Mary Simon named as Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General

OTTAWA — Inuit leader Mary Simon will be Canada’s next Governor General, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

From Nunavik, in northern Quebec, Simon has been an advocate for Inuit rights and culture, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. She has also worked alongside the federal government on several files over many years, including as an Arctic ambassador. Now, she will take on the role of the Queen’s representative in Canada.

Trudeau made the announcement at the Canadian Museum of History across the river from Parliament Hill.

While the position is largely ceremonial, Simon will also become the top commander of the Canadian Armed Forces, and can play a crucial role in constitutional matters and within minority governments when it comes to questions of confidence.

Canadians will also see the new appointee granting numerous awards and medals of honour, reading the speech from the throne, and swearing-in cabinet members.

Perhaps most notably, given the rampant speculation that a summer or fall election call is likely, the governor general has the power to dissolve Parliament and draw up the writs for a general election, on the advice of the prime minister.

Canada has been without an official governor general since late January, when Julie Payette resigned from the role.

Payette, a former astronaut and engineer had been a controversial choice for governor general from the outset, and eventually left amid reports that she fostered a “toxic” work environment. Her departure came after a “damaging” independent review into workplace harassment allegations against her was conducted.

In the interim, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Richard Wagner has been acting as the administrator, assuming the powers of the role without taking the official title.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had called for Trudeau to consult other parties before nominating a replacement, given the dynamics of the minority Parliament. Instead, in March the government struck an advisory panel tasked with helping select the next governor general.

Trudeau was expected to receive the shortlist of prospective candidates by mid-June, according to President of the Queen’s Privy Council and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc. He recently told a House committee that the advisory panel hosted 12 meetings and the list of potential appointees for Trudeau to consider was “interesting.”

When the prime minister travelled to the U.K for the G7 two weeks ago, he spoke with Queen Elizabeth about the status of the process to choose a new governor general.

While at the time the vacancy was created, LeBlanc said that it would not take months to tap a replacement, the search and likely vetting process to pick the next governor general has taken half a year.

With files from CTV News’ Sarah Turnbull

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