Inuit express pride, hope in Mary Simon’s Governor General appointment

‘It means a lot that an Inuk woman will be in this position. Many young women will look up to her since she is a great role model.’

Mary Simon, pictured at Makivik Corp. meetings in 2019, has been named as Canada’s next Governor General. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Inuit say they’re hopeful a new Inuk Governor General will prompt positive change and better communication between the federal government and Indigenous communities across the country.

Mary Simon, who grew up in both Kangiqsualujjuaq and Kuujjuaq, was appointed Tuesday as Canada’s next Governor General, the first Indigenous person to be named to be the Queen’s representative in Canada.

Many Inuit expressed pride in seeing someone they consider a mentor take on such a prominent role.

Lucy Abraham, an Inuk woman from Nunavik, was coming out of a meeting in her Kuujjuaq office Tuesday morning when she noticed the congratulatory messages popping up on her social media feed.

“It is indeed a wonderful feeling to finally have someone representing us Indigenous people,” Abraham said.

“Being an Inuk woman, it means a lot that an Inuk woman will be in this position. Many young women will look up to her since she is a great role model.”

The news felt extra personal to Abraham, who is Simon’s saunik, or namesake. Abraham’s middle name is Mary, given to her by her grandmother, who was a relative of Simon’s late mother, Nancy May.

“Inuit name our children after someone who means a lot to us,” she said.

In a news conference following her appointment Tuesday morning, Simon described her new position as an apolitical one — above the fray of elected politics — but said the job comes with many opportunities to build the working relationship between Canadians and Indigenous people.

Kativik Regional Government chairperson Jennifer Munick said many Nunavimmiut have always looked up to Simon as a strong advocate for Inuit rights and culture.

“Mary Simon has been my role model in her dedication to the promotion of the reconciliation process and the self-determination of the Inuit of Nunavik,” Munick said in a news release.

“We are convinced that her nomination will serve as an inspiration for Indigenous people who have had to deal with major crises in recent years.”

Until her appointment as Governor General, Simon was the senior negotiator with Makivik Corp., helping Nunavik negotiate a plan for self-determination with the federal and provincial governments.

Makivik president Pita Aatami said Simon’s new role would continue to support those efforts.

“Simon brings a wealth of experience to this position,” Aatami in a news release. “Having an Indigenous person as the Crown’s representative in Canada sends a strong message to the nation, and to the international community.

“This comes at an important time in our history as we collectively work towards reconciliation.”

‘Mary is an ideal Governor General for this place and time’

Simon herself once served as president of Makivik Corp. She is also a former chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, a past president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a former ambassador to Denmark, Canada’s first ambassador to the Arctic and played an important role in the creation of the Arctic Council.

“I’m building on what Mary has done,” said Natan Obed, ITK’s current president.

Obed also sat on the advisory committee that submitted the names of potential Governor General candidates to the Prime Minister’s Office for consideration.

“I was pleased to add hers to the conversation,” Obed said. “Mary’s record, her demeanour is something that impresses those who interact with her.

“I think Mary is an ideal Governor General for this place and time — as an Inuk, as somebody who has had a long career with the federal government but also someone who has represented Canada as an ambassador.”

Simon, 74, spoke at a Tuesday news conference, opting to open her remarks in Inuktitut and introducing herself by her Inuit name, Ningiukadlak.

“Hearing her first words in Inuktitut, proudly stating where she’s from and who her family members are — that just changes the game for so many people who might not imagine themselves in leadership roles,” Obed said.

“Her identities and her values will be on full display for the time she serves. And I think Inuit can be proud that Mary is there representing our culture.”

Simon’s appointment has been approved by Queen Elizabeth, on the Prime Minister’s recommendation, though she has yet to be officially installed in the role.

The Governor General is the Queen’s representative in Canada and acts as head of state.

Simon takes on a position that had been vacant since January, when former governor general Julie Payette resigned from the office following a workplace harassment investigation.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Equal lives matter on

    We’ve all got ancestors. Congratulations to Mary Simon, and may she bring people together and set a great example for us all, by treating all of her fellow citizens as equals.

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  2. Posted by iThink on

    An undeniably great choice, also a politically astute move.

    If the local liberals can select a good candidate this may even give them a boost in Nunavik and possibly even Nunavut.

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    • Posted by D Smith on

      This is what Trudsau is counting on. A great choice for GG. Should not be a pawn to get votes

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      • Posted by iThink on

        It would be excessively cynical to reduce the appointment of Simon to mere vote pandering. I don’t think that is accurate and it was not the point I meant to convey, though I can see how it might be understood in that way.

        It was a great choice, regardless of the fact that it was also a good political choice.

  3. Posted by Colin on

    Everyone wishes her well.

    Although GG’s can largely arrange their own workload, it’s tough job to do well. It should be a real and heavy job done on behalf of all Canadians. It shouldn’t be an overpaid sinecure like what the useless GG Payette made of it.

    One template for the job is Princess Anne and Mary should arrange to meet with her when she visits the Queen. Princess Anne does up to three functions almost every day of the year all over the country and also around the world. She’s also really active with numerous charities.

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  4. Posted by Manapik on

    I thought Canada didn’t need to report to the queen anymore when the original Fiberal was in charge and brought the constitution home?

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    • Posted by Punditry on

      It’s largely a ceremonial position. There is an unspoken rule that the GG never rock the boat. Though if the GG rocks the boat a little it might be tolerated, too much would lead to a constitutional crisis and possibly the eventual elimination of the roll altogether.

    • Posted by W on

      Then clearly you didn’t understand what was going on. The Queen is still our head of state.

  5. Posted by Immaqaa on

    Use her appointment to get close to the queen and start a real convo on how the crown was the source of the aboriginal eradication of north america

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    • Posted by Oh why? on

      Do you think the Queen doesn’t know? Do you think she had anything to do with it?

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    • Posted by There are more on

      Don’t forget the French, or the Spanish, or the Dutch. Everyone wants the Queen to apologize, but those countries also committed atrocities and we aren’t asking them.

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  6. Posted by hermann kliest on

    Congrats to Mary Simon, very good move, solid person, but I will never vote for liberals again if continue to be captained by trudeau. whos wants a drug peddler as PM? Perhaps cartels and Canadian junkies? I have seen too many Nunavut children going hungry since legalization of the weed; to many self indulging parents. evidences? long line up at Iqaluit beer store, Rankin line up will even look longer this fall. Will the stores really curb the bootleggers? Or rack up cash for Finance Minister coffers.

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