As Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General, Mary May Simon says part of her role entails bridging the gap in understanding between governments and Indigenous communities.
In an interview with CTV National News during her first international trip to Germany, May Simon said the path forward to reconciliation involves difficult but crucial conversations.
“I think that role is very important because without that understanding, without the work that is necessary, reconciliation is going to be a very slow process. It’s a lifelong process, but we somehow have to speed it up a bit without being disrespectful to those that have been done harm to,” she said.
May Simon added that she intends for her legacy to be long-lasting and more reflective of her work than of who she is.
“I want to work through various issues that are meaningful to Canadians – reconciliation – I put a lot of those in my installation speech…[a legacy] that will go way beyond my term as Governor General, it should not depend on me being in that position,” she said.
Her comments come just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation in B.C. to apologize for his absence on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
May Simon was representing Canada at the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair – the world’s largest trade book fair – where Canada is this year’s Guest of Honour. During the trip, the governor general met with the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and many top military leaders.
She described the experience as “wonderful” and reflected on the strong relationship between the two countries.
“It’s been a really, really positive experience. The dialogue and the discussions I’ve had with various leaders has been substantive. We’ve talked about the pandemic and the crisis that we’ve all been through during this period,” she said.
“There’s very strong co-operation going on both at the economic level and the cultural level.”
Mary Simon noted that she and the president had a frank conversation about reconciliation.
“We talked about how difficult this can be. In Canada we’re going through the same thing. As the Governor General, my commitment is to make reconciliation a priority,” she said.
While she said it’s been an “intense” few months in her new role, she also said that the staff at Rideau Hall have made it a positive experience.
“I didn’t realize when I was appointed was how wonderful the staff are. Rideau Hall has the best team ever and I’m so lucky to be working with them,” she said.
“I believe in teamwork. I don’t believe in a place where I’m up here and the others are down here, I don’t micromanage.”
Her predecessor, Julie Payette, stepped down from the role earlier this year amid allegations that she perpetuated a toxic workplace.
May Simon returns to Ottawa on Thursday.