Gov. Gen. Mary Simon honours veterans at Remembrance Day ceremony

Canada’s first Indigenous commander-in-chief wears air force uniform while paying tribute to veterans

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon lays a wreath at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Nov. 11 at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony. “We honour the long history and sacrifice of Indigenous peoples in uniform, some of whom would never again see their ancestral land,” she said in a message to media ahead of the ceremony. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

By Madalyn Howitt

Hundreds of onlookers watched as Gov. Gen. Mary Simon attended her first Remembrance Day ceremony as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces in Ottawa on Thursday.

Simon arrived at the National War Memorial shortly after Prime Minister Trudeau and saluted military members and veterans.

After laying a wreath at the memorial while a 21-gun salute rang through the air, Simon took her time greeting veterans and chatting with attendees.

In a nod to tradition, Simon chose to wear a Royal Canadian Air Force uniform during the ceremony. As the Queen’s representative in Canada, Simon is also the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces, and therefore has the option to wearing a uniform as part of her role in the chain of command.

Past governors general who have opted to wear a military uniform on Remembrance Day include Michaëlle Jean and Julie Payette.

In another nod to the military, Simon’s husband, Whit Fraser, wore a bowtie featuring the tartan of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon speaks with veterans at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa during the Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 11. Simon opted to wear a military uniform as part of the proceedings, while her husband Whit Fraser (background) wore a bow tie featuring the tartan of the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

In a message released to media before the ceremony, Simon paid tribute to veterans of Canada’s war and their families.

“On Remembrance Day, our thoughts turn to Canadian veterans who fought for our freedom and values. Who served far from home, in peacekeeping missions and in horrific wars. Who came home, never the same, or never came home at all. We remember their families and loved ones,” she said.

Simon, an Inuk leader who became the first Indigenous person to hold the vice-regal post earlier this year, took care to note the legacy of Indigenous veterans specifically.

“We honour the long history and sacrifice of Indigenous peoples in uniform, some of whom would never again see their ancestral land,” she said.

“I would like to thank all Canadians who have taken it upon themselves to lead in remembrance, particularly young Canadians,” she added. “As Governor General and commander-in-chief, my thoughts are with all veterans and active military members — anyone who has worn a uniform in defence of Canada. Lest we forget.”

Simon also noted in her message that this year’s ceremony marked several anniversaries, including the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong during the Korean War and the 15th anniversary of the death of first Canadian woman to die in combat, Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was killed in Afghanistan.

This year, members of the public were encouraged to attend the ceremony in person, although attendees were asked to wear masks and adhere to public health measures. Crowds gathered around the war memorial in downtown Ottawa to catch a glimpse of the procession of dignitaries and veterans.

It was a stark difference from last year’s muted ceremonies, which were held virtually due to pandemic restrictions on public gatherings.

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Box it up on

    The one day of the year she must put colonialism in a box. Tomorrow, start all over.

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  2. Posted by Rico on

    I wasn’t aware the GG could wear a uniform without having served in the forces. However, it appears that she was wearing medals as well. Did she actually serve in the forces and earn the medals?

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    • Posted by nonconfidencvote on

      Yes. I was also a bit shocked that someone who has never served in the Military would don a “uniform” ( costume?) and “medals” ( faux decorations?).

      But this latest G.G. is a Liberal appointment where image over substance is far far more important.

      Nauseating.

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      • Posted by Bob Boberts on

        You could be shocked but then what do you actually know?

        The GG is the acting Commander-in-Chief of the CAF, so yes she is in effect serving.

        She is authorized to wear a General’s Navy, Army, or Airforce uniform. The how is articulated in the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions.

        The medals she wears are not faux medals. They are actual medals awarded to Canadians or CAF members in accordance with the Chancellery of Honours.

        What she is wearing: Companion of the Order of Canada and Commander of the Order of Military Merit. As she is the granting authority of both orders she is invested in both when she assumes office.

        Her court mounted medals are the Canadian 125, golden Jubilee, and Diamond Jubilee. These she was awarded for her past work long before she assumed office.

        The Canadian Forces Decoration is awarded to CAF members for 12 years cumulative service and good conduct. All GG’s receive it on assumption of their appointment as C-in-C.

        Of course, you could google all this.

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