Mary Simon, an Inuk from Nunavik who formerly served as leader of the national Inuit organization, is Canada’s new governor general.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Simon’s appointment to the role on Tuesday. “Today, after 154 years, our country takes a historic step. I cannot think of a better person to meet the moment,” Trudeau told reporters.
Simon, from Kuujjuaq, is a past president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. She becomes Canada’s first Indigenous governor general.
“I am honoured, humbled, and ready,” Simon said at Tuesday’s news conference announcing her new role, having delivered her opening remarks in Inuktitut.
“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long path toward reconciliation,” she added.
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said on Twitter Simon’s appointment was “so well deserved.”
Simon, an officer of the Order of Canada and former CBC broadcaster, is the nation’s 30th governor general.
“It is only by building bridges in the north and south, just like in the east and west, that we can truly move forward,” said Trudeau.
“Mary Simon has done that throughout her life. I know she will help continue paving that path ahead – and we will all be stronger for it.”
Simon assumes the role Julie Payette vacated almost half a year ago, following an external review’s conclusion that Payette had presided over a toxic workplace culture.
The governor general’s responsibilities are mostly symbolic, representing Canada internationally and offering a form of ceremonial oversight over the prime minister and government of the day. The governor general also issues a series of annual awards designed to recognize Canadians’ achievements and contributions.
Simon also alluded on Tuesday to her potential contribution, as governor general, to the evolving examination of Canada’s past and colonial legacy.
“I believe we can build a hopeful future in a way that is respectful of what has happened in the past,” she said.
“I believe strongly that if we embrace our common humanity, and shared responsibility for one another, Canada’s brightest days are yet to come.”