Mary Simon: Trudeau Names Indigenous Leader In 'Historic' First

Mary Simon is Canada's thirty-fifth governor general Mary Simon is Canada's thirty-fifth governor general

Canadian Prime Minister has named Mary Simon as governor general, the first Indigenous person to hold the post.

The former diplomat and advocate for Inuit rights will represent Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.

The announcement comes nearly six months after the former governor general, Julie Payette, resigned amid accusations of bullying.

While the role is largely ceremonial, the governor general presides over important state duties.

Ms Simon's appointment follows a national reckoning over Canada's legacy of residential schools. These government-funded boarding schools were part of policy to attempt to assimilate Indigenous children and roll back Indigenous cultures and languages.

In the past two months, hundreds of unmarked graves, believed to belong to former residential school students, have been found.

Born in northern Quebec, Ms Simon said she was raised to maintain an active connection to her Inuit culture and heritage. She has served as the ambassador to Denmark and as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organisation.

On Tuesday, she said her "historic" nomination was "an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation" and towards "building a more inclusive and just Canadian society".

Ms Simon is bilingual in English and Inuktitut - but not French. She said she was denied the opportunity to learn French while attending a federal day school in Quebec.

Canada has two official languages: English and French. It's rare that an appointment like this would not be proficient in both but Ms Simon said on Tuesday she was committed to continuing French language studies.

In January, astronaut Julie Payette stepped down after four years on the job amid reports that a highly critical workplace inquiry would be made public.

The third-party review found she presided over a "toxic" working environment, with examples of "yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliations."

The government had launched the external investigation after CBC News reported last year that several staff members felt bullied by Ms Payette.

In the wake of her resignation, Mr Trudeau named Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner as interim governor general. He said on Tuesday that nearly 100 names had been vetted and examined before Ms Simon was selected.

As the Queen's representative in Canada, the governor general carries out many duties in her absence.

He or she has the power to give a throne speech and suspend parliament, give royal assent to legislation, swear in the prime minister and is commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Source: BBC