Governor General Mary Simon refused to condemn the vandalism of a Queen Elizabeth II statue last week despite being mandated to represent the monarchy in Canada.
In response to reports that the statue of the late monarch was defaced with the words “killer” and “colonizer” in Winnipeg, shortly after it was re-erected in the province’s capital, Simon claimed she “can’t say” whether the criminal actions were wrong.
“I think it’s really important for Indigenous people to express themselves in whichever form they want, but it’s also very important for us to recognize that the effects of colonization and residential schools have had such a devastating impact on the cultures and identity of Indigenous people, that there are frustrations. There’s anger,” said Simon.
“And they will, from time to time, express that anger and the frustrations. For me, as a representative of the King, my role is to help understand what’s going on. So in a way, I can’t say whether it’s right or wrong. It’s right for the people maybe who are doing it but wrong for the people that want the history to continue as it was.”
According to the Governor General’s constitutional responsibilities, Mary Simon “exercises the powers and responsibilities of the Head of State, His Majesty The King. As such, the governor general is non-partisan and apolitical.”
Simon gathered in Manitoba on Wednesday to meet with Premier Heather Stefanson and Indigenous elders to discuss the situation.
In a subsequent statement, Simon claimed that King Charles III “understands the importance” of reconciliation.
“The King understands the importance of walking the path of reconciliation with Canada and Indigenous peoples. Discussions like these are vital. They will start slowly, and grow, forming the pillars of a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples that is based on respect and understanding,” said Simon.
The toppling of the statue on Canada Day in 2021, elicited praise from radical NDP MP Niki Ashton who called it an act of “decolonization.”
“Decolonization on the grounds of our legislature on Treaty 1 Territory, the homeland of the Métis,” tweeted Ashton at the time with a heart emoji.