By Charlie Senack, Manotick Messenger
Governor General Mary Simon, who has a strong connection to Manotick, was in London a few weeks ago for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and had a front row seat to history.
Simon, who has lived in the Manotick area with her husband Whit Fraser for decades, has been in the role since July 2021. It wasn’t her first trip to the United Kingdom as the Queen’s representative to Canada, but was among her most important.
It was a first for the British monarchy and a once in a lifetime experience for the public. This was the first Platinum Jubilee to ever be held, with Queen Elizabeth now the longest serving monarchy in history.
In the United Kingdom they celebrated with a four-day bank holiday, and a long weekend full of activities. It all kicked off on Thursday, May 2, with a trooping of the colour presentation which the Queen viewed from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. That was followed by the lighting of the beacon ceremony in the evening.
On Saturday Buckingham Palace was rocking during the ‘Platinum Party at the Palace’ concert which Simon viewed with members of the Royal family. She sat above future kings Prince William and Prince George in the Royal box.
Simon could be seen waving the Union Jack flag in excitement, and watching the show of A-list performers which included: Elton John, Jack Stewart, Alycia Keys, Andrea Bocelli, and Diana Ross, among others.
Speaking in a sit down interview with chief CTV News Anchor Lisa Laflamme from London, Simon said it was a pleasure to be invited.
“I’m very happy that this is happening and that Her Majesty is able to experience it,” said Simon. “I think it’s just a wonderful tribute for the 70-year reign that she has had over the United Kingdom. And also, being the Queen’s representative in Canada is very important for my work, and also it’s very significant to a lot of Canadians.”
The Royal family has been facing much public pressure to do more when it comes to reconciliation, and to apologize for its role with residential schools. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla were in Canada just weeks ago, and had the chance to meet with members of Indiginous communities.
Prince Charles didn’t go as far as to say sorry, but did acknowledge the pain and suffering which Indiginous people face.
Simon met with the Queen for a second time during her visit to London, and said talk of an apology was never brought up. They did however speak about the countless mass graves that are being discovered on residential school properties.
“She felt, you know, very bad about that, and really wanted things to work out for everybody,” said Simon. “So that was kind of the extent that we discussed that issue, but I did talk to her about the work that I’m doing on reconciliation, the work that I’ll be doing over the next year in my term is to bring Canadians and Indigenous Canadians both from across the country and from the Arctic, to have these discussions where we can learn about each other, and be able to live side-by-side and give each other space, and have equal opportunities and education, jobs.”
Simon told Laflamme that growing up, her grandmother had a photo of the Queen who was “revered” in the Arctic. The Governor General said Queen Elizabeth was seen as the “highest order of the land” and had lots of respect.
Looking back Simon wishes her mother and grandmother were still alive to see her stand beside British royalty.
“She inspired me for so many years. I went through probably a rough period as well, when I was young and being the only woman at many, many organizations and in discussions at board meetings,” the Governor General said. “It took a lot of years before I was able to just be part of the crowd, so to speak, and the acceptance that even though I was a woman, I could still do the work just as well as anybody else. I think role models like Her Majesty really help you stay strong, and to stay focused and work out what you feel is important. That’s what I’ve done. I also just was so touched by the love that she showed for her family, her grandchildren, her children.”
Simon said that during their private conversation the Queen talked about her family and how important they are to her. “It was really beautiful,” she said.
During her trip to London Simon was able to attend the Thanksgiving Service on Friday, which the Queen had to miss out on at the last minute “due to some discomfort.”
Simon said the Queen was in good spirits and doing well when they met earlier in the day. Queen Elizabeth, who is 96, suffered a bout with COVID-19 earlier this year. She also had the chance to meet with other Governor Generals from across the world, including the two other Indigenous representatives in the Commonwealth.