists, many persons believed that," said Gilles Rheaume, president of the Quebec-based organization against Canadian corruption and propaganda and a former president of the Société St-Jean Baptiste.
Mr. Rheaume said Thursday that Prime Minister Paul Martin should have checked Ms. Jean's credentials more carefully and called him "an amateur to name a person who many believe is a sovereigntist, to name this person head of state."
He has written to Ms. Jean asking how she voted in Quebec's 1995 sovereignty referendum, which federalists won by a razor-thin majority.
"We believe the people of Canada and the people of Quebec have the right to know," Mr. Rheaume said, although he acknowledged he isn't holding his breath for a reply.
But Transport Minister Jean Lapierre, who co-founded the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois before returning to the Liberals under Mr. Martin, said Ms. Jean was nominated for her strong qualities.
"Madame Jean is not a sovereigntist," Mr. Lapierre said at a news conference in Laval, north of Montreal.
"If there are old friends who want to trip her up, unfortunately, I hope that she won't consider them any longer as friends," he said.
"Now the political convictions of her husband will be for her to answer to."
A spokesman for Ms. Jean referred calls to Mr. Martin's office.
Martin spokesman Scott Reid said Ms. Jean, a well-known broadcaster in Quebec, and Mr. Lafond are committed Canadians who are the victims of a smear campaign.
"To suggest that Mr. Lafond's documentary on the FLQ crisis makes him a separatist sympathizer is to suggest that Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War makes him a Confederate secessionist," Mr. Reid said. "It's absurd.
"What is taking place here is nothing more complicated than a smear campaign by hardline separatists who see Mme. Jean's appointment as a threat.
"She has struck a chord across Canada and in Quebec, particularly. And it is sad and ugly and terribly dispiriting that this kind of thing takes place."
The controversy arose after the release of an article in Le Québécois, the voice of the province's sovereignty watchdogs, said sovereigntists were disappointed by Ms. Jean's appointment as Adrienne Clarkson's replacement in September because Ms. Jean and Mr. Lafond were considered sympathetic to the cause.
It also noted the couple had renovations done to their home library by Jacques Rose, a former member of the Front de liberation du Quebec, who is now a contractor.
Mr. Rose served eight years as an accessory after the fact in the kidnap and murder of provincial cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in the 1970 October Crisis.
Mr. Lafond, who was born in France, met a number of former FLQ members when he worked on the 1994 National Film Board documentary, La Liberté en colere.
He co-wrote the film with Francis Simard, another FLQ member who was given early parole in 1982 after being sentenced to life for his role in killing Mr. Laporte, who was strangled and found in the trunk of an abandoned taxi.
During a visit to Montreal, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper only said Mr. Martin may have some questions to answer about Ms. Jean's appointment.
Jean Dorion, the president of the Société St-Jean Baptiste's Montreal branch, said few people know Ms. Jean's political leanings but "as far as Mr. Lafond is concerned, everything I hear about him is that he was a strong pro-independentiste."
Mr. Dorion said he believed Mr. Martin is trying to "seduce" parts of Quebec with a twist on the scandal-plagued sponsorship program then-prime minister Jean Chrétien used to promote Canadian unity.
"It's a more sophisticated kind of sponsorship program," he said. "It's not as gross. In the sponsorship program you also had a few convinced independentistes getting money from the federal government and working for the independentiste movement.
"In this case, it's more subtle, more complicated but it's the same kind of process," he said. "You know, in Quebec a lot of people work on both sides. It's strange but that's the way it is."
He cited the case of Quebec sovereigntist entertainers who take advantage of federal funding programs.
Mr. Dorion said Mr. Lafond will likely deny any sovereigntist links but "there is always a doubt that will linger in people's minds."