Indigenous leaders in Sask. applaud selection of Mary Simon as Canada's new governor general

·2 min read
Mary Simon looks towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Simon, an Inuk leader and former Canadian diplomat, has been named as Canada's next governor general — the first Indigenous person to serve in the role. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Mary Simon looks towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Simon, an Inuk leader and former Canadian diplomat, has been named as Canada's next governor general — the first Indigenous person to serve in the role. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Several Indigenous leaders in Saskatchewan say they are happy that Mary Simon has been chosen to be Canada's first Indigenous governor general.

Simon, who is fluent in English and Inuktitut, is a former ambassador and lifelong advocate for Inuit people. She is an Inuk from Kuujjuaq, a village on the coast of Ungava Bay in northeastern Quebec. Her mother was a local Inuk woman and her father was a fur trader who worked at a Hudson's Bay Company outpost.

Saskatoon Centre MLA and residential school survivor Betty Nippi-Albright said she's pleased to see Indigenous people being represented in leadership positions.

"As a visible Indigenous leader myself and a mother and a grandmother, I'm very proud," Nippi-Albright said. "I'm proud to know that there was an Indigenous woman that was appointed in such a key position."

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

Nippi-Albright said Simon's new role will help inspire Indigenous girls and young women to aim for new heights.

"My hope would be that she continues with trailblazing, making change that is good for all Indigenous people and Indigenous women especially," Nippi-Albright said.

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band said Simon brings a unique Indigenous perspective needed for a path to reconciliation in the wake of a growing tally of unmarked burial sites discovered near or adjacent to residential schools across Canada.

"She brings many years of experience. She served her community and she's been an advocate, and just even speaking the language and knowing the issues in her country, in her community and also in her province. I think it will bring a lot to the role," Cook-Searson said.

Olivia Stefanovich/CBC
Olivia Stefanovich/CBC

'This is what we've always needed'

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said this appointment has been a long time coming.

"This is what we've always needed as Indigenous people, to have that relationship at the governor general's level, as an Indigenous person working for Indigenous people."

Saskatoon Tribal Council
Saskatoon Tribal Council

Arcand said he doesn't see any contradiction in having an Indigenous person serve as the Queen's representative.

"I see this as an actual opportunity to fix all the wrongs and do the right thing," he said. "She has an opportunity to correct a lot of the wrongs. So she's in a position to help. She's not in a position to keep the Indigenous people down."

No date has been set yet for when Simon will officially begin her new role.

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