Mary Simon made history this Monday by becoming the first indigenous person to assume the position of governor general of Canada, the head of state, at a time when the country is facing atrocities committed against Canadian indigenous communities.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the inauguration a historical fact and he trusted the new Governor General to help build bridges between Canadians.
Simon, 73, prominent leader of the Inuit (the inhabitants of the Arctic), was sworn in as governor general at a ceremony in Ottawa, but her appointment opened other wounds in Canadian society.
Controversy and criticism
Even before Simon became the 30th Governor General, the Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages of Canada, which is charged with protecting the language rights of Canadians, was forced to open a investigation on his appointment after receiving hundreds of Complaints from French speakers in the country.
Simon, who was born in the town of Kangiqsualujjuaq, an Inuk community (one of the Inuit groups) in the north of the French-speaking province of Quebec, He does not speak French, one of the two official languages of the country.
A few hours after Trudeau announced on July 6 the appointment of this leader as representative of Queen Elizabeth of England, the monarch of Canada, prominent members of the country’s Francophone community expressed their dismay.
Patrick Lagacé, columnist for Press, one of the main newspapers in Quebec, considered that for Francophones in Canada, Simon’s appointment “is a step backwards; a withdrawal, symbolic, yes, but a symbol that confirms reality.”
“French has always been subordinate to English in this country and it is still that way in 2021,” Lagacé warned, adding that that won’t change until Canada’s governor general is an Inuk speaking the language of the Inuit and French.
I stumbled on the speech
Precisely Simon, who read part of his acceptance speech in French, as well as in English and Inuktitut, one of the Inuit languages, broke the protocol briefly after having trouble reading some of the French text, forcing her to acknowledge her lack of knowledge of the mother tongue of around 7.2 million Canadians.
After the stumble, Simon promised to learn French.
“My mother tongue, Inuktitut, is the language that defines the Inuit as a people. And this is the very basis of our survival. My second language, English, opened the doors to the rest of the world. I promise to learn the other language. Canadian officer, the Frenchman, “Simon explained.
Lagacé had already anticipated Simon’s promise three weeks ago. The columnist accepted the explanation that the now governor general gave when her appointment was known: the country’s school system, which indigenous Canadians have suffered so much, prevented him from learning French.
“But it has been decades between the end of her education and her appointment as governor general in which she did not believe that it was useful, or necessary, to learn French,” the columnist nonetheless reproached.
Gesture to indigenous indigenous peoples
And while Francophones expressed their dismay at Simon’s appointment, among many indigenous people in the country, the sentiment is the opposite.
Trudeau elected an indigenous woman as governor general as approach gesture at a time when the country is reliving the horror of dormitories, government boarding schools for indigenous people designed to eradicate Aboriginal cultures.
Although Trudeau did not mention the hundreds of unidentified graves that are turning up in school residences, something Simon did, in his words the ghoulish finds were present.
“I am inspired by the historic nature of this moment, as our country continues to embrace the difficult realities of our collective past,” said the Canadian Prime Minister.
“I know that as the first indigenous Governor General she will dedicate herself to helping us confront these difficult truths together, walk the path of reconciliation together, and build bridges between those who call this country home,” Trudeau added.
Special ceremony in the Senate
The inauguration ceremony in the Senate of Canada, this Monday, was marked by indigenous cultures.
Before the event began, Claudette Commanda, an Algonquian Indian, blessed the Senate in an ancestral ceremony.
Later, the Inuk singer Elisapie Isaac performed the song “Arnaq”, which in Inuktitut means “woman”.
After Simon was sworn in, French-speaking singer Adriana Turenne performed “En plein coeur mai,” which chronicles the struggle of the Métis (the third ethnic group originating in Canada along with the First Nations and the Inuit) and the Francophones. in the west of the country.