We at Oceans North offer our heartfelt congratulations to Mary Simon, a longtime Inuit leader and chairperson of our board, on her appointment as Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the historic announcement July 6th during a ceremony in Ottawa.
“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation,” Simon said during her acceptance speech.
Simon is a long-time advocate for Inuit rights and served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canada’s national Inuit organization, from 2006 to 2012. She was also president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) from 1986 to 1992.
During her speech, she described her childhood growing up in northern Quebec in what is now called Nunavik: “I was born Mary Jeannie May, my Inuk name is Ningiukudluk…My mother was Inuk and my father from the south was manager of the local Hudson Bay Company post. I spent my adolescence in Nunavik living a very traditional lifestyle. Many months out of the year we camped and lived on the land, hunted, fished and gathered food and maintained an active connection with our Inuit heritage and language.”
Simon said that part of her cultural tradition as an Inuk are the “strong bonds that are created across the generations. My maternal grandmother Jeannie and my mother Nancy were my teachers and mentors, and these influences continue today.
“They both instilled in me a boundless energy for learning, self-improvement and helping my community. They also taught me to always be proud of whom I was and to keep my mind open to other points of view. From my father, I learned about the “south” and the “non-native world” from a man who had a profound love and respect for the north, its people and the natural beauty.”
Her background has given her the ability to “be a bridge between the different lived realities that together make up the tapestry of Canada.” She vowed to use her position to advance understanding between all Canadians, to focus on better education for youth, and prioritizing the protection of the natural world.
“During my time as Governor General, I will work every day towards promoting healing and wellness across Canadian society,” she said. “To me, that means stopping to fully recognize, memorialize and come to terms with the atrocities of our collective past that we are learning more about each day.”
We wish Mary Simon the best of luck and are excited to see how she uses this opportunity to make Canada a better place.
Ruth Teichroeb is communications director for Oceans North.