Mary Simon became Canada’s 30th Governor General today - and first of Indigenous heritage - following her swearing in at a ceremony held in the Senate Chamber in Ottawa. The position became vacant in January, 2021, upon the resignation of Julie Payette, who served only three years of her term before stepping down amidst numerous accusations of a toxic workplace at Rideau Hall.
Born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik (Quebec), Ms. Simon began her career as a radio broadcaster with the CBC Northern Service (now CBCNorth) in the 1970s. She then held a series of executive positions with the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, centred on negotiating the first land claims agreement in Canada. As President of Makivik Corporation, Ms. Simon was directly involved in the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and with the protection and promotion of Inuit rights under that agreement.
Along with fellow Indigenous leaders, she was actively involved in the negotiations leading to the 1982 patriation of the CanadianConstitution, which formally entrenched Aboriginal and treaty rights in the supreme law of Canada.
From 1994 to 2003, Ms. Simon was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien to the post of Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, becoming the first Inuk to hold an ambassadorial position. During this time, she negotiated the creation of the Arctic Council. Concurrently, she served as Ambassador of Canada to Denmark from 1999 to 2001.
In the House of Commons in 2008 Ms. Simon delivered a response on behalf of Inuit people to the formal apology made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on residential schools. She is the founder of the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation and, until 2014, she was the Chairperson of the National Committee on Inuit Education.
In 2017, as the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs’ Special Representative, Ms. Simon delivered a report on A New Shared Arctic Leadership making policy and program recommendations on service delivery for the arctic and its residents.
In her prepared remarks in the Red Chamber today, Ms. Simon pledged to use her new position at Rideau Hall to work on issues such as climate change, mental health advocacy and the ongoing work toward reconciliation. Ms. Simon’s work officially began last Thursday when she spoke virtually from Rideau Hall with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the first time.
Ms. Simon’s appointment comes during a time of reckoning in Canada's relationship with Indigenous Peoples, made more acute after discoveries of unmarked graves containing the remains of hundreds of children near former residential schools.
Ms. Simon does not speak French fluently, which has been raised as a concern by French-language groups across the country. Ms. Simon has committed to working to improve her French during her tenure as Governor General.
Ms. Simon’s appointment has timely political implications as Prime Minister Trudeau is expected to visit her within weeks to formally request a dissolution of Parliament which triggers the next election. Having her formally installed in the role is also crucial as she may be required to call upon an alternate party or governing coalition in the event of a minority parliament or a swift motion of no confidence following the election.
Sussex Strategy Group congratulates Her ExcellencyMary Simon and wishes her well in the role.
Here to help
For more information or if you have any questions on today’s announcement or the role and responsibilities of the Governor General, please reach out to the Sussex Federal Team or your Sussex point of contact.
Chris Benedetti, Managing Partner
Devin McCarthy, Senior Vice President & Federal Practice Lead
Liam Daly, Senior Associate
Paul Tye-Ko, Senior Associate
Roberto Chavez, Associate
Brett James, Senior Counsel
Paul Pellegrini, Executive Chairman