Canada’s first Inuk Governor-General Mary Simon has delivered her first speech from the throne, formally opening the 44th Parliament of Canada, speaking in Inuktitut, French and English. All the while a qulliq was lit alongside Simon.
One of the governor-general’s constitutional duties is to ensure Canada has a prime minister and to ensure the government in place has the confidence of the Parliament, the governor-general is also considered to be the British Queen’s representative in Canada.
“In each of your own ridings, I encourage you to seek out the truth and to learn about the lived realities in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities. Although each community is distinct we all share a desire to chart a way forward together towards reconciliation,” said Simon in her speech.
With much of southern Canada realizing the number of unmarked graves of children found at former residential schools across the country, Simon urged a better path forward from past governments and institutions which placed those same children in those schools.
“They open deep wounds, despite the profound pain there is hope. Already I have seen how Canadians are committed to reconciliation,” Simon continued, “Non-Indigenous peoples are coming to understand and accept the true impact of the past.”
“Together,” with Indigenous people, she said, “they are walking the path toward reconciliation.”
Simon also acknowledged the hardships Canadians went through during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This year has been hard on all of us,” said Simon, “I want to thank all the workers across Canada, especially those in healthcare. For their efforts to keep us safe and healthy, and to offer my deepest condolences to those who have experienced loss of loved ones during the pandemic.”
She also praised the national response to the onset of the coronavirus, saying, “we adapted, we stayed true to our values. Values like compassion, courage and determination, values like democracy.”
Simon went on to add the Government of Canada is with the people of southern BC in this time of flooding.
“In a time of crisis, we know how Canadians respond, we step up and we are there for each other. The government will continue to be there for the people of British Columbia,” Simon says.
Prior to her first question of the session, Nunavut MP Lori Idlout applauded Simon for partly delivering her speech in Inuktitut.
“First I wanted to say how incredible it was to hear a part of the throne speech delivered in Inuktitut,” said Idlout, “Canada is richer for it and my sincere congratulations to Her Excellency, Mary May Simon.”
Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok welcomed the direction the governor-general gave in the speech.
“I was pleased to hear the emphasis on action on reconciliation, mental health, housing, infrastructure and affordable childcare,” said the Premier.
The matter of climate change was also raised in Simon’s speech, another priority for Nunavut’s current government.
“Nunavut has a proud history of partnering with the Federal Government to address climate change, including work on the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area,” the Premier adds.
Pauktuutit: Inuit Women of Canada was also welcoming of Simon’s speech on the matters of reconciliation, climate change and gender equality, Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo is hopeful this government will follow through on implementing a plan to bring systemic change for missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
“Inuit women’s voices and leadership must be at the forefront of this work for Inuit – at the national, regional and community levels,” said Kudloo.
The Pauktuutit president said they plan to meet with newly appointed cabinet ministers to share the organization’s recommendations on public policy, program areas which affect Inuit women girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people across Inuit Nunangat and the south.