Simon’s appointment ‘meet[s] the moment,’ says Trudeau
The country’s new Governor General and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “have not mentioned or discussed elections at all,” the prime minister said Tuesday, minutes after revealing Mary Simon was chosen from a list of “close to 100 different names.”
Speaking to media yesterday, Trudeau appeared to try and temper any electoral whispers that have been gaining traction over the last several weeks, as the sun set on the minority Parliament’s latest session and MPs geared up for their summer break.
“It is very important for us to have a governor general in [place], and I am really happy to be here to announce Ms. Simon as our next [one],” said Trudeau when asked whether an agreement had been reached with the Queen’s representative about issuing writs for an expected upcoming vote. “Our focus is on this historic day and moving forward to make sure we are bringing Canadians together from coast to coast to coast.”
Simon echoed that she had not yet discussed an election with Trudeau.
“I do understand … my parliamentary responsibilities are very important, as are my responsibilities as commander in chief of the Canadian Forces, and I give due regard to these important roles,” she said.
The country’s new Governor General is a familiar face. Simon is a former CBC North producer and earned a nod from then-prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2002 to serve as the first Arctic ambassador. Her name was first floated to take on the governor general posting back in 2010.
An Inuk from what is known today as northeastern Quebec, Simon was once the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national advocacy organization for Inuit. She was born in Nunavik to an Inuk mother and father “who had a profound love and respect for the North, its people and its natural beauty.” It’s from her father that she learned about “the non-Native world,” Simon added, as she switched between English and Inuktitut.
“Combined, these experiences allowed me to be a bridge between the different lived realities that together make up the tapestry of Canada,” she said. “I can relate to all people, no matter where they live, what they hope for or what they need to overcome.”
Simon said chief among her mantras in the new role is that “cultural differences we have in our country will go away if we can learn to understand and respect one another.”
With public figures urging Canadians to embark upon a journey of reflection following the grim discoveries of unmarked gravesites at former residential schools, Trudeau said he “cannot think of a better person to meet the moment.”
Simon vows culture shift following Payette’s embattled term
Typically, the position is more symbolic in nature, with previous governor generals opting to stay away from publicly commenting on issues of the day and instead focusing on their constitutional duties.
Simon said she would not “advise a role change at this time” on that front. “I understand my role very well, it’s apolitical. I’m not appointed as a political person,” she said. “But I know there are very important responsibilities associated with my role that will help the working relationship with Canadians and Indigenous people, through reconciliation or other means.”
Simon replaces the embattled Julie Payette, who resigned in January amid a fresh batch of media reports detailing a toxic workplace environment at Rideau Hall.
Simon said her “vision” is to strive for a more “inclusive” Canada where people are “working together, not against each other.”