Manitoba Indigenous leaders react positively to new Governor General

·3 min read

Indigenous leaders in Manitoba are reacting positively as the first Indigenous person to ever be appointed Governor General of Canada was sworn into her new role on Monday morning, and they hope the appointment can be a step towards reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada.

Earlier this month Mary Simon, an Inuk woman and former Canadian diplomat who is from Kuujjuaq in northeastern Quebec, was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fill the role of 30th Governor General of Canada.

On Monday morning, Simon was officially installed into the role in a ceremony at the Senate chambers in Ottawa.

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said in a statement on Monday that he attended Monday’s ceremony in Ottawa and was “honoured to attend and witness the swearing in of Mary Simon.”

“Today is a proud day for the Indigenous community, with a prominent Inuk leader and advocate taking such a high-profile position in our country,” Chartrand said.

“Clearly, this signals a further step on the path toward reconciliation, with the Indigenous peoples of Canada starting to find our rightful place in confederation.”

Chartrand added he hopes to work closely with Canada’s new Governor General on a number of issues important to the Manitoba Metis Federation and to the Métis people of Manitoba.

“I look forward to having robust discussions with her about the Métis of the Red River, so she can understand and articulate who we are, where we’re going, and how we fit into Canada’s confederation,” Chartrand said.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a statement that while this country grapples with the legacy of the residential school system, the installation of Simon represents a “strong signal” that reconciliation continues to be a critical issue in Canada.

“The symbolism of this appointment will not be lost on Canadians,” Dumas said in a statement.

“This is a momentous occasion for First Nations and other Indigenous peoples in this country, one that sends a strong signal to the country during these difficult times that reconciliation with Indigenous peoples remains critical to the future of Canada.”

The Southern Chiefs' Organization applauded both the appointment of Mary Simon as Governor General as well as the timing of the appointment.

“This is truly a historic day, especially given the heightened discussion around working towards meaningful reconciliation between colonial governments and first peoples,” SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a statement.

“I want to commend Prime Minister Trudeau for having the foresight to appoint this country’s first ever Indigenous Governor General, especially one with the credentials of Ms. Simon.”

Monday’s ceremony in Ottawa was a scaled back affair, as while similar events in the past could hold up to 800 guests, approximately 40 people were expected to attend on Monday, due to current COVID-19 health restrictions.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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