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Montevideo, September 25th 2021 - 00:13 UTC

 

 

Canada names first indigenous governor general at a critical moment for the country

Thursday, July 8th 2021 - 15:30 UTC
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Mary Simon, a former broadcast journalist, diplomat and advocate of indigenous rights, has previously served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Mary Simon, a former broadcast journalist, diplomat and advocate of indigenous rights, has previously served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Canada named Mary Simon as its first indigenous governor general - Queen Elizabeth II's official representative in the Commonwealth country - as the nation faces a reckoning with its colonial history.

“Today, after 154 years, our country takes a historic step,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. “I cannot think of a better person to meet the moment.”

Simon, a former broadcast journalist, diplomat and advocate of indigenous rights, has previously served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organization.

She was also leader of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which represents Inuit in all Arctic countries, and Canada's first Inuk ambassador in Denmark.

Simon has been credited with helping negotiate a 1975 landmark deal between Cree, Inuit and Quebec's provincial government, described as Canada's first modern treaty with First Nations.

Her appointment as vice-regal representative, responsible for giving royal assent or making acts passed by parliament law as well as heading Canada's military, comes at a difficult period in the country's relations with First Nations.

The discovery of more than 1,000 unmarked pupils' graves at former indigenous residential schools has convulsed Canada, provoking anger and grief in indigenous communities.

Until the 1990s, some 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis youngsters were forcibly enrolled in 139 residential schools run by the Catholic church on behalf of the government. More than 4,000 students died of disease and neglect.

Others have recounted physical and sexual abuses by headmasters and teachers who stripped them of their culture and language.

More than a dozen churches across Canada have been burned in recent weeks and statues of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Vitoria, who reigned over the country when the first residential schools were opened in the late 1800s, were torn down by protesters.

Canada's governor general is appointed by the queen on the recommendation of the prime minister.

Simon, who is fluent in English and Inuktitut (the principal Inuit language in Canada), said she hoped in the role to bring together all Canadians “to understand our unique histories, our unique culture, and our way of life.”

“This is a moment that I hope all Canadians feel part of because my appointment reflects our collective progress towards building a more inclusive, just and equitable society,” she said.

Categories: Politics, International.

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