Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, has her own coat of arms.
Released to the public at the end of October, the coat of arms is much more than just a symbol; it is an image steeped in tradition and meaning. Often seen in the past on flags and battle shields, a coat of arms is meant to tell the personal story of the person it represents. The coats of arms of governors general also appear on official documents and artifacts.
Her Excellency’s emblem is a result of a year-long collaboration between she and Dr. Samy Khalid, Chief Herald of Canada.
“This coat of arms is my story, my true history, and it speaks of my lifelong commitment to bridge-building and family, and of my hopes for a future where we respect and share each other’s stories to help foster better relationships between peoples,” the Governor General said.
The coat of arms reflects her Inuit culture, her deep connection to the North, her love of family, as well as her distinguished career as a Canadian diplomat, expert in circumpolar affairs, and her dedication as an Inuit leader.
A key component of the coat of arms is her well-established commitment to reconciliation and her desire to foster a respectful and collaborative relationship between Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.
The coat of arms also incorporates her motto at the top, Ajuinnata, written in syallbics, and at the bottom in Latin lettering, which means “to persevere” or “never give up” in Inuktitut.
Dr. Samy Khalid said that while the coat of arms is simple in composition, it is complex in meaning.
“It is a personal emblem that serves a public purpose. It exemplifies how heraldry can express many layers of a person’s identity in a structured yet creative way. The inspirational story these arms tell enriches Canadian heraldry and perpetuates this living tradition,” he said.
The painting of the coat of arms was produced by Cathy Sabourin, Fraser Herald, of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. The calligraphy was done by Doris Wionzek.
The governor general is the head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, which is the federal service responsible for creating heraldic emblems: arms, flags, and badges. These types of symbols have existed for centuries and provide links between the past, the present and the future.
Here is a what each element of the emblem represents from the top down, according to the governor general’s website:
Crest – The snowy owl is known for its agility and adaptability; it thus alludes to Her Excellency’s life experience and her diplomatic skills. The caribou antlers represent this animal that is central to Inuit culture. They symbolize the interconnectedness between humans and nature.
Shield – The colours of the shield represent the snow and skies of northern Canada. The horizontal band illustrates Her Excellency’s trailblazing career in Inuit and circumpolar affairs, and the disc and the circle represent an inclusive relationship between Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. The Royal Crown indicates her service as Governor General and the Sovereign’s representative. The shield’s shape alludes to the amauti worn by Inuit mothers.
Supporters – The Arctic fox, famed for its endurance and long-distance migratory treks, epitomizes Her Excellency’s career as a diplomat and advocate for circumpolar affairs. Mountain sorrel (on the left neck pendant) is a plant found in abundance in Nunavik. The strawberry flower (on the right pendant) is the emblem of the Clan Fraser and honours her husband, Whit Grant Fraser. The kakivak harpoon honours her Inuit grandmother who taught her many traditional values and life skills.
Honours Insignia – Left: Commander of the Order of Military Merit (C.M.M.) Centre: Companion of the Order of Canada (C.C.) Right: Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (C.O.M.)
Compartment – The blueberry patch represents one of her favourite pastimes, blueberry picking. The cottongrass is a northern plant used for making wicks for the qulliq.