Mary Simon, former president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, has been named as Canada’s new governor general.
An advocate for Inuit rights and culture for four decades, Simon is the country’s 30th governor general since Confederation.
Born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, Simon, an Inuktitut speaker, is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has earned the Governor General’s Northern Medal, among other distinctions.
As president of Makivik Corporation, she was instrumental in the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. She was also the first Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and the founder of the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation.
In announcing Simon as the next governor general on July 6, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Ms. Simon has dedicated her life to advancing social, economic, and human rights issues for Canadian Inuit and Indigenous peoples, and I am confident that she will serve Canadians and promote our shared values with dedication and integrity. Through this appointment, we are ensuring that Canada is represented by someone who exemplifies the very best of our country.”
The governor general carries out duties as the formal representative of the Queen, serves as commander-in-chief, upholds constitutional responsibilities and encourages excellence.
P.J. Akeeagok, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, extended his congratulations later that day.
“Her outstanding career advancing Indigenous and Inuit rights make her an ideal choice for the role of governor general,” he said. “I also acknowledge the important role President (Natan) Obed of ITK played as advocate and adviser during the (governor general) selection process; his leadership was instrumental in today’s landmark announcement.”
Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, was pleased with the appointment.
“This is a momentous day for all of us – Inuit, Indigenous peoples and Canadians alike. Not only am I confident that this appointment will help pave avenues for reconciliation and communication within Canada, I am extremely excited about the spark of possibilities this ignites for young Inuit. Congratulations, Mary!” Kotierk stated.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada president Rebecca Kudloo and board of directors described Simon’s appointment as “an opportunity for the Government of Canada to continue down the path of reconciliation with Inuit communities.
“I am proud to see an Inuk as the head of state in Canada in my lifetime,” said Kudloo. “I hope Inuit women and girls from Inuit Nunangat and urban centres feel pride and inspiration, seeing the proof that they can accomplish anything. We wish Mary Simon much success and look forward to meeting with her in her new role.”
In response to the news, ITK tweeted: “ITK extends its deepest congratulations to Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General! Mary has served Inuit and Canada in many distinguished roles, including as president of ITK. We wish her extraordinary success in her role at this critical time in our history.”
Nunavut News requested an interview with Simon but the Office of the Governor General stated that she respectfully declined as she was awaiting briefings prior to her installation ceremony.