Graydon Nicholas praises choice of Mary Simon as Governor General

·2 min read
Inuit leader Mary Simon has been appointed to replace Julie Payette as Canada's Governor General. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Inuit leader Mary Simon has been appointed to replace Julie Payette as Canada's Governor General. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

New Brunswick's first Indigenous Lieutenant Governor says he's thrilled by the announcement that Canada is about to get its first Indigenous Governor General.

Inuk leader and former ambassador Mary Simon will replace Julie Payette, who resigned amid controversy in January.

"I was very excited to hear about it," said Graydon Nicholas, a Wolastoqey who served as New Brunswick's representative of the Crown from 2009 to 2014.

Simon is from Kuujjuaq, a village on the coast of Ungava Bay in northeastern Quebec.

Her mother was Inuk and her father was a fur trader who worked at a Hudson's Bay Company outpost.

Simon is a fitting and timely choice, said Nicholas, as Indigenous people, the country and the Crown, try to work out a better relationship.

"Indigenous people have been waiting a long time for the fruition of this particular relationship," he said.

Keith Minchin/Canadian Press
Keith Minchin/Canadian Press

He hopes that since more Canadians are becoming aware of what Indigenous peoples have experienced, others will also appreciate the significance of the appointment.

"Our people will be the ones who have to lead our non-native brothers and sisters toward what reconciliation is all about," he said.

Nicholas said he thinks Simon will bring a fresh perspective and help challenge harmful stereotypes against Indigenous people.

"She's a beautiful person," he said.

Nicholas said he first met Simon in the 1970s and '80s during the early struggles for Indigenous rights in this country.

He said she is very intelligent and a strong advocate for women, Indigenous rights and human rights.

"I know she is going to do an excellent, excellent job," said Nicholas.

"She's more than qualified for this particular position."

Nicholas said he's also glad to see Simon "elevated to this position," because women play a very prominent role in Indigenous culture and communities.

Simon is a community leader, said Nicholas, but is also well-known internationally for her involvement in the Circumpolar Conference.

She is a past president Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization, and of Makivik Corp, the Inuit organization created to administer development funds.

She also served as chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., for five years.

And early in her career she worked as an announcer and producer with CBC North.

Nicholas said he doesn't think Simon's inability to speak French will hurt her ability to do the job. He expects she'll receive tutoring, as he did.

Nicholas was also the first Indigenous person to be appointed a New Brunswick provincial court judge, in 1991.

He's now chancellor and chair of native studies at St. Thomas University.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting