Mary Simon

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Mary Simon
ᒥᐊᓕ ᓴᐃᒪᓐ
Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada.jpg
Simon in 2022
30th Governor General of Canada
Assumed office
July 26, 2021
Relatives Johnny May (brother)
Residence Rideau Hall
EducationKuujjuaq Federal Day School
Fort Carson High School
  • Broadcaster
  • public servant
  • diplomat
Signature Mary May Simon Signature.png

Mary Jeannie May Simon CC CMM COM OQ CD (in Inuktitut syllabics: ᒥᐊᓕ ᓴᐃᒪᓐ, [2] Inuktitut : Ningiukudluk; born August 21, 1947) is a Canadian civil servant, diplomat, and former broadcaster who has served as the 30th governor general of Canada since July 26, 2021. Simon is Inuk, making her the first Indigenous person to hold the office. [lower-alpha 1]


Simon was born in Fort Severight (now Kangiqsualujjuaq), Quebec. She briefly worked as a producer and announcer for the CBC Northern Service in the 1970s before entering public service, serving on the board of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and playing a key role in the Charlottetown Accord negotiations. Simon was Canada's first ambassador for circumpolar affairs from 1994 to 2004, as well as a lead negotiator for the creation of the Arctic Council. [3] She also served as the Canadian ambassador to Denmark from 1999 to 2002.

On July 6, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Queen Elizabeth II had approved the appointment of Simon as the next governor general of Canada. [4]

Early life and education

Simon was born Mary Jeannie May [5] on August 21, 1947, [6] in Fort Severight (now Kangiqsualujjuaq), Quebec, [7] to Bob May, who was from Manitoba and of English descent, [8] and his wife Nancy, an Inuk. [9] [10] Her father had relocated to the north in his youth [11] and became manager of the local Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) store during the early 1950s. [10] [12] He says he was the first white employee to marry an Inuk, which the HBC banned at the time. [13]

Simon was raised in a traditional Inuit lifestyle, including hunting, fishing, sewing Inuit clothing, and travelling by dog sled. [5] [14] She credits her mother and maternal grandmother Jeannie Angnatuk for passing on Inuit oral history to her. [5] [9]

Simon attended federal day school in Fort Chimo (now Kuujjuaq), [15] then Fort Carson High School in Colorado, and completed her high school via correspondence in Fort Chimo.[ citation needed ]


Early career

Simon taught Inuktitut at McGill University. [16] From 1969 to 1973, she worked as a producer and announcer for the CBC Northern Service. [17]

Simon began her career as a public servant by being elected secretary of the board of directors of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association. In 1978, she was elected as vice-president, and later president, of the Makivik Corporation. She held the position until 1985.

During this period she also became involved with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organization. [18] Simon was one of the senior Inuit negotiators during the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, the First Ministers' conferences that took place from 1982 to 1992, as well as the 1992 Charlottetown Accord discussions.

She served as a member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission and as co-director (policy) and secretary to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. [18]

Diplomatic career

She took on a variety of roles for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC). First as an Executive Council member from 1980 to 1983, as president from 1986 to 1992, and then as Special Envoy from 1992 to 1994. [18] During this period she assisted in obtaining approval from the Russian government to allow the Inuit of the Chukotka Peninsula to participate in ICC. In 1986, as president of the ICC, Simon led a delegation of Canadian, Alaskan, and Greenland Inuit to Moscow and then to Chukotka to meet with Russian officials as well as the Inuit of the far east of Russia. In 1987 the ICC was successful in efforts that resulted in the Russian government allowing Russian Inuit to attend the 1989 ICC General Assembly held in Alaska.


In 1994, Simon was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to be Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, [19] a newly created position she held until early 2004. [20] Acting on instructions from the Government of Canada she took the lead role in negotiating the creation of an eight-country council known today as the Arctic Council. The 1996 Ottawa Declaration formally established the Arctic Council which includes the active participation of the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar world. During her chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and later as Canada's Senior Arctic Official, she worked closely with the Indigenous Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council, and the seven other Arctic Countries it comprises.

During this time period, she also held the position of Canadian Ambassador to Denmark [21] (1999–2002), [22] was a member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (1997–2000) and held the chairperson position for the commission from 1997 to 1998, and was appointed Councillor for the International Council for Conflict Resolution with the Carter Center in 2001.

Post-diplomatic work

From November 2004 to February 2005, she assisted with the facilitation and write-up of reports on the "Sectoral Follow-up Sessions" announced by Prime Minister Paul Martin following the April 19, 2004 Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable on Strengthening the Relationship on Health, Life Long learning, Housing, Economic Opportunities, Negotiations, and Accountability for Results.[ citation needed ] From June 2004 to June 2007, Simon was a board member at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. [23] [24]

From 2004 to 2005, Simon was special advisor to the Labrador Inuit Association on the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, and she was elected president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on July 7, 2006. [25]

In 2010, Simon was reported to be under consideration for Governor General of Canada. [26] David Johnston was ultimately appointed. [27]

Governor General of Canada


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing Mary Simon as the 30th governor general of Canada, 2021

The federal government began a search for a permanent replacement for Governor General Julie Payette following her resignation in early 2021. Simon was reported as a leading contender for the post early on, given her Indigenous heritage and then-political consciousness on Indigenous reconciliation. On July 6, 2021 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Queen Elizabeth II had approved Simon's appointment as the 30th Governor General of Canada. [28] She received a customary audience with the Queen on July 22, though held virtually (instead of in-person) due to the coronavirus pandemic. She was vested with special appointments as Chancellor of the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit, the Order of Merit of the Police Forces and the Order of St. John (within Canada). She also received the Canadian Forces' Decoration. She was formally installed at the Senate of Canada Building on July 26. [29]

Simon's appointment was somewhat unusual in that, while bilingual, she speaks English and Inuktitut, but is not particularly proficient in French. This raised some complaints from francophone Canadians. [30] [31]


Simon and Dame Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand, host a bilateral between Canada and New Zealand during their Platinum Jubilee visit to the United Kingdom, June 2022 Platinum Jubilee- A Canadian bilateral.jpg
Simon and Dame Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand, host a bilateral between Canada and New Zealand during their Platinum Jubilee visit to the United Kingdom, June 2022

On August 15, 2021, Simon approved the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to dissolve Parliament and signed a writ of election for September 20. [32]


Simon considers the concept of ajuinnata as an important theme for her mandate as governor general. [33] Ajuinnata is an Inuktitut word that does not have a one-word translation, as it encompasses many things: a vow or a promise to never give up, or a commitment to action no matter how daunting the cause may be. [34] Simon said that the word was taught to her by her mother and grandmother, and is an important concept for Inuit. [35] According to Simon, the spirit of ajuinnata drove her to get involved in movements to improve the lives of Inuit in Canada. [36]

Germany visit

Simon made her first trip abroad as Governor General on October 17, 2021, when she and her husband arrived in Berlin, Germany on a state visit. [37] The trip was Canada's first state visit to Germany in over 20 years. [38] During her visit, Simon met with President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. [39] In an interview with The Globe and Mail , Simon said she discussed with Steinmeier, how in fulfilling the role of head of state, to express and atone for the darkest moments of their countries' history—the Holocaust and the Residential School System. [40] She also attended the Frankfurt Book Fair and a roundtable discussion on Arctic exploration at the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum. [39]

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee

On Accession Day, February 6, 2022, Simon paid tribute to the Queen in a message to mark her Platinum Jubilee. She said: [41]

Much has changed in the last seven decades. We extended the hand of friendship to nations around the world. We made advancements in medical research, most recently with vaccines. We established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and took part in its work. We saw the first Canadian named governor general, then the first woman and now, the first Indigenous person.

Simon and her husband met the Queen for the first time on March 15, 2022, at Windsor Castle. The Queen hosted afternoon tea for the couple. It was the first time that the Canadian monarch met the first indigenous governor general in Canadian history. Simon later said in an interview that she and the Queen discussed various issues like the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Canada convoy protests, and how they both recovered from COVID-19. Simon said she told the Queen that Canada's history books should be rewritten to reflect the facts about the relationship between the Canadian Crown and Indigenous peoples of Canada. [42] [43]

In May, Simon hosted the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on their Platinum Jubilee tour of Canada. During the tour, Simon invested the Prince as an Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit at Rideau Hall. [44]

Simon with Governors-General David Hurley of Australia and Dame Cindy Kiro of New Zealand, outside St Paul's Cathedral, London, 3 June 2022 Platinum Jubilee- Dame Cindy with Governors-General from Canada and Australia.jpg
Simon with Governors-General David Hurley of Australia and Dame Cindy Kiro of New Zealand, outside St Paul's Cathedral, London, 3 June 2022

Simon and her husband travelled to London from June 2 to 6, 2022, to take part in the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the United Kingdom. They attended the Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral, the Platinum Party at the Palace, and the Platinum Jubilee Pageant, which included military personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces. [45]

Simon urged all Canadians to work together, to "truly honour the life, legacy and reign of Her Majesty The Queen", and said that, to her, that is worth celebrating. [46]

Papal visit

On April 1, 2022, Simon released a statement following Pope Francis' apology to Indigenous delegation at the Vatican. Simon said she was grateful to the Pope for his words, and hailed it a "historic and emotional day for Indigenous peoples across Canada". She said that the apology is "one step on the road to reconciliation", and the Pope has "committed to visiting Canada to continue the reconciliation journey with Indigenous peoples on their own lands". [47]

Pope Francis visited Canada from July 24 to 29, 2022, with Simon taking part in several events and activities during the papal visit. [48] Following the papal apology in Maskwacis on July 25, Simon said, "Today was a day that moved us forward, giving Survivors words that may help them heal. Yet it is also a day that can raise complex emotions, especially as the Papal visit continues". [49]

Death of the Queen

With Queen Elizabeth II's death on September 8, 2022, Simon became the first governor general to serve under two monarchs since Lord Tweedsmuir in 1936. Simon said, "Her Majesty's warm welcome when we spent time with her earlier this year was a profound moment in our lives and a memory we will cherish forever". [50] In a live statement to Canadians, Simon said, "Her Majesty cared about people, about our well-being. This was clear every time we spoke. She cared about Canada, and all the unique stories that make up our beautiful country". [51]

On September 10, Simon signed the proclamation of the accession of King Charles III at Rideau Hall following a formal meeting of the King's Privy Council for Canada. [52] In a statement, Simon said, "the Crown endures and thrives as a symbol of service, tradition and commitment. His Majesty The King ascends at an important time in history for Canada and the Commonwealth". [53]

Simon and her husband Whit were part of the Canadian delegation to the Queen's state funeral in London on 19 September. [54] On the occasion of the Queen's funeral, Simon said, "We were fortunate to have The Queen with us for so long. On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank our Queen, our monarch, one last time, for her love and her commitment to our country and our people". [55]

Personal life

Simon is the second-oldest of eight children. [10] Her brother, Johnny May, is a locally renowned bush pilot. [15] In her youth, Simon attended an Anglican church with her family. [11] At age 40, she developed depression and burnout due to a mental illness, but gradually overcame them. [13]

Simon married her first husband, Robert Otis, on March 27, 1967, in Kuujjuaq. [56] She later married George Simon, [11] and in 1994 she married her current husband, journalist and author Whit Fraser, a former head of the Canadian Polar Commission. [57] [58] She has two sons and one daughter. [11] Simon speaks English and Inuktitut, and she has committed to learn French during her tenure as governor general. [59]

Simon tested positive for COVID-19 on February 9, 2022. [60]


Viceregal styles of
Mary Simon
Badge of the Governor-General of Canada.svg
Reference style
  • Her Excellency the Right Honourable
  • Son Excellence la très honorable
Spoken style
  • Your Excellency
  • Votre Excellence

Simon's personal awards and decorations include:

CAN Order of Canada Companion ribbon.svg CAN Order of Military Merit Commander ribbon.svg
CAN Order of Merit of the Police Forces Commander ribbon.svg Order of St John (UK) ribbon -vector.svg Barrette Ordre national du Quebec - Officier.svg
Polar Medal ribbon.png Canada125 ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.svg CD-ribbon.png DEN Greenland Medal of Merit ribbon.svg

Simon has received the following honours and recognition:

Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada July 22, 2021 [61]
Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Military Merit July 22, 2021 [61]
Companion of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces July 22, 2021 [61]
Dame of Justice of The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (Prior of the Order in Canada)July 22, 2021 [61]
Canadian Forces Decoration July 22, 2021 [61]
Governor General's Northern Medal (now Polar Medal)August 04, 2011 [62]
Officer of the Order of Canada November 17, 2005 [63]
Officer of the National Order of Quebec January 21, 1992 [64]
Member of the Order of Canada April 29, 1992 [65]
Greenland Medal for Meritorious Service (Gold)July 24, 1992 [66]
National Aboriginal Achievement Award 1996 [67]
Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society 1998 [68]
125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal 1992 [69]
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (Canadian Version)February 6, 2002 [70]
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (Canadian Version)February 6, 2012 [71]
Symons Medal of the Confederation Centre of the Arts November 3, 2009 [72]

Honorary degrees

McGill University Doctor of Laws June 5, 1992 [68] [73]
Queen's University Doctor of LawsOctober 28, 1994 [74] [75]
Trent University Doctor of LawsJune 2, 2005 [76] [77] [78]
Memorial University Doctor of LawsMay 2008 [79] [80]
University of Guelph Doctor of LawsFebruary 2009 [81] [82]
Carleton University Doctor of LawsJune 7, 2011 [83] [84]
University of Alberta Doctor of LawsJune 12, 2012 [85] [86]
Mount Saint Vincent University Doctor of Humane Letters 2013 [87] [88]
University of British Columbia Doctor of LawsMay 26, 2016 [89] [90]
University of Victoria Doctor of LawsJune 2016 [91] [92]
University of Calgary Doctor of LawsJune 7, 2017 [93] [94]
University of Western Ontario Doctor of LawsJune 19, 2017 [95] [96]

Honorary academic positions

Honorary military appointments

Military BranchDateRegimentPosition
Flag of the Canadian Army.svg Canadian Army July 26, 2021 Present The Governor General's Horse Guards Colonel
Flag of the Canadian Army.svg Canadian Army July 26, 2021 Present Governor General's Foot Guards Colonel of the Regiment
Flag of the Canadian Army.svg Canadian Army July 26, 2021 Present The Canadian Grenadier Guards Colonel of the Regiment

Current positions and memberships

Simon is a fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America and of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. [98]

Other positions currently held by her include:


Coat of arms of Mary Simon
A snowy owl affronty wings displayed and inverted environed by caribou antlers proper.
Argent an annulet, overall a fess nowy Azure charged with the Royal Crown Argent.
Two Arctic foxes proper each gorged of a collar Azure pendent therefrom a hurt that to the dexter charged with a mountain sorrel flower, that to the sinister with a cinquefoil Argent, each fox supporting a kakivak and standing on a rocky mount set with a blueberry patch and cottongrass flowers proper.
The ribbon and insignia of the Order of Canada; the ribbon and insignia of the Order of Military Merit; and the ribbon and insignia of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.

Published works

Simon is the author of many works regarding the environment, education, language, and Inuit culture: [100]


Book contributions




  1. Indigenous persons have previously been appointed to provincial viceregal offices.

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Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of Trent University
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chancellor of Trent University

Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Canadian Ambassador to Denmark
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by Governor General of Canada
Order of precedence
Preceded byas King of Canada Order of precedence of Canada
As Governor General
Succeeded byas Prime Minister