Nfld. & Labrador

Hike, some Great Big Sea among highlights of Julie Payette's first official N.L. visit

Her career has taken her from outer space to Signal Hill.

GG is visiting St. John's and the surrounding area, as well as Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is in St. John's Thursday, marking her first official visit to the province. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Canada's Governor General got a warm — but wet — welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday, with a large crowd on hand during her first official visit to the province.

Julie Payette was greeted with a 21-gun salute in front of Confederation Building in St. John's and received full military honours as a band played O Canada followed by hits from Great Big Sea — a band whose album Payette brought into space on one of her flights. 

"I must say that the welcome, with the ceremonial guard was unbelievable. People from all walks of life. Just so cool," Payette said.

Payette's schedule is jam-packed while she is here in the province and highlights include receiving the honorary title of Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and presenting a portrait that is on loan from Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

After a full day of events around the St. John's area, Payette will head to Labrador for the second of her two-day visit. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

"This was in the ballroom at Rideau Hall, which is the most important room for Rideau Hall. This is where we welcome foreign visitors, it's where we swear in cabinet," Payette said at a ceremony at Government House about the 10-foot-tall Diamond Jubilee Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that will be on loan for six months. 

Payette said the striking portrait was slated to go into storage during the renovations at Rideau Hall, but she had another idea.

"Instead of taking down Her Majesty, we decided to see if we could send her on a cross-Canada tour ... starting of course with the most important province," Payette said with a grin.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette says this portrait will be displayed across country, 'starting of course with the best province.' (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Before a public concert and official reception Thursday evening, Payette braved the elements to hike Signal Hill.

Members of the public were invited to join and dozens took Payette up on her offer. Payette used the opportunity to promote her new initiative, GGActive, which aims to promote healthy lifestyles and fitness to Canadians.

"Since we like people, we like moving and we like to connect, we can do all three of them at the same time," Payette said.

"Moving activity is not just necessarily just a hike. It could be moving your arms and playing Wii at a centre or anything else."

Space and sea

It should come as no surprise that a former astronaut who worked as a system engineer with IBM and scuba dives would be interested in Memorial University's Fisheries and Marine Institute.

Payette's experience came in handy as she tried out the new Hibernia Offshore operations simulator.

Government House, is just one of several stops for Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, seen here with Newfoundland and Labrador's Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote and Premier Dwight Ball. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"If you've never tried it I welcome it. This is how the train people so that they don't have to be in a bad situation to learn what to do," Payette said.

She also witnessed youth from Eastern Edge Robotics test their remotely operated vehicles at the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources.

The big land

After a full day of events around the St. John's area, Payette will head to Labrador for the second of her two-day visit.

Her agenda includes visiting the 5 Wing Goose Bay military base and flying onboard a CH-146 Griffon helicopter.

Canada's Governor General got a warm — but wet — welcome to Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday, with a large crowd on hand during her first official visit to the province. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

Payette will also attend another hike along the Birch Island Boardwalk with the Mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay as well as youth and volunteers.

The visit will wrap up in North West River at the Labrador Interpretation Centre where the Governor General will learn about Labrador's Indigenous history with the mayor.

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Stephen Miller is a contributor to CBC News in St. John's. You can reach him by email at