Simon, a longtime former diplomat and Inuit rights advocate, says the appointment is “an important step” towards reconciliation.
Indigenous leader Mary Simon will be Canada’s 30th Governor General, becoming the first Indigenous person to assume the largely ceremonial role in the country’s history.
Speaking at a Tuesday morning press conference, Simon said she was “honored, humiliated and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General.”
“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,” she told reporters alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made the announcement.
“Ms. Simon’s leadership and service career has always been one of breaking down barriers,” Trudeau said.
The news comes as Indigenous peoples across Canada are reeling from the discovery of hundreds of anonymous graves in former residential schools that the government forced over 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children to attend for decades.
“This is a time at which I hope all Canadians feel concerned, as my appointment reflects our collective progress towards building a more inclusive, just and equitable society,” said Mary Simon of her appointment in as the next Governor General of Canada.#cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/qrlxZ90aRG
– CPAC (@CPAC_TV) July 6, 2021
Former Governor General of Canada Julie Payette resigned in January after a report revealed it had created a toxic work environment.
Originally from Nunavik, the traditional Inuit territory of northern Quebec, Simon has long fought for Inuit rights in Canada.
Her before work with the Association des Inuit du Nord du Québec (AENQ), which was later renamed the Makivik Corporation, and also served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), a national Inuit organization.
In 1991, she was appointed member of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honors, and later an Officer of the Order of Canada. It also served as Canada’s Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and Ambassador to Denmark.
The Inuit welcomed Simon’s appointment on Tuesday. “Mary has served Inuit and Canada in many distinguished roles, including as President of ITK. We wish him extraordinary success in his role at this critical time in our history, ”wrote Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on Twitter.
“Really proud that Mary Simon is the new GG,” Inuit filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril also tweeted. “Mary has done a lifetime of * amazing * work and leadership for Inuit. “
Really proud that Mary Simon is the new GG. Many Aboriginal nations do not identify as Canadian, unlike the Inuit. So anyone who tries to criticize an Indigenous woman for taking on the role can back down.
Mary has completed a lifetime of * amazing * work and leadership for Inuit. 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 https://t.co/GtSrN06WL9
– Alethea Arnaquq-Baril❄️ (@Alethea_Aggiuq) July 6, 2021
Perry Bellegarde, the outgoing National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also offered his congratulations. “Mary is a strong diplomat, lawyer and Inuit woman. I look forward to working with her as the Crown Representative in Canada! he mentionned.
“Mary Simon is an exceptional choice for GG, with a long list of accomplishments,” Hayden King, executive director of the Yellowhead Institute, a First Nations-led research center, tweeted. “But, to be clear, this is the HEIGHT of symbolic Indigenous representation in Canada. Here, play the most important and powerful role in Parliament… on paper. “
The role of the Governor General is largely ceremonial and includes functions such as convening and dissolving parliament and giving royal assent to promulgate parliamentary bills, among others.