Mary Simon, an Inuk leader and former Canadian diplomat, has been named as Canada’s next governor general – the first Indigenous person to serve in the role.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., today and says Queen Elizabeth II approved the appointment.
“We need more leaders like Miss Simon in high office. People who understand what it means to take on real issues and create positive change. That’s exactly what brings us here today”, Trudeau said at the announcement Tuesday.
Simon, who was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, is the former president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national advocacy organization for Inuit.
“I’m honoured, humbled and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous governor general,” said Simon.
A longtime advocate for Inuit culture and rights, she also served as Canada’s ambassador to Denmark and the Canadian ambassador for circumpolar affairs.
She was even on the floor of the House of Commons during then Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology for the residential school system.
Simon spoke to the recent tragic discoveries at residential schools across Canada. She says she sees herself in a role to help the country through the healing process.
“To me that means stopping to fully recognize, memorialize, and come to terms with the atrocities of our collective past that we are learning more about each day.”
She speaks English and Inuktitut and says she will learn French on the job.
Former Governor General Julie Payette informed the Prime Minister of her resignation in January after the results of an investigation revealed allegations of a toxic workplace environment at Rideau Hall.
It was confirmed at that time that the Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner would fulfill the duties of the governor general on an interim basis.
A six-member advisory panel had been conducting a search for potential candidates and a short list of candidates was presented to the Prime Minister earlier this month.
Co-chaired by Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Privy Council clerk Janice Charette, the panel included Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Université de Montreal rector Daniel Jutras, Canada Post chair Suromitra Sanatani, and former secretary to the Governor General Judith LaRocque.
Trudeau has admitted that he might have to improve his vetting process for high-level appointments following the controversy surrounding Payette.
Payette admitted to no specific wrongdoing following her resignation and said in a statement that she was leaving the role for the good of the institution.
She was appointed as the representative for the Queen in 2017.