Payette widely praised as future GG
OTTAWA — The choice of former astronaut Julie Payette as Canada’s next Governor General received widespread praise Thursday, even from those who had hoped an Indigenous person might be tapped to fill the post.
But she will be held to a high standard when it comes to the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown she now represents, said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
“There are some who were calling for an Indigenous Governor General and, while we may see that in our lifetime, we know that whoever assumes this position has a duty to uphold the honour of the Crown in all their work, and that includes the long-standing relationship with First Nations,” Bellegarde said in a statement.
Bellegarde was among many though who said Payette’s lengthy resume, which includes two trips into space, will serve her and Canada well.
“As a scientist, a former chief astronaut for the (Canadian Space Agency), and a leading advocate for Canadian ingenuity around the world, Ms. Payette will be well-suited to play a leadership role in Canada as the next Governor General,” said Opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, adding that his party has full confidence in her.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also welcomed the choice, recalling a chance encounter he had with her earlier this year as she was volunteering at Mont-Tremblant in Quebec as a member of the ski patrol.
Mulcair said he sympathized, however, with those who might be disappointed an Indigenous person wasn’t selected.
“I also look forward to the near future when, as a step on our path to reconciliation, Canada will be honoured with an Indigenous Governor General,” he said.
The Liberal party’s Indigenous MPs, who had been calling for an Aboriginal person to fill the job, nevertheless also welcomed her appointment.
“There would have been a lot of pressure placed on that person to make changes in the system and unfortunately the role of the Governor General, as we all know, is a symbolic role,” said Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a member of the Indigenous caucus.
Payette will become the 29th person to hold the position, and the fourth female to be the monarch’s representative in Canada.
The man she is replacing, Gov. Gen. David Johnston, was effusive in his praise for his replacement, having met her on several occasions.
“Ms. Payette is one of Canada’s most remarkable and accomplished citizens, and her appointment to the position of Governor General of Canada is wonderful news for our country,” he said in a statement from Beijing, where he is currently on an official visit.
“It’s a function I’ve been so privileged to hold for the past seven years, and I am certain that she will fulfil this role with intelligence, grace and energy, and that she will bring qualities of curiosity, courage and compassion to her mandate.”
The Canadian Press