Canada has made history in its borders after installing the first Canadian Indigenous Governor General. Mary Simon will soon assume this leadership role and break new ground as the first indigenous leader. History shows that the country has always been facing challenges in the proper treatment of indigenous leaders, and specific stakeholders do not have faith in local leadership, so it was not an easy road for those like Simon who aspired to lead their people on home ground. But Simon seems to have broken the barriers set for local leaders.
Monday 26 July saw Mary Simon being named Canada’s Governor-General. She succeeds former Governor and Canadian astronaut Julie Payette, who left office earlier this year. Payette was persuaded to resign from the position after being accused of making the workplace a “toxic” environment. Reports against her leadership came from the current and former employees who uttered how Payette’s conduct was not healthy for workers, and it went against all appropriate workplace ethics. Last year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired out all allegations pinned on the former governor, including harassing and bullying employees. She was also blamed for mistreatment of workers to the extent of making some cry.
The new Governor-General Simon (74) was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec, on 21 August 1947. Ms. Simon is a former broadcaster at the CBC Northern Service. Her diplomatic journey was kick-started when she became Canada’s first Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, and in 1999 she was appointed as the Canadian Ambassador to Denmark and served as the Chancellor of Trent University in 1995. She held numerous leadership roles in different departments such as Councillor for the International Council for Conflict Resolution, chairperson of Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, chairman of the Arctic Official, and special advisor to the Labrador Inuit Association [Source].
It is clear that as a civil servant, Ms. Simon was actively participating in national issues which propagated for good governance in the country and championed equality when it comes to leadership roles. Such diverse roles enabled her to make a permanent print on all vital sectors in the governance of Canada and amass credibility from the public, peers, and other government officials. Her credentials come from serving her nation and involvement in council issues that catered for people’s welfare. She is popular when advocating for indigenous rights since the country is facing the abuse and oppression of indigenous communities, especially with forced assimilation programs. Concerns are surrounded on thousands of school children who were abused and neglected in boarding schools they were forced to attend. Simon wishes to address those issues after saying that as an indigenous person, she understands the “pain and suffering” her people are going through [Source]. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission also revealed hundreds of unmarked children graves discovered at former residential schools, and the Commission has called it “cultural genocide.” Force was used to separate these kids from their families, and tragedy befell them.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the appointment of Simon and said, “We need people like Ms. Simon because we need people who build bridges and bring us together” [Source]. The Prime Minister was addressing an audience at a ceremony where Simon was sworn in, and she will serve as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, who is the country’s head of state. In accepting her new duties, Simon cited how she is happy to have been tasked with an honorable duty of serving her people and improve their lives. She spoke on how she plans to bring all the people together through reconciliation initiatives.
Her role as a Governor-General involves swearing in governments officials, signing the legislation, summoning or dissolving Parliament, and is the commander in chief of the military. Simon’s speech showed how deeply concerned she is about uniting people by saying, “My view is that reconciliation is a way of life and requires work every day.” She went to say that “reconciliation is getting to know one another,” so her people have a lot of work to do in knowing each other and enhance peaceful co-existence.
What remains is the Queen’s approval of Simon’s appointment after recommendations from the Canadian government, but this seems like a done deal since Simon’s new role sparked joy from many government officials.