Indian Country Today: Inuit Chief Mary Simon makes Canadian history

Mary Simon was announced as Canada’s 30th Governor General on July 6, 2021. Photo: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

First Indigenous person appointed Governor General of Canada

Mary Simon hailed as “a diplomat, lawyer and strong Inuit woman”

Thursday July 8, 2021

Indian country today

A longtime Inuit rights advocate and former leader of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference has been named the 30th Governor General of Canada, the first Indigenous person to hold the post. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Mary Simon on June 6, followed by a press conference at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. Trudeau said Queen Elizabeth II approved the appointment. Trudeau praised Simon, Inuk, as a longtime bridge builder who brings people from diverse backgrounds together. “It is truly an honor to present the Governor General-designate of Canada, Ms. Mary Simon,” said Trudeau. “After 154 years, our country is reaching a historic milestone. I can’t think of a better person to meet this moment.

The Governor General is the vice-regal, or representative, of the monarch of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II, and occupies a largely ceremonial position that is non-partisan and apolitical. Since Canada is a constitutional monarchy, where the duties of state and head of government are distinct, the Governor General represents the powers and responsibilities of the Queen. Simon began his remarks at the press conference by speaking in Inuktitut, followed by English. She thanked the Prime Minister and said: “I can say with confidence that my appointment is a historic and inspiring moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long road to reconciliation. The 73-year-old mother of three was a former broadcaster for CBC North and then began her career as a public servant when she was elected secretary of the board of directors of the Association des Inuit du Nord du Québec. She helped lead the Circumpolar Conference, an organization representing Inuit in all arctic countries, and is a past president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national Inuit organization. She was Canada’s Ambassador to Denmark and Chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. She was also a member of the North American Free Trade Commission Joint Public Advisory Committee on Environmental Cooperation.

The announcement comes as Canada reeling from the discovery of hundreds of unmarked children’s graves in former residential schools. According to the official government website of the Governor General, “The Governor General encourages dialogue, nurtures a sense of shared purpose, identity, compassion and accomplishment, and promotes respect for experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. various of all Canadians. In all things, the Governor General fosters a spirit of inclusion that views diversity as a force to be celebrated and nurtured. In the next federal election in Canada this fall, Simon’s duty as Governor General will require him to dissolve Parliament in order to call an election. It will do so at the request of the Prime Minister. Simon grew up in the village of Kuujjuaq, on the coast of Ungava Bay in northeastern Quebec. Her mother was a local Inuit woman and her father worked at a Hudson’s Bay Company post. “I spent my adolescence in Nunavik, living a very traditional way of life for several months of the year,” she says. “My grandmother and my mother were my teachers and mentors. Simon credited her father with teaching her about the non-native world and helping her make connections between the two worlds. “We must accept the atrocities of the past and work towards the promise of a better future,” she said. “If we embrace our common humanity, Canada’s brightest days are yet to come. The governor general post has been vacant since Julie Payette resigned in January after a scathing independent report on a toxic work environment that developed during her tenure. Indigenous leaders across Canada praised and congratulated Simon on his appointment. “Mary is a strong Inuit diplomat, lawyer and woman. ” Perry Bellegardesaid the outgoing National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “I look forward to working with her as the Crown’s representative in Canada. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.

Note: This article originally appeared on Indian Country Today, an independent news company owned by IndiJ Public Media, an Arizona nonprofit that is funded by funding from members, donors, foundations and sympathizers. ICT does not charge for subscriptions, and tribal media (or any other medium, for that matter) can use the content of the publication for free. Contribute to Indian Country Today.

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