Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau name retired astronaut Julie Payette as the next governor general, the acting head of state and Queen Elizabeth's representative in Canada. Payette, 53, would replace outgoing Governor General David Johnston, 76, whose term is set to expire in September after nearly seven years in office.
Engineer, songstress, mother, pilot, astronaut, linguist, Olympic flag-bearer, scuba diver, governor-general designate. It’s a stretch to imagine any Canadian checking off all of those boxes, but Julie Payette, astonishingly, has managed it.
Standing alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday afternoon in Ottawa, Payette was confirmed to be his choice for the Queen’s next representative in Canada. Both the NDP and Conservative leaders sent their best wishes.
Payette’s professional resumé, stretching back to the late 1980s, is both diverse and impressive.
Educated at McGill University and the University of Toronto, her background in engineering and applied science eventually led her to IBM, and then on to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The CSA plucked Payette out of a field of 5,330 applicants in 1992 to become one of four new astronauts.
She was Canada’s second female astronaut and would eventually become the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.
Payette, a mother of two, is widely expected to use her new role as a platform for encouraging young Canadians to enter the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Her appointment did raise eyebrows among some in Ottawa who expected Trudeau to select someone with an Aboriginal background, but officials have stressed that the former astronaut remains emblematic of other key government priorities and themes — including Trudeau’s much-touted feminism and the country’s growing science and technology sectors. In total, Payette has logged 611 hours in space across two missions, the first in 1999 and the second a decade later in 2009.