'This is historic': Indigenous leaders applaud choice of Russell Mirasty as new Sask. Lt.-Gov.

Former Mountie Russell Mirasty, the first Indigenous person to command an RCMP division, has been named Saskatchewan's new lieutenant-governor.

Previous Lt.-Gov. W. Thomas Molloy died from pancreatic cancer

Russell Mirasty will be sworn-in at a ceremony at Government House in Regina on Thursday morning. (Troy Fleece/The Canadian Press)

Former RCMP F Division Commander Russell Mirasty has been named Saskatchewan's lieutenant-governor, the Office of the Prime Minister announced on Wednesday.

He is the first Indigenous person to occupy the position in the province.

"I was humbled to receive the phone call from the Prime Minister and I was very pleased to accept his request to serve as Her Majesty's representative in Saskatchewan," Mirasty said in a statement.

"I appreciate that it is a historic decision to invite a person of Indigenous background to fill this office; I believe it will have great meaning for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Saskatchewan."

He said he and his wife Donna are looking forward to travelling the province.

Mirasty takes the position left vacant after the 22nd Lt.-Gov. W. Thomas Molloy died from pancreatic cancer.

"As Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, I know [Mirasty] will continue to make a difference for the people of his province and all Canadians, and inspire others to create change in their communities," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a news release.

Mirasty, a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, joined the RCMP in 1976 and became the first Indigenous person to command an RCMP division. He has also served as the force's Director General of National Aboriginal Policing at Headquarters in Ottawa. He retired from the RCMP in December 2013.

Russell Mirasty, the first Indigenous person to command an RCMP division, is Saskatchewan's new lieutenant-governor. (CBC News)

Mirasty will be sworn in at a ceremony at Government House in Regina on Thursday morning.

"I look forward to working with Mr. Mirasty as he assumes the role of Saskatchewan's Lieutenant Governor," Premier Scott Moe said in a written statement.

"With a deep connection to Saskatchewan's Indigenous communities and a background of service with the RCMP, Mr. Mirasty will bring a valuable perspective to a role that has a rich history of service to the people of Saskatchewan."

Indigenous leaders applaud appointment

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said the government made the "right choice."

"We're very proud and honoured to have him named as the new lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan," Cook-Searson said. 

"He's a very down to earth, humble, supportive person who can communicate effectively in Cree, which is his first language, and also in English," said Cook-Searson.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron called the appointment "historic".

"It's a proud day for First Nations people in Saskatchewan to see one of our own named as the lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan so quickly in light of our recent great loss."

At Molloy's state funeral on Saturday in Saskatoon, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde called the former lieutenant-governor a "modern day Father of Confederation." 

Cameron said the timing of Mirasty's instalment is important.

"The relationship in this province has been drastically harmed through systems, through ignorance and through hate. We have a Queen's representative that is now one of the First Peoples of this land. Let's start repairing our relations by being examples. Lasting change comes with political will."

Mirasty will be be installed in a formal ceremony at the Legislative Building at an unspecified later date.

The Lt.-Gov. is appointed by the Governor General of Canada, on the recommendation of the prime minister, and serves as a representative of the Queen in their respective jurisdictions and gives Royal Assent to new legislation.

with files from CBC's Creeden Martell and Adam Hunter


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