By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – 2021 has been a tumultuous time. On top of navigating through a pandemic, Canada has been forced to reckon with its history of genocide as multiple gravesites have been discovered at formal residential schools across the country — with the amount of unmarked graves being above 1,500.
However, the year is also historic for positive reasons too as two Indigenous women have risen to highly influential political positions this month.
Mary Simon appointed as Canada’s Governor General
On July 6, 2021 the first-ever Indigenous person to serve as Canada’s Governor General was appointed as the Queen’s representative.
Mary Simon is an Inuk woman from Kangiqsualujjuaq in the Nunavik region of Quebec.
She will outrank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the second-highest federal office in Canada — after only the Queen herself.
After announcing the Queen’s approval of the appointment, Prime Minister Trudeau, said, “Ms. Simon has dedicated her life to advancing social, economic, and human rights issues for Canadian Inuit and Indigenous peoples, and I am confident that she will serve Canadians and promote our shared values with dedication and integrity.”
“Through this appointment, we are ensuring that Canada is represented by someone who exemplifies the very best of our country.”
Simon has previously served as the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a non-profit organization in Canada that represents over 65,000 Inuk people across the country.
She was also Canada’s first Inuk ambassador in Denmark and for circumpolar affairs.
“I am honoured, humbled and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General,” said Simon. “I can confidently say that my appointment is an historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation.”
Her election comes after an hiatus during which the position remained empty for several months. The vacancy was due to the January 21 resignation of the previous Governor General, Julie Payette, after allegations of bullying were brought to light last year.
RoseAnne Archibald elected as National AFN Chief
On July 8, 2021 the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) concluded their election for the new National Chief.
RoseAnne Archibald, from the Taykwa Tagamou Nation in Northeastern Ontario, has been elected to the position and is the very first woman to hold the honour in the organization’s 50 year history.
The AFN is a nation advocacy organization that represents more than 900,000 First Nations people in 634 communities across the country.
Archibald was elected after her competitor, Muskowekwan First Nation Chief Reginald Bellerose, conceded the election following the fifth round of voting.
“The AFN made ‘her’-story today,” said Archibald.
This is not the first time Archibald has broken barriers however. She was the first woman and youngest chief elected in her home nation at 23 years old — she later went on to become the first woman and youngest deputy Grand Chief for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation in Ontario.
“Today is a victory and you can tell all the women in your life that the glass ceiling has bene broken. I thank all of the women who punched that ceiling before me and made a crack. You are an inspiration to me,” concluded the AFN National Chief.