Aaju Peter is an Inuit activist, lawyer and sealskin garment designer.
It is welcoming, exciting and exhilarating news that Mary Simon will be the first Indigenous Governor-General of Canada. It sets a great example for Indigenous women and girls whose voices and perspectives, as Ms. Simon says, “need to be heard in leadership roles across this country.” I know that she will be able to do the heavy lifting and do it with grace.
Ms. Simon has worked her entire adult life promoting Inuit languages and the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
As the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Ms. Simon advocated to promote education and graduation for Inuit and to strengthen Inuit language use and instruction.
When Ms. Simon was the president of ITK, I had the opportunity to work with her on issues that dealt with the European Parliament, which was in the process of banning the import of seals and seal products into the European Union. She worked tirelessly with sealers in Canada to protect hunters, communities, livelihoods, cultures and languages. She was our supporter and ally.
Ms. Simon is well known not only among Inuit in Inuit communities but also among Inuit in the circumpolar world.
She has always believed in a brighter future not only for Inuit youth but for all Inuit and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
I, too, congratulate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for this historic and very important appointment for Canada, and I believe her appointment is the right step towards reconciliation between the Crown and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.
I applaud Ms. Simon for accepting the role as the Queen’s representative in Canada in light of the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves of children who died in Catholic residential schools.
I trust that she is the right person to move this country towards a more inclusive, just and equitable society for all Canadians.
In light of all the things that made up our difficult past, I know that Ms. Simon is very aware of the issues that are faced by the First Peoples and all Canadians. She can relate to all people with what they hope for and overcome.
She has fought all her life for Indigenous and human rights, pushing for increased access for health care and access for mental health services and to work harder for better educational outcomes for Inuit and all Indigenous children.
For decades Ms. Simon has taken very seriously the linguistic and cultural diversity of Canada.
I believe she will work towards the healing and wellness of all Canadians while recognizing our collective past, and that she will do so respectfully.
When my granddaughter, Silaqqi, was four years old she exclaimed, “Grandma, there are so many possibilities” and indeed, there are so many possibilities. And, as Ms. Simon stated in her acceptance speech: “Anything is possible.”
This is a great day for Canada. There is the possibility for more expansion of the ideas of what Canada is, that there is a new start and a new promise.
The timing of this appointment is impeccable in light of recent difficult narratives in Canada. She is very well placed to be very good at this job. I have seen her perform many roles and positions in our communities, in Canada and internationally.
In the footsteps of Michaëlle Jean, Adrienne Clarkson and David Johnston, all of whom I had the great pleasure of meeting, I have no doubt that Ms. Simon is the perfect choice.
After the sun disappears from the horizon and it becomes dark and cold in Inuit Nunangat, Inuit perform a ritual when the sun reappears. The song goes, “Alianaittuqaqput inuunialirama ulluq suli tauva …” loosely translated as, “I am so happy that I shall be alive again. The daylight is still there…”.
Indeed, this is a great day for celebration. There is a new life, a new sunrise for us all. Ms. Simon is a very compassionate woman and I trust we are all witnessing a new sunrise after a long dark winter.
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