This is a historic step for Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday, July 6, that he had appointed Mary Simon, an Inuit native of Nunavik (northern Quebec), as the new official representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada. She is the first Indigenous woman to hold this position, which also includes the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“We are honored to have Mme Simon as the first Indigenous Governor General ”, said Mr. Trudeau. “Today, after one hundred and fifty-four years, our country is taking an important step. I don’t see a better person at the moment ”Justin Trudeau added, as the country mourns the discovery of more than a thousand anonymous graves near former residential schools. “The role of Governor General in our parliamentary system is symbolic, but it is also an extremely important role”, underlined Mr. Trudeau, by evoking in particular a role allowing “Bringing Canadians together”.
Before taking on this role, Mary Simon, 74, was notably a “Defender of rights and culture” of this tribe, according to Mr. Trudeau. She was also Canadian Ambassador to Denmark (1999-2001) and radio host for the English channel CBC.
Mary Simon, now the 30e Governor General in this position, also underlined a “Historic opportunity” by thanking the head of the Canadian government, who has made reconciliation with indigenous peoples one of his priorities. “I can say with confidence that my appointment is a historic and inspiring moment for Canada, and an important step on the long road to reconciliation”, she added.
Mme Simon does not speak French, although she promises to learn the language during her tenure, reports The duty. “I want things to be clear. I am bilingual, but in Inuktitut and English. It is because I grew up in Quebec that I was refused the opportunity to learn French during my stay in federal day schools. “
Discovery of graves
The announcement came after the discovery of 751 graves in Saskatchewan and several hundred unmarked graves in British Columbia near former residential schools since the end of May. Asked about these discoveries, Mme Simon said: “I don’t see a conflict. We have to come to terms with the past ”, report Press.
Some 150,000 Amerindian, Métis and Inuit children, forcibly recruited until the 1990s in 139 residential schools across the country, have been cut off from their families, their language and their culture.
Mary Simon succeeds Julie Payette, who resigned in January following accusations of harassment. The Governor General is usually appointed for five years, but the length of his term is at the discretion of the Queen of England.