‘Long overdue’: Inuit leaders react to Simon governor general appointment

She’s the first Indigenous person — and the first Inuk — to become Canada’s governor general.

Mary Simon was selected through a new vetting process after the federal government was criticized following the resignation of former governor general Julie Payette.

Simon’s appointment comes as a historic moment for many.

The life-long advocate was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, a small village in Nunavik in subarctic Quebec.

Simon began her advocacy career in the 1970s at the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and later served two terms as president.

In 1975 Simon helped negotiate the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. In 1982 she was an Inuit representative during the patriation of the Canadian Constitution.

Janet Kanayok at the Manitoba Inuit Association says she sees this as a meaningful step towards reconciliation.

“Not just me, but I know a lot are happy that Mary is in that position, because the government talks about reconciliation and now that she’s in that position I think that’s a step forward in all that’s been going on,” said Kanayok. “I think it’s long overdue.”

ITK President Natan Obed says he is pleased with the federal government’s decision.

“I think an Indigenous person as governor general, in this point in time, can be a part of that positive forward thinking, reconciliation-based conversation.”

The federal government said its vetting process has been strengthened and is confident Simon is the right choice.

Simon’s installation ceremony is set to take place this summer.

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