Why Mary Simon's appointment is expected to 'bridge cultures and communities'

Indigenous leaders Catharyn Andersen and Mary Sillett say Mary Simon's appointment is an important moment in Canada, as "we're in a very difficult time in Canadian history."

Simon was announced as Canada's first Indigenous Governor General Tuesday

Mary Simon speaks during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday. Simon, an Inuk leader and former Canadian diplomat, has been named as Canada's next governor general — the first Indigenous person to serve in the role. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadia Press )

Two Indigenous leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador are praising the appointment of Mary Simon as Canada's next governor general, and say the veteran Inuk leader will do much to address reconciliation. 

"The position of governor general as representative of the Queen. There's a long history of colonialism in this country and that's certainly something I think that we all question and grapple with," said Catharyn Andersen, Indigenous vice-president at Memorial University. 

"But Mary Simon as an individual, as an Indigenous woman, will be able to bring a unique experience and be able to lead those conversations.… I think she will be able to really bridge cultures and communities, and I think she has a history of doing that."

Simon, a former ambassador, is from Kuujjuaq, a village on the coast of Ungava Bay in northeastern Quebec.

Mary Sillett of North West River, who has served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the non-profit organization that works to improve the health and well-being of Inuit in Canada, said there couldn't have been a better choice for the position.

Sillett, who has met Simon several times over the years, highlighted Simon's work in many roles. 

Memorial University Indigenous vice-president Catharyn Andersen, left, and Mary Sillett say Simon's appointment as governor general is an important moment in Canadian history. (CBC)

"She's an Inuk, she's a woman, she is a demonstrated diplomat … a very skilled negotiator," Sillett said. "I think she's got probably more credentials than many Aboriginal Indigenous people out there.

"I'm sure that she'll do well."

Simon's appointment will also provide a platform for other Indigenous voices to be heard, Sillett said.

WATCH | Mary Simon is chosen as Canada's first Indigenous governor general:

Mary Simon chosen as 1st Indigenous governor general

2 years ago
Duration 3:43
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Inuk leader Mary Simon to be Canada's next governor general in a move that is being praised. But after the controversy surrounding Julie Payette, Simon may have a challenging road ahead.

"We're in a very difficult time in Canadian history. There is much anger for a lot of unresolved issues," she said. "I think she's got those kind of skills that will lend credibility and competence to the position of Governor General."

Sillett also spoke to one criticism that has been used against Simon's ability, noting that Simon can't currently speak French. While bilingual in English and Inuktitut, Simon said she has committed to learning French. 

"Fifty years ago you would never have imagined we have imagined that we'd have an Indigenous person in a very top position in our Canadian government," Sillett said.

"We live in a very, very new day."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show