• The Governor General

The Governor General

Mary Simon

The appointment of Mary Simon to represent The Queen of Canada as Governor General brought excitement to many Canadians from coast to coast to coast; and it seemed particularly appropriate as all hoped hers would prove a time wherein there develops a process of reconciliation, of gradual emergence from the pandemic, a deeper understanding of the Canadian Crown and a happier atmosphere at Rideau Hall.

These fond wishes – none easily accomplished overnight – can be conjoined in hope: an expectation that all will think of the service of the future Her Excellency as an era of new beginnings, of fresh understanding, renewed social closeness and national unity found in and fostered by the most venerable institution of Canadian governance. Hallowed by names of the great, such as Massey, Vanier and Johnston, it is now entrusted to Ms Simon on the eve of a year of Jubilee throughout the Commonwealth, an occasion of celebration and togetherness for all who live in that unique and diverse fellowship of nations which seek not military might, but understanding and mutual support.

Canadians wish her well – and hope that as Governor General of Canada, in all its complexity and diversity, strengths and weaknesses, she will follow The Queen’s example of service; in her own way come to earn the love of her peoples throughout the land; and enjoy every moment of her time at Rideau Hall.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE as provided by Rideau Hall

Mary Simon has attained national and international recognition for her work on Arctic and Indigenous issues and as an advocate for Inuit rights and culture.

Born in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik (Quebec), Ms. Simon began her career as a radio broadcaster with the CBC Northern Service (now CBC North) in the 1970s. Following this, she held a series of executive positions with the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, centred on negotiating the first land claims agreement in Canada. As President of Makivik Corporation, she was directly involved with the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and with the protection and promotion of Inuit rights under that agreement.

Along with fellow Indigenous leaders, she was actively involved in the negotiations leading to the 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution, which formally entrenched Aboriginal and treaty rights in the supreme law of Canada.

She later joined the Executive Council of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (now the Inuit Circumpolar Council), for which she served two terms as President. She was Commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission and Policy Co-Director of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

From 1994 to 2003, Ms. Simon served as Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, becoming the first Inuk to hold an ambassadorial position. During this time, she negotiated the creation of the Arctic Council. Concurrently, she served as Ambassador of Canada to Denmark from 1999 to 2001.

Beginning in 2006, Ms. Simon served two terms as the President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. In 2008, in the House of Commons, she delivered a response on behalf of Inuit to the formal apology on residential schools. She is the founder of the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation and, until 2014, she was the Chairperson of the National Committee on Inuit Education.

In 2017, as the Minister’s Special Representative, Ms. Simon delivered a report to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs on A new Shared Arctic Leadership Model, setting the stage for important policy and program development in support of the Arctic and its residents.

Among other distinctions, Ms. Simon is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. She is also a recipient of the Governor General’s Northern Medal, the Gold Order of Greenland, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Gold Medal of the Canadian Geographical Society, and the Symons Medal.

The Governor General Meets The Queen by Zoom

Three former Governors-General

Julie Payette meets the Queen.

Julie Payette

Julie Payette brought her experience as an astronaut-scientist and in business, her abilities as a polyglot, together with a special concern for the environment and a passion for music to Rideau Hall when she was sworn The Queen’s representative in Canada on October 2, 2017. As the 29th Governor General, she urged Canadians to work together on issues such as climate change, migration and poverty, remarking in her Installation address that “Anyone can accomplish anything and rise to the challenge as long as they are willing to work with others, to let go of the personal agenda, to reach a higher goal and to do what is right for the common good. This is exactly what I hope my mandate as the Governor General will reflect…” During the Pandemic, Mme Payette hosted a series of GG Conversations which allowed experts in various fields, a number of them medical, to interact with members of the public in virtual real-time conversations produced by Rideau Hall.

However, early in her tenure, addressing a science convention in Ottawa, she attracted hostility when she appeared to be ridiculing faith: “Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately,… we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process,” Payette said, in what Canadian Press reported as an “incredulous voice.” Later in her tenure, it was revealed that she had refused to move into Rideau Hall and found it difficult to accept the professional assistance and advice rendered by the RCMP detail responsible for her security. Living with her Private Secretary in Rideau Cottage, who had no previous experience of managing a part of the federal public service, Payette was then accused of being rude and abusive to members of the Household. The complaints rose to a level which led the government to commission an investigation whose findings were sufficiently damning that they led the Prime Minister to request her resignation.

Mme Payette’s 28 predecessors enjoyed differing levels of visibility and popularity. However, none had disgraced the Sovereign whom they represented to the best of their abilities. The initial promise and excitement. around Julie Payette’s appointment crumbled, and with reason. At the same time, not only monarchists pointed to the lack of capable vetting of her most recent employments, and the long-standing lack of a permanent Household at Rideau Hall, as had existed during the long service of Esmond Butler, which could have steered her away from difficulties and also enabled her many talents to be employed on behalf of Queen and nation.

On March 12, 2021, the government announced an advisory panel and also solicited public suggestions in a process designed to lead to the appointment of the 30th Governor General.

Governor General David Johnston meets some young monarchists when Their Excellencies joined the League’s celebration of The Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016.

David Johnston

In 2010, Canadians welcomed David Johnston, former president of the University of Waterloo, on his Installation as the Governor General of Canada. Those who had followed His Excellency’s career knew his abundant “people skills”—an affable personality—and deep knowledge of Canada’s constitution and diverse social history. These qualities, combined with a truly global perspective and seasoned political experience at the federal level, were excellent indications that he would faithfully serve The Queen and all Canadians as Governor General. Indeed he did so, bringing a lively and loyal atmosphere to Rideau Hall, encouraging pride in Canada by two books he wrote in office (to add to some 20 others he had previously authored) and accepting the Prime Minister’s request that he spend two additional years, above the customary five years in post, so that this popular and respected GG could lead the celebrations of Canada 150 in 2017 – at no small cost in terms of resuming his cherished family life and a degree of privacy.

A graduate of Harvard University in the United States (where he was an All-American hockey player), Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, and Queen’s University, Mr Johnston combined his background of corporate and communications law with a career in education and administration. After teaching law at Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, he served as Dean of Law at the University of Western Ontario. From 1979 to 1994 he was as Principal of McGill University, after which he was appointed Principal of the University of Waterloo in 1999.

Mr Johnston was uniquely suited to represent The Queen – and, mentioning his role on most public occasions, was clearly proud to do so – and so to manifest that primary role of the Governor General, ill understood or cloaked by some of his predecessors. His and Mrs Johnston’s friendliness, genuineness and sheer character endeared them to Canadians. Not alone are monarchists in considering him the greatest Governor General in many decades, and every ounce on a par with his perhaps most famous and beloved predecessor, Georges-Etienne Vanier.

Mme Jean With Former PM Stephen Harper

Michaëlle Jean

As Canadians welcomed a new Governor General, David Johnston, in 2010, they also bid farewell to Michaëlle Jean, who departed Rideau Hall at the end of the the traditional five-year period of service for The Queen’s representative in Canada. It was a period that twice brought controversial requests for Prorogation of Parliament. Controversy certainly ensued, but the Governor General’s discreet handling of the situation meant that any criticism resulting was appropriately directed at the political players and not the vice-regal office.

One significant accomplishment of Mme Jean’s time was the role she played in rousing Canadians to concern about the difficult situation in Haiti, her birthplace, to the point that the prime minister invited the GG to the operational briefing on the crisis. This was an unusual way for acknowledging the Crown’s right to be informed, to be sure – but one that showed the ceremonial and political sides of the executive in complete harmony. The press briefing Mme Jean gave later the same day that brought her to tears with an intensity of feeling which, many watching the evening news to consider digging a little deeper into their pockets towards the relief of innocent sufferers abroad.

Mme Jean showed support for the Canadian Forces, and visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She supported Canadian culture, especially in terms of its Francophone and youthful faces. Similar respect for Aboriginal cultures has been appreciated, as well, especially when she deliberately chose to eat seal at an Inuit banquet during one of her visits to Canada’s North. And she was been a visible and enthusiastic attender at arts events throughout Canada.

Once out of office, the former Governor General continued her public service as a Special Canadian Envoy to the UN Mission to Haiti. In November 2014, she was elected Secretary-General of La Francophonie.