OTTAWA – Mary Simon has officially become Canada’s 30th Governor General, and the first Indigenous person to hold the role.
As she took her seat at the head of the Senate chamber, her husband, Whit Fraser, turned to her, took a small bow and then sat down next to Simon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Simon, an Inuk leader and former Canadian diplomat, as his choice to be the Queen’s representative in Canada earlier this month, replacing Julie Payette who resigned in January after a review found Rideau Hall had become a toxic workplace.
Her choice came amid a national reckoning with the country’s historical mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples, including horrific findings of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools.
In a statement, Trudeau says he expects Simon to help the country confront difficult truths about the past, and walk the shared path of reconciliation.
He also says Simon will use her unique experiences to represent Canadians in all their diversity, at home and abroad, and in official languages.
The appointment comes amid grief and anger at the federal government over Indigenous people’s historical and current treatment in Canada after several First Nations used ground-penetrating radar to find what are believed to be the unmarked graves of children at former residential schools.
The ceremony is also a first inside the Senate’s temporary home while the Centre Block remains closed for a decade-long renovation on the ageing parliamentary building.
Richard Wagner has served as administrator since Payette’s resignation in January. In a statement, Wagner says he gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for the country’s democratic institutions and the strength of Canada’s constitutional monarchy.
“It has been a reassuring realization and confirmation, for me,” he says. “We are fortunate to have these institutional mechanisms in place.”
He also congratulated Simon on her new role, saying he has every confidence she will excel as governor-general.