Inuit leader Mary Simon named as Canada’s 1st Indigenous governor general

Mary Simon speaks at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 where she was named the next Governor General of Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Prime minister made official announcement at 10 a.m. ET

Inuit leader Mary Simon will serve as the Queen’s new representative in Canada, marking the first time an Indigenous person has held the role.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Queen has accepted his recommendation of Simon, a past president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization, to be the 30th governor general during a news conference at the Canadian Museum of History Tuesday morning.

Julie Payette resigned from the post more than five months ago, after a scathing external review found she had presided over a “toxic” and “poisoned” workplace at Rideau Hall, with episodes of “yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliations.”

The third-party review gathered testimony from more than 90 people and was triggered by a CBC News story about alleged mistreatment by Payette and her second-in-command, who also later resigned. Payette has said she takes workplace harassment seriously.

Since then, Supreme Court Justice Richard Wagner has been juggling his top court duties with serving as acting governor general.

Trudeau criticized for his vetting of Payette

While largely a ceremonial role, the governor general also serves as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces and represents Canada at events, ceremonies and official visits at home and abroad.

One of the governor general’s most important responsibilities is to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a stable government in place that has the confidence of a functioning Parliament.

Other duties include:

  • Presiding over the swearing-in of the prime minister, the chief justice of Canada and cabinet ministers.
  • Summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament.
  • Delivering the speech from the throne and giving royal assent to acts of Parliament.
  • Signing official documents and meeting regularly with the prime minister.

After facing heavy criticism he didn’t properly vet Payette, the prime minister launched a new advisory board  — chaired by Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and the country’s top bureaucrat, interim Clerk of the Privy Council Janice Charette — to find the next viceregal this time around.

The board drafted a short list of candidates for Trudeau to consider.

Opposition parties had questioned Trudeau’s decision to not use former prime minister Stephen Harper’s advisory committee process to suggest suitable candidates and suggested Trudeau got swept up in the celebrity status of Payette, a former astronaut.

-With files from Ashley Burke

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Inuit in Arctic Quebec moving ahead on self-determination talks, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Miners hunting for metals to battery cars threaten Finland’s Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: The Arctic railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Indigenous Peoples call on Nornickel’s global partners to demand environmental action, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Indigenous groups in Alaska welcome Biden’s bid to protect critical Bering Sea area, Radio Canada International

Catharine Tunney, CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

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