Why Mary Simon's appointment is expected to 'bridge cultures and communities'

·2 min read
Mary Simon speaks during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday. 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/Canadia Press  - image credit)
Mary Simon speaks during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday. 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/Canadia Press - image credit)
Sean Kilpatrick/Canadia Press
Sean Kilpatrick/Canadia Press

Two Indigenous leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador are praising the appointment of Mary Simon as Canada's next governor general, and say the veteran Inuk leader will do much to address reconciliation.

"The position of governor general as representative of the Queen. There's a long history of colonialism in this country and that's certainly something I think that we all question and grapple with," said Catharyn Andersen, vice-president (Indigenous) at Memorial University.

"But Mary Simon as an individual, as an Indigenous woman, will be able to bring a unique experience and be able to lead those conversations.… I think she will be able to really bridge cultures and communities, and I think she has a history of doing that."

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

Mary Sillett of Hopedale, who has served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the non-profit organization that works to improve the health and well-being of Inuit in Canada, said there couldn't have been a better choice for the position.

Sillett, who has met Simon several times over the years, highlighted Simon's work in many roles.

CBC
CBC

"She's an Inuk, she's a woman, she is a demonstrated diplomat … a very skilled negotiator," Sillett said. "I think she's got probably more credentials than many Aboriginal Indigenous people out there.

"I'm sure that she'll do well."

Simon's appointment will also provide a platform for other Indigenous voices to be heard, Sillett said.

WATCH | Mary Simon is chosen as Canada's first Indigenous governor general:

"We're in a very difficult time in Canadian history. There is much anger for a lot of unresolved issues," she said. "I think she's got those kind of skills that will lend credibility and competence to the position of governor general."

Sillett also spoke to one criticism that has been used against Simon's ability, noting that Simon can't currently speak French. While bilingual in English and Inuktitut, Simon said she has committed to learning French.

"Fifty years ago you would never have imagined we have imagined that we'd have an Indigenous person in a very top position in our Canadian government," Sillett said.

"We live in a very, very new day."

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