Mary Simon has 'that special touch,' says sister from their hometown of Kuujjuaq, Que.

Mary Simon, who was officially sworn-in Monday as Canada's first Indigenous governor general, has 'all the qualities' of a governor general, says her younger sister, who spoke to CBC about Simon's childhood and work ethic.

Simon, who is Inuk, was sworn-in Monday as Canada's first Indigenous governor general

Madge Pomerleau, the younger sister of Canada's first Indigenous governor general, Mary Simon, spoke to CBC ahead of Monday's swearing-in ceremony. In this photo, Pomerleau stands in front of their childhood home in Kuujjuaq, Que. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Mary Simon has "all the qualities" of a governor general, says her younger sister Madge Pomerleau. 

"I'm sure she's going to do a great job, she's got that special touch," Pomerleau said in an interview last week from the northeastern Quebec village of Kuujjuaq, where they grew up. 

"She always had that special determination to do something — something concrete that would help people," Pomerleau said. "She's got it, she's [a] very good, very strong person and very honest."

Pomerleau said there is "so much chaos" in Canada right now, and someone like her sister — who was to be sworn in as Canada's first Indigenous governor general Monday — can get groups to "work together and make things better."

Pomerleau and Simon grew up with two more sisters and four brothers — Simon was the oldest of the girls.

Pomerleau said she wasn't surprised her sister was selected to be Canada's 30th governor general, and she wishes their parents were around to see it happen.

Simon holding her daughter, Carole Simon, flanked by family in this undated photo. From left to right, siblings Madge, Sarah, Billy, Mary's parents Nancy and Bob Sr., Bobby (sitting behind), Mary's grandmother Jeannie, Mary holding Carole, Rick (Mary's son, sitting behind Mary) and Peter, Mary's brother. Siblings Johnny and Annie are missing from this photo. (Submitted by Carole Simon)

"They would have been so proud," she said of their parents, who are both buried in Kuujjuaq.

During their childhood, Pomerleau said the family "never stayed in one spot" for very long — and once spent the winter in a cabin her father built. 

"It was quite a nice experience for everybody," she said. "We were sort of like nomads for a while, my dad giving us homeschooling and all that." 

Simon is bilingual in English and Inuktitut, but her appointment has been criticized by some because she doesn't speak French. She was educated in a federal day school in the Nunavik region and has said she wasn't given the opportunity to learn the language as a child — but that she'd try and learn it. 

"I believe Mary. When she says something, she does it," said Pomerleau.

'Very good choice,' says Nunavut premier

Joe Savikataaq, the Premier of Nunavut, said he's confident Simon will take lessons as well and become fluent in all three languages. 

He called her a "very good choice" for governor general.

"She's experienced in politics and handling people and she's Indigenous," he said. "I'm sure she will do fine in her job." 

He said the "best part" for Nunavut residents is that Simon is Inuk — and it's the right time to have an Indigenous person in the role. 

Kuujjuaq, where Simon spent much of her childhood and teenager years, now has about 2,750 people. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

"I would tell Canadians that they can just look at her past record.

"She's done a very good job of whatever portfolio and role she had to do." 

'She knows where she comes from,' says longtime acquaintance 

Nellie Kusugak, a former Nunavut commissioner, told CBC News she was "ecstatic" when she learned of Simon's appointment. It has "lifted Inuit up to a pedestal that I can't even imagine," she said. 

"I had no words really to describe what I was feeling that day," said Kusugak. 

Simon as a girl, aged three or four. (Submitted by Carole Simon)

"It brought me back to when I was going to school, that many of us were told that we wouldn't amount to anything very important or anything of significance." 

Kusugak said Simon worked with her late husband, Jose Kusugak, and that she's "always admired" her. 

"She knows where she comes from, she knows who she is," said Kusugak. "She's gone through everything as an Indigenous person and she's fought all those battles before.

"It's not going to be anything new for her."

WATCH | Friends and relatives of Mary Simon praise her character:

Mary Simon’s family and hometown celebrate her swearing in as Governor General

2 years ago
Duration 2:00
Mary Simon’s sister and others from Kuujjuaq, Que., talk about what she’ll be like as Governor General.


Liny Lamberink


Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She moved to Yellowknife in March 2021, after working as a reporter and newscaster in Ontario for five years. She can be reached at

With files from Juanita Taylor, Kate Kyle