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Governor General welcomed to B.C. legislature with 21-gun salute

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon will make her first official visit to British Columbia in a five-day tour starting Friday.

It was an honour to welcome Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General to B.C., Premier Horgan said Friday.

Horgan welcomed Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and her spouse, Whit Fraser, on their first official visit to British Columbia.

“Her Excellency is a true inspiration to Canadians, especially as we walk the path of meaningful reconciliation,” Horgan said.

Horgan was joined by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, Chief Robert Thomas of Esquimalt Nation, and Chief Ronald Sam of Songhees Nation to greet the Governor General outside the legislature buildings, where she was treated to a performance by the Lekwungen traditional dancers of the Songhees Nation.

The Governor General received a 21-gun salute fired by the 5th B.C. Field Artillery Regiment of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery and the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific played the vice regal salute in tribute to her visit.

She inspected the Guard of Honour, made up of members from Maritime Forces Pacific and Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, before signing the distinguished visitors’ book.

The official visit also included a meeting with First Nations leaders and a tour of the Orange Shirt display that commemorates those affected by residential school experience and loss.

The Governor General's itinerary

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Governor General is to visit the Institute of Ocean Sciences to meet with marine researchers and learn more about their work.

There are no official events scheduled Sunday.

On Monday, the Governor General will begin the day in Kamloops for the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc ceremony, which will include cultural ­performances and dances, hand drumming, prayers and remarks from various speakers, and return to Victoria to attend the 4:30 p.m. Canadian Ranger ­ceremony at Government House.

On Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., Simon is scheduled to visit Oaklands Elementary School, and take part in a question-and-answer session with students, as well as reading Fishing with Grandma, by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula, to a group of Grade 2 and 3 students.

Oaklands principal Petra Eggert said the school is excited by the Governor General’s visit to learn more about the school’s Hands-On Hearts-On Legacy Project, a totem pole.

“We didn’t expect to punctuate the end of this year with this, but we’re thrilled,” said Eggert, noting plans were finalized last week.

The totem pole, unveiled last May, depicts animals chosen by students and was created by Kakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman, who is also an Oaklands parent, and assistant Tejas Collison.

The bear, wolf and otter were chosen by the students in 2018. Tucked amongst the other animals are an orca, frog, eagle and moon and thunderbird.

A resilient hummingbird added to the plan in the wake of the pandemic will be permanently placed days after Simon’s visit, said Eggert.

More than 750 Oaklands Elementary students and staff, along with parents and community members, have taken part in collaborating and carving the totem alongside Newman and Collison, she said.

“She caught wind of that and my understanding is she’s coming to look at the pole and hear from our students about the Legacy Project,” said Eggert.

“My hope is that she’s inspired by the Legacy Project and that she gets a picture of what reconciliation can look like and sound like for young students, young people.”

She said she hopes the visit gives students an even greater sense of pride in the work they’ve done and ignites a desire to carry that work forward “and keep learning and keep listening.”

At noon on Tuesday, Simon is set to visit with University of Victoria students who are enrolled in both the ­Indigenous Language Revitalization ­Program and the Joint Degree Program in Canadian ­Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com