When Mary Simon walks into the Senate this morning to be installed as the country’s next governor general, she will find the upper chamber sparsely populated.
The installation ceremonies for Simon’s predecessors have attracted hundreds of people packed tightly into the Senate, including cabinet ministers, senators, MPs, justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, dignitaries and invited guests.
For Simon, there will be 44 people in attendance to view the ceremony in-person to follow public health guidelines.
Federal officials planning the ceremony say public health rules will also require everyone to wear masks and be physically distant.
Officials are also making a rare request for Canadians to not line the streets around the building or the nearby National War Memorial where Simon will lay a wreath after officially becoming commander-in-chief.
Instead, they are encouraging people to watch the broadcast of the ceremony that will include traditional Inuit elements as Simon becomes the country’s first Indigenous governor general.
In a tweet, Simon said she and husband Whit Fraser were “immensely proud and excited” as they prepared for Monday’s installation ceremony.
“We hope you will tune in to experience this meaningful event alongside us,” read the tweet sent from the official account of the governor general.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Simon, an Inuk leader and former Canadian diplomat, as his choice to be the Queen’s representative in Canada earlier this month, replacing Julie Payette, who resigned in January after a review found Rideau Hall had become a toxic workplace.
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) July 26, 2021
The appointment came amid grief and anger at the federal government over the historic and current treatment of Indigenous people in Canada after several First Nations used ground-penetrating radar to find what are believed to be the unmarked graves of children at former residential schools.
Simon’s first speech as governor general will touch on the themes of youth and reconciliation, but the text of the address was still being worked on late last week.
Before the installation ceremony starts, there will be a lighting of a traditional Inuit oil lamp, called a Qulliq, inside the Senate chamber. It will remain lit during the ceremony.
Simon is also to be greeted at the Senate building by the Ottawa River Singers, an Indigenous drumming circle. Once inside the building, and after being greeted by Indigenous leaders, Simon will make her way to the chamber being accompanied by a traditional Inuit drummer.
The ceremony is also a first inside the Senate’s temporary home while the Centre Block remains closed for a decade-long renovation on the aging parliamentary building.
When Simon officially becomes the country’s 30th governor general, it will also mean that the chief justice of the Supreme Court will go back to only having one job.
Richard Wagner has served as administrator, as the role is called, since Payette’s resignation in January. In a statement, Wagner says he gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for the country’s democratic institutions and the strength of Canada’s constitutional monarchy.
“It has been a reassuring realization, and confirmation, for me,” he says. “We are fortunate to have these institutional mechanisms in place.”
He also congratulated Simon on her new role, saying he has every confidence she will excel as governor general.