By Peter Jackson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
While women and ethnic groups have been well represented in the post of Governor General in the past few decades, Mary Simon became the first Indigenous person to hold that post when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her last year.
That raises the question of whether provinces might follow suit.
Simon, an Inuk from Kangiqsualujjuaq in northern Quebec, gained recognition for her work on Arctic and Indigenous issues and advocating for Inuit rights, youth, education and culture.
But her appointment was not without controversy.
Many in Quebec, including Premier Francois Legault, criticized her for the fact she does not speak French, and one group even launched a lawsuit calling for her dismissal.
Emmett McFarlane, a constitutional expert at the University of Waterloo’s political science faculty, says there are no formal criteria for who takes the role. The candidate is recommended by the federal cabinet and appointed by the King.
“There are no legal requirements, although in the modern era you would expect any vice-regal appointee to be a Canadian citizen, and you might expect the appointee to be bilingual,” he said.
McFarlane said cabinet would normally choose someone with a distinguished record of public service, and ideally some knowledge of governance, as well as adhere to the conventions, customs, and practices around the Constitution and the Crown.
“Even this latter consideration is mitigated by the fact that vice-regal actors are free to receive constitutional advice from experts,” he said.
When it comes to provincial royal representation, the candidate for lieutenant-governor is chosen by the prime minister, usually with advice from provincial leaders.
Former provincial cabinet minister Judy Foote became the first woman to hold the office in Newfoundland and Labrador when she was appointed in May 2018.
The tenure is traditionally five years, which means Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may be in store for a new King’s representative within the next few months.
Should the province take a cue from Ottawa and nominate an Indigenous person this time?
Longtime Mi’kmaw leader Mi’sel Joe thinks so.
“Certainly, I think an aboriginal person in that role would be the right way to go,” said Joe, chief of Miawpukek First Nation at Conne River. “That could bring so many different perspectives to the lieutenant-governor’s office.”
Joe realizes the position is only ceremonial, but still carries sufficient weight to make a difference.
“I think you can have good influence on the government, the province and the country in that role.”
Asked if he would consider it, Joe chuckled.
“I would never say never.”
In a statement, the urban Indigenous advocacy group First Voice also weighed in on the idea.
“There are many available and qualified Indigenous people in Newfoundland and Labrador who would be excellent choices to serve as lieutenant-governor,” the group said. “While there would be welcome symbolism in appointing an Indigenous person to serve in the office, it is worth noting that the role is largely ceremonial. That means that such an appointment will not, on its own, advance truth and reconciliation.”
The group said it’s important to empower Indigenous people in areas of public policy and administration where systemic discrimination exists, so they can participate more directly in causing change.
“This includes areas that go beyond those that directly impact the lives of Indigenous people and encompasses policy- and decision-making more generally.”
According to the federal website, the lieutenant-governor’s constitutional duties include:
_ swearing in the provincial government’s executive council (premier and cabinet);
– opening each session of the provincial legislative assembly; and
– providing Royal assent to provincial bills.
Other ceremonial and community functions include:
– promoting a sense of identity;
– representing the King in the province;
-acting as the province’s official host; and
– supporting social causes.
Here are some possible candidates to be appointed the next lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, starting with four people with Indigenous roots. Other suggestions? Let us know.
Born in Mud Lake, Labrador, Goudie is known for his career as a broadcaster for the CBC and as an MHA from 1975-1989. He has been a strong promoter of Labrador’s rich heritage, and is widely respected for his appreciation for nature. He ran unsuccessfully for the federal Conservatives in the 2006 federal election and later served with Peter Penashue’s campaign.
Leo was president of the Inuit government of Nunatsiavut from 2012-2016, and is currently chief operating officer of the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies. A staunch critic of the Muskrat Falls project, Leo is fluent in Inuktitut.
Chief of Miawpukek First Nation, Joe has transformed the small Conne River Mi’kmaw band into a growing concern since he took the reins in 1982. Morris Lewis, the first appointed chief in Newfoundland by the Grand Chief in Mi’kmaq territory, was his great-great-uncle. Joe is a spiritual leader who champions the traditional culture of his Mi’kmaw ancestors, but has also shepherded the Conne River band into the 21th century with a number of self-sustaining business ventures.
Jones, a former journalist, became the first woman to take the reins of the provincial Liberal party, first as interim leader in
2007 and then official leader in 2010. However, she left the post in 2011, blaming it on a tough battle with breast cancer. In 2013, she jumped to federal politics by winning the Labrador seat in a byelection against Peter Penashue. Jones is a member of the Nunatukavut community, formerly Labrador Metis, which has long fought for recognition as an Indigenous entity despite criticism from northern Inuit leaders.
Wells entered politics in 1966 under Joey Smallwood as a cabinet minister and, along with John Crosbie, resigned from cabinet in 1968 over concerns about Smallwood’s financing of the Come By Choice refinery. He was elected Liberal opposition leader in 1987, and went on to become premier in 1989, ending 17 years of Progressive Conservative rule. Shortly after stepping down in 1996, he was appointed as a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court justice, retiring in 2012.
Appointed chancellor of Memorial University in 2022, Earl Ludlow spent nearly 40 years with the Fortis Group and was inducted into the Atlantic CEO Business Hall of Fame by Atlantic Business Magazine. He was named humanitarian of the year by the Canadian Red Cross in 2010 and is a member of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.
A recipient of the Order of Canada and Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, Duff has dedicated most of her life to preserving the heritage of the capital city as a member of St. John’s city council.
She briefly wore two hats as a city councillor and MHA for St.
John’s East before running for mayor in 1990. She held the top post for three years. Duff was deputy mayor when she finally stepped down from politics in 2013.
Marshall joined Newfoundland Power in 1979 and went on to spend the next 35 years with Newfoundland-based energy and real estate giant Fortis, 18 of those as president and CEO. He’s also held directorships with several other energy companies across Canada and the Caribbean. He was chosen president and CEO of Nalcor Energy in 2016, overseeing the notoriously over-budget Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the Lower Churchill River before stepping down in 2021.
An author, radio host and lawyer, Bill Rowe was elected to the House of Assembly 5 times and served as a cabinet minister under Joey Smallwood. He lost his seat in Brian Peckford’s landslide win in 1982 and went on to host VOCM’s “Open Line,” a position he held for almost 30 years, while also practising law. He was a columnist with The Telegram and The Western Star, and has written several fiction and non-fiction books, including his first novel, “Clapp’s Rock.”
The longest-serving member of the Senate, Furey was appointed in
1999 and has been speaker since 2015. Originally a schoolteacher and principal, he went on to practice law in 1984. Furey volunteers on a number of boards and commissions in the province that relate to education and law. He is the father of Premier Andrew Furey, who took over the post from Dwight Ball in 2020.
Best known as one of the frontmen for the folk group Great Big Sea, Doyle has had an illustrious career in music and acting and has served as an unofficial ambassador for the province. He has written theme music for numerous TV shows, including “The Republic of Doyle” and “Son of a Critch.” He’s a friend of Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, and has acted alongside him in films such as 2010’s “Robin Hood.” The two have also collaborated musically. In 2022, Doyle starred in the new musical “Tell Tale Harbour” at the Charlottetown Festival in P.E.I.
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE TELEGRAM. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.