Mary Simon leveraging institutions for reconciliation abroad

Ottawa –

Governor Mary Simon uses her role to help build relationships among indigenous peoples around the world. Experts say the colonial system is being used to advance settlements abroad and strengthen centuries-old cooperation.

“We had a very interesting conversation,” Simon said in an interview after a trip to Finland last month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent the governor-general to Helsinki in February to mark the 75th anniversary of Canada-Finland diplomatic ties and seek closer military ties with other Western countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We showed solidarity as a country.

Simon, an inuk, also took indigenous leaders and used the trip to develop ties with the indigenous people of northern Europe, the Sami people.

“As an indigenous governor, I have been able to successfully connect with Finnish indigenous representatives and the Sámi people,” she said.

“We have discussed with them how we can further promote exchanges between Canada’s indigenous communities and the Sámi people.”

Simon said Finnish people were “in the early stages of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work” but added that they were finding ways to involve young people who could serve as a model for other indigenous groups. .

Mr Simon said he had voiced his opinion on such matters, as had the governors-generals of Australia and New Zealand.

“These countries are trying to come to terms with the past and are very involved in discussing how this new relationship will work in their country,” she said.

Experts say the viceroy will help guide Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to work together across borders.

“She is truly uniquely positioned to help Canadian institutions understand how they can evolve to better serve indigenous peoples,” said a consulting firm that advises indigenous leadership on international partnerships. Said Max Fineday, the head of Warshield.

Fineday, who is a Cree and splits time between the Sweetgrass Indians of Ottawa and northwestern Saskatchewan, said this is based on centuries of exchange.

“We traded with each other and built our own economies before colonization. We made treaties with other indigenous groups,” he said.

“This is the natural evolution of what indigenous diplomacy looks like today, and on a slightly broader scale.

He suggested that Simon could use Rideauhall’s colonial system as a tool to help communities reverse the harm inflicted by colonialism.

Communities across Canada are already sharing notes about revitalizing languages ​​and finding a balance between development resources and environmental protection, he said.

But FineDay hopes that countries within Canada will also share their experiences and learn from communities in other countries on topics such as reclaiming autonomy over child welfare and running a culture-based health care system. said that it is possible to

“The Governor General also has a unique and important opportunity for Indigenous peoples to see how other countries are innovating solutions in the fight against colonialism,” he said.

“The Governor-General can point and say, ‘This is an innovation. This is an extraordinary model. These are the results that we hope to see in our country.'” It can shed light on opportunities that politicians, civil servants, and perhaps even our Indigenous leaders have never seen or thought to see.

FineDay states that Indigenous peoples see their primary treaty relationship as that with the King, not with elected politicians, placing Simon in a unique position as the King’s Indigenous representative. pointed out.

“Your Excellency has no such thing as a roadmap,” he said. “With that come a lot of opportunities.”

Writer Nathan Tidridge, longtime deputy director of Canada’s Crown Research Institute, said indigenous peoples have had their own diplomacy for centuries.

For example, as part of the Treaty of 1669, a delegation led by four Haudenosaunee chiefs arrived in London in 1710 to negotiate directly with Queen Anne on military defense. Tidridge said the First Nations had frequent meetings with British officials in the years leading up to the Union.

“There is this long-standing tradition that Mary Simon is a part of, which is both very historic and contemporary,” he said.

“Few Canadians really understand it. I didn’t understand it until I started looking deeper for myself.”

The Canadian provinces had at least five First Nations or Metis Lieutenant Governors before Simon became the first Indigenous Governor in 2021.

Tidridge says the jobs are markedly different. State representatives are elected by the Prime Minister and can advance policy without federal responsibility for their relations with Indigenous peoples.

First Lieutenant with Aboriginal roots, former Lieutenant of Alberta. Ralph Steinhauer was a Cree. Tidridge opposes a bill that seeks to limit Indigenous land claims to create his oil sands project, and withholds royal consent to the law before pardoning it in 1977. He said he even thought about it.

“Governors have to follow the Prime Minister’s advice, but they can go a little further,” argued Tidridge, noting that Simon’s work amounted to “soft power.”

Both FineDay and Tidridge argue that New Zealand is ahead of Canada in the decolonization process. Its governors are Māori, and there is more representation of indigenous peoples in the highest echelons of power and organizing institutions.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, released last year, seeks to strengthen economic partnerships between Canada’s indigenous communities and those in Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Mr Tidridge also said he is keenly watching what role Indigenous peoples will play at the coronation ceremony in London next month. I believe this shows openness to using his role to reverse the situation.

“The crown as an institution is over a thousand years old and could not have survived this long without adapting and changing to meet the needs of the society in which it resides.”

That could mean providing a platform for indigenous peoples and shedding light on historical events, Tidridge suggested.

“We need safer places for conversations. People are now having these very important conversations that we need to have around Canadian provinces about different things about decolonization. I am very afraid,” he said.

“The tremendous power that governors, lieutenant governors, and kings have is that they can convene these spaces.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on March 18, 2023.

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