This week, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General. To many, it was another of Canada’s “It’s about time!” moments, as a country that’s believed itself to be woke for decades comes to terms with the reality that it’s so totally not.
Congratulations to Ningiukadluk (Mary Simon) on her appointment as Governor General.
The accomplishments of Inuit are often overlooked in Canada. It's nice to see an Inuk leader being recognized with this position.
— Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (@MumilaaqQaqqaq) July 6, 2021
But every political move in Canada has its critics.
They immediately jumped on the fact that Simon has history with the Trudeau Foundation. They were jaded about the selection of an Inuk woman in the midst of Canada’s painful confrontation with its genocidal past, coming so soon after the discovery of more than one thousand unmarked graves at former residential schools. Some complained about the fact that, though Simon was born in a small Inuk community in northern Quebec, she speaks no French, and has committed to learning the language while in office. Further critics simply reminded the masses that the Trudeau government’s last GG appointment, former astronaut Julie Payette, was both an HR and PR disaster, and want nothing more than to see Trudeau and the Liberals fail again.
Quebec Conservative Senator Claude Carignan "astounded" new GG Mary Simon does not speak French.
"How can a Prime Minister consider that it is appropriate to appoint a Governor General who will not be able to speak to more than eight million French- speaking citizens?" pic.twitter.com/oVcdEDmq5F
— Dylan Robertson (@withfilesfrom) July 6, 2021
Most arguments against Simon’s appointment are that this is a performative choice, which is frankly insulting on the basis that Simon is a career diplomat, and thus more than qualified for the appointment. Besides, the selection of every Governor General in Canadian history has been performative, being that the role itself is mostly symbolic. Yes, GGs perform a constitutionally critical function in Canada’s parliamentary democracy, but it’s rare that a GG attempts to subvert the will of elected politicians, and hasn’t happened in Canada since the King-Byng affair of 1926.
New GG Mary Simon on the need to include an equality clause in s.35 of the Canadian Constitution back in '84. This took place during the Federal Provincial Conference of First Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters (one of the only women speakers during the conference). pic.twitter.com/D6PS0utmpL
— Vanessa Watts (@Vanessa_A_Watts) July 6, 2021
Simon, who has served many roles as a Canadian diplomat and Inuit rights advocate, gave her first words to the press in Inuktitut, one of Canada’s many critically endangered Indigenous languages. This was a signal to the primarily Anglo-Canadian audience who even gives a damn about the role of monarchy in Canadian politics, and for them it’s an important one.
“I can confidently say that my appointment is an historic and inspirational moment for Canada, and an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation.”
Mary Simon shares remarks in English and Inuktitut during this morning’s Governor General announcement. pic.twitter.com/2uC3PyRkrk
— APTN News (@APTNNews) July 6, 2021
Mary Simon will be Canada's first Indigenous Governor General!
Great day for Indigenous Peoples. We need to see more Indigenous People at the highest levels of our government. Today, we will have that. #cdnpoli
— Dakota Kochie (@dakotakochie) July 6, 2021
Really proud of Mary Simon being the new GG. Many indigenous nations do not identify as Canadian, but Inuit do. So anyone trying to diss an indigenous woman for taking the role can back off.
Mary has a accomplished a lifetime of *incredible* work and leadership for Inuit. 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 https://t.co/GtSrN06WL9
— Alethea Arnaquq-Baril❄️ (@Alethea_Aggiuq) July 6, 2021
It says that Indigenous voices matter. Their rights as human beings and as Canadians matter. Canada, as a nation, is drowning in colonizer narratives that presuppose white males are often most qualified to do literally anything (except child-rearing). We’ve never elected a woman to be Prime Minister (no really, not even Kim Campbell herself). We’ve never elected a person of colour, either. We’re not remotely close to electing either one (no really, not even Jagmeet Singh).
Mary Simon’s selection as Governor General is far and away the right choice – especially as we move forward understanding that true reconciliation with our past and yes, even our present, is only just beginning.