Canada will soon have a new Governor General (GG). Her name is Mary Simon and she is the first Indigenous person (she is Inuk) ever to hold that role.
The Governor General of Canada is appointed by the Queen of England on a recommendation from the prime minister, and represents the Queen in Canada at events like military ceremonies and medals presentations. When certain Acts of Parliament are passed, it is the Governor General who obtains the Queen’s signature. The Governor General is also the highest commander of the Canadian Armed Forces and holds the second-highest federal office in Canada (after the Queen and ahead of the prime minister).
Mary Simon has an impressive list of accomplishments, many of them as an advocate for Inuit rights. She was a leader with the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), which represents the interests of Inuit in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia.
She has worked with the Canadian government to help develop Arctic policies and programs. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the Governor General’s Northern Medal among other awards.
Simon will be Canada’s 30th Governor General.
It is significant that Simon is Inuk; the Canadian government has a history of seriously mistreating Indigenous people, notably through its former “residential school” programs. There remain many challenges for Indigenous people, including the fact that at least 33 First Nations in Canada do not have access to safe drinking water.
Canada’s last GG was former astronaut Julie Payette, who left the post (resigned) in 2021 amid a workplace review that suggested she had bullied people she worked with. Before Payette, the governor general was David Johnston. He served in the position from 2010 to 2017.
Simon’s next step will be to have an audience (private meeting) with the Queen and then she will be “installed” (officially given her title and role) sometime in the near future. Before that happens, she is known as the Governor General Designate.
Thank you to Kim Wheeler for her assistance with this article.
THINK & DISCUSS
- The plural (more than one) of Governor General is Governors General, not Governor Generals. That’s because it’s a “compound noun” (a noun made of up of more than one word). With compound nouns, the main word–the most important word–is pluralized. Pluralize the following words: mother-in-law, passer-by, bus stop, full moon, forget-me-not (the flower), hanger-on. (It can get tricky when the “main” word isn’t the one you think it should be, so you may need to simply memorize some of these.)
- Mary Simon was a leader with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. What is that organization, and what do they do?
- Do you think Canada needs a representative of the Queen? Why or why not?
- This article lists some of the things the GG does. What are some other things Mary Simon will be responsible for?
- This article in The Guardian talks about the lack of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities, despite the fact that Canada is a wealthy, “water-rich” country. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/30/canada-first-nations-justin-trudeau-drinking-water You may also be interested to read this February 2021 report by Canada’s Auditor General about the lack of clean drinking water in many First Nations communities: https://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_202102_03_e_43749.html
- What are some of the other issues faced by Indigenous people in Canada? Do you think that having a Governor General who is Inuk will be helpful in resolving some of those issues? How or why not?
Past TKN articles about Governors General:
Former Astronaut to be Canada’s Next Governor General (September 2017)
Bravery Awards Given By Canada’s Governor General (January 2014)
Canada Gets A New Governor General (October 2010)
Official website of the Governor General of Canada: https://www.gg.ca/en