Mary May Simon
Mary May Simon
Seventh Chancellor (1995 to 1999, 2002)
Mary May Simon, Canada's Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, has attained international recognition for her work on Arctic and Indigenous issues. Throughout her distinguished career, Ambassador Simon has been committed to seeking diplomatic and policy solutions to problems in the North. In the environmental, economic and political arenas, Mary Simon has been a leading advocate for Inuit concerns and cooperation among Arctic nations.
Born in Kangirsualuujuaq (George River) on Ungava Bay, Ambassador Simon began her career as a radio broadcaster with the CBC northern service. As a young woman, she held a series of executive positions with the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which led to the first land claims agreement in Canada. Together with other aboriginal leaders, Ambassador Simon participated in efforts that resulted in the historic recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada's Constitution. Later, as President of Makivik Corporation, she was directly involved with the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and with the protection and promotion of Inuit rights.
From 1980 to 1986 Mary Simon served as an Executive Council member of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference: from 1986 to 1992 she was its President, and from 1992 to 1994 she was Special Envoy of the ICC. In 1993, she was appointed Secretary and then Policy Co-Director of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. In 1994 she was named Commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission and became Canadian Circumpolar Ambassador, the first Inuk to hold ambassadorial rank. From 1999 to 2001 she served concurrently as Ambassador to Denmark and Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs.
In her role as Ambassador, Mary Simon worked hard to raise awareness of the challenges facing Northern residents and promoted environmental protection initiatives among the circumpolar nations. In 1996, under Mary's leadership, the Arctic Council (an intergovernmental forum for the eight arctic states) was established to address common concerns of the circumpolar north. The following year Ambassador Simon was appointed as a member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation of NAFTA, and served as its Chair in 1998. In 2001 Ambassador Simon was appointed Councilor for the International Council for Conflict Resolution with the Carter Center. Mary Simon presented at the Climate Change Conference at Trent University on March 2, 2007 sharing her unique perspective on the effects of climate change on Inuit peoples in Canada’s far north.
Mary Simon has received honorary degrees from McGill and Queen's University and is a member of the Order of Canada, the National Order of Quebec and the Gold Order of Greenland. She is a recipient of the Governor General's 125thCommemorative Medal, a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. She is a Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.
Trent University was honoured to have such an outstanding individual serve as its seventh chancellor. Mary Simon also returned to serve as Chancellor for Convocation in 2002 following Peter Gzowski's death in January of that year.