Mary Simon becomes Canada’s first Indigenous governor general

With an Inuk mother and a father from the south, the former diplomat believes that she can be a voice for everybody


A woman with an Inuk mother and a father from southern Canada is the country’s new vice-regal.

Mary Simon is a former CBC producer and announcer in Northern Canada, marking the third time that an ex-employee of the public broadcaster has become the country’s governor general. The other two were Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean.

From that position, Simon became secretary of the board of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association. She was later appointed ambassador for circumpolar affairs and ambassador to Denmark.

In addition, Simon is a past president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

She told reporters that part of her cultural tradition as an Inuk is the strong bond created across generations. That was represented in her relationship with her mother and her grandmother.

“They instilled in me a boundless energy for learning, self-improvement, and helping my community,” Simon said.

Her father managed a Hudson’s Bay post in the north. Many months out of the year, the family camped and lived off the land, she noted.

Simon spoke to the media in English and Inuit, as well as some French. However, she conceded that she couldn’t speak French fluently, despite being born in northern Quebec, because the government-run school that she attended did not provide this education.

She added that she will strive to improve her French and promised to conduct the office’s work in both of the country’s official languages.

Simon opened her remarks by saying that she is “honoured, humbled, and ready to become Canada’s first Indigenous governor general”.

She also said that her appointment is “an important step on the long path to reconciliation”.

Simon’s predecessor, Julie Payette, resigned in January after complaints from staff about a toxic workplace—a story broken by CBC reporter Ashley Burke.

The governor general’s duties include swearing-in cabinet  ministers, the prime minister, and the chief justice; delivering the speech from the throne; summoning or dissolving Parliament; giving royal assent to legislation; acting as the ceremonial commander-in-chief of the armed forces on behalf of the monarch; and presiding over ceremonies honouring Canadians.

This story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight.

@charliesmithvcr

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