She is also an Officer of the Order of Canada and of the National Order of Quebec.
At the press conference, Simon said she was “honoured, humbled and ready” to be Canada’s first-ever Indigenous Governor General, while noting that there is “pain and suffering” to across the country.
“I can say with confidence that my appointment is a historic and inspiring moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long road to reconciliation,” said Simon.
Simon’s appointment comes as Canada grapples with the discovery of hundreds of unmarked Indigenous graves near former residential schools across the country, as well as the toll of abusive treatment inflicted on many First Nations in the pass.
“During my tenure as Governor General, I will work every day to promote healing and wellness in Canadian society,” she said in English and Inuktitut.
“To me, that means pausing to fully acknowledge, commemorate and accept the atrocities of our collective past that we learn more about every day.”
But Simon said she saw no ‘conflict’ between her experience as an Aboriginal person and the fact that she is now the Queen’s representative, although she admitted to being ‘very concerned about the circumstances that have led to some of the events we see today.
She also assured that her office would remain apolitical. His appointment comes amid growing signs of an impending federal election by next fall.
Simon replaces Julie Payette, who stepped down from her post earlier this year after a report detailed how Rideau Hall became a toxic workplace plagued by harassment under her watch. In a statement on social media, Payette praised Simon while offering to help with the transition if needed.
Asked how she would restore Canadians’ trust in Rideau Hall after the Payette saga, Simon promised “to establish and maintain the highest standards of work ethic” in the future, and that she would more to say after settling into her new role.
Although born and raised in northern Quebec, Simon admitted to not speaking French, but pledged to learn the language as soon as possible.
“My bilingualism is Inuktitut and English. However, based on my experience growing up in Quebec, I was denied the chance to learn French during my time in federal government day schools,” she explained, adding that she would conduct her business in both official languages of Canada.
Simon’s appointment – which isn’t official until she’s been officially sworn in – was widely welcomed by political and Indigenous leaders on Tuesday, including outgoing Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde. .
“Congratulations to Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General, Mary Simon! Mary is a diplomat, a lawyer and a strong Inuk woman. I look forward to working with her as the Crown’s representative in Canada,” Bellegarde wrote on social media.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada NWAC also applauded Simon’s selection as 30and Governor General, but noted that she was still serving in a “colonial system of governance”.
“To achieve true reconciliation, the federal government must re-examine its appointments of ministers to lead the departments that have a profound effect on the lives of Indigenous peoples – the Departments of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Services,” said the Minister. AFAC in a press release.
Opposition party leaders also applauded Simon’s appointment, with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole stressing the importance of having the country’s first Indigenous Governor General, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hailed his desire to create a “new positive work environment” at Rideau Hall.
But the fact that Simon was cast in the important role despite speaking no French has annoyed some in Quebec, including Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, who said it sent a “troubling” message about the importance of language in Canada.
“How can a Prime Minister consider it appropriate to appoint a Governor General who cannot speak to more than eight million French-speaking citizens of Canada? asked Carignan in a statement.