Mary Simon, an Inuit leader and former Canadian diplomat, has been named as Canada’s next governor general. She is the first Indigenous person to serve in the role.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., Tuesday and said Queen Elizabeth II had approved the appointment.
As Governor General, Simon will be the representative of Her Majesty The Queen in Canada. She will be Canada’s 30th Governor General since Confederation, and the 13th Governor General appointed by Her Majesty during her 69 years on the throne.
Simon, who was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, is the former president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national advocacy organization for Inuit.
She began her remarks by speaking in Inuktitut and then in English said she thanked Trudeau for the “historic opportunity” and she is “honoured, humbled and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous governor general.”
Simon has been a tireless advocate for Inuit rights and culture, and the rights of all Indigenous peoples, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said. Over four decades, she has held various senior leadership positions, including President of Makivik Corporation, where she helped to protect and promote Inuit rights through the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. She also served two terms as President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, now known as the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and as President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
As the first Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, Simon played a leading role in strengthening the ties between the people of the Arctic regions nationally and internationally, including through the creation of the Arctic Council. She is also the founder of the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, and has served as the Ambassador of Canada to Denmark.
“I am very pleased to announce that Her Majesty The Queen has graciously approved the appointment of Mary Simon as the next Governor General of Canada,” said Trudeau. “Ms. Simon has dedicated her life to advancing social, economic, and human rights issues for Canadian Inuit and Indigenous peoples, and I am confident that she will serve Canadians and promote our shared values with dedication and integrity. Through this appointment, we are ensuring that Canada is represented by someone who exemplifies the very best of our country.”
The position of governor general has been vacant since Julie Payette resigned in January following a scathing independent report on the toxic work environment that had developed at Rideau Hall during her tenure.