Mary Simon: Canada’s First Indigenous Governor General

Simon is in the International Women's Hall of Fame and was an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mary Simon, OC, QC, has been announced as Canada’s 30th governor general, the representative of the Canadian Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II,  in Canada. Simon, from Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, was a radio producer and announcer for CBC North and began her public service career when she was elected Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association.

Mary Simon, born in 1947, has an extensive resume. From her biography on the federal government’s website:

Over four decades she has held senior leadership positions including, President of Makivik Corporation (a Land Claims Organization for Inuit of Nunavik), President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs as well as to the Kingdom of Denmark. She is the founding Chair of the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation.

Ms. Simon also led Canada’s negotiations during the creation of the eight Nation, Arctic Council in the mid 1990’s. The Arctic Council includes the Indigenous Peoples of the Circumpolar Region as Permanent Participants.

She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, Recipient of the National Order of Quebec, the Gold Order of Greenland, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Gold Order of the Canadian Geographic Society, the Symons Medal, and the Governor General’s Northern Award. She has been inducted into the International Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America and of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

Mary Simon has also received many other distinctions including eleven honorary doctorates of Laws from Canadian Universities (McGill, Guelf, Trent, University of Alberta, Memorial, Carleton, Queens, Loyalist College, Mount Saint Vincent, University of British Columbia, and University of Victoria.) She also served as Chancellor of Trent University.

She is also an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (SOURCE)


A governor general will usually serve at least 5 years. The last governor general, Julie Payette, who was given the role in October of 2017, resigned from the post more than five months ago, after a external review found she had presided over a “toxic” and “poisoned” workplace at Rideau Hall, the governor general’s home and workplace.

What Does a Governor General Do?

The governor general, as The Queen’s representative in Canada, has a number of responsibilities, one of the most important being to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a government in place that has the confidence of Parliament.  Other constitutional duties include:

  • swearing into office the prime minister, Cabinet ministers and the chief justice of Canada;
  • summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament;
  • delivering the Speech from the Throne;
  • granting Royal Assent to acts of Parliament;
  • appointing members of the Privy Council, lieutenant governors and certain judges, on the advice of the prime minister; and
  • signing into effect official documents, such as orders-in-council.


Image: Courtesy of The Vanier Institute of the Family