MARY Simon, an Inuk from Kuujjuaq in northeastern Quebec, was sworn into office today as Canada’s 30th Governor General. As Simon took her oaths at the Senate chamber in Ottawa, she became the nation’s first indigenous Governor General. In her speech, she expressed hopes to subscribe the country with “a renewed sense of possibility” and to “bring people together” with her abilities. Simon’s appointment was a meaningful step in Canada’s reestablishment of its ties with the Indigenous Peoples, especially after excavations of remains in former residential schools. As addressed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Simon’s vision is one that Canada needs to build a stronger country.
Gov. Gen. Simon brought an extensive resume with her into office, detailing an abundant career filled with advocacy and ambassador, some of her notable achievements are as follows:
- Negotiated the landmark deal James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975, the deal involved the provincial government, the Cree and Inuit in Quebec’s north, and Hydro-Québec;
- Represented Inuits during the negotiations for the patriation of the Constitution in 1982;
- Led the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) in 1986;
- Appointed by former prime minister Jean Chrétien as Canada’s first circumpolar affairs ambassador; and
- Appointed as Canada’s ambassador to Denmark from 1999 to 2002.
The above provides merely a hasty glance of Simon’s fruitful career. As she takes the role of Governor General, Simon stated her commitment to rebuild from the pandemic, fight climate change, and expedite reconciliation – an agenda that presides on progress and challenges. Nevertheless, Simon sprinkled a note of humour into her speech: “My Inuk name is Ningiukudluk. And prime minister, it means ‘bossy little old lady.’”
Due to COVID-19 public health guidance, the installation ceremony limited its scale. However, it still featured some familiar celebrations, such as a 21-gun salute. Simon’s heritage was also incorporated into the venue, as shown by a Qulliq at the scene – a traditional Inuit oil lamp made of soapstone.
Following the former Governor General, Julie Payette’s resignation due to allegations of workplace abuse, Gov. Gen. Simon shoulders great responsibilities on rectifying the Rideau Hall. Though the responsibilities could be overwhelming, many have praised Simon’s appointment as the first Inuk Governor General. As stated by Natan Obed, the president of the national Inuit group Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK): “I’m excited for Mary. I’m actually very excited for Canada.”