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Pomp and procedure: New Ontario lieutenant-governor sworn into office

Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell inspects members of the Canadian Armed Forces before the speech from the throne at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, July 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

TORONTO — Ontario's new lieutenant-governor was officially installed Tuesday in a ceremony full of pomp and procedure, and a pledge to help build an inclusive province.

Lt.-Gov. Edith Dumont is the province's 30th lieutenant-governor and the first francophone to hold the office.

In her first remarks as lieutenant-governor – speaking in the legislative chamber after taking the oath of office and an Oath of Allegiance to King Charles – Dumont said she will work to ensure the office remains a "relevant institution for advancing civic engagement, building inclusive communities and supporting the future of our democracy."

"All of us in this chamber and across Ontario are acutely aware of the complex challenges we face in our fast-paced world. In a time when technology connects us more than ever before, loneliness and helplessness are the plight of too many," she said. 

"Division and polarization consume so much of our public discourse that it has become easy for some to forget that there is more that connects us than divides us."

Dumont has held a long career in education, working as a special-education teacher, a school principal and an executive. She was also the first woman to lead the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, a school board in eastern Ontario.

Dumont most recently served as vice-president of partnerships, communities and international relations at the Université de l'Ontario francais in Toronto.

Tuesday's ceremony began with Dumont riding in a carriage to the Ontario legislature and ended with "God Save the King," led by the Centre d’excellence artistique de l’Ontario Choir, invited by Dumont.

A blessing was also delivered during the ceremony by Elder Sally Gaikezheyongai, Wolf Clan from Wikwemikong First Nation.

Dumont said she will be guided by reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, pointing to the ceiling of the legislative chamber for an analogy, noting that sections of it have been meticulously restored.  

"Like this ceiling, we must also peel back the layers of history with the same love, care and attention so that we may better understand and see one another," she said. 

"Only then, when we face the truth about our history and appropriately address how it continues to impact communities in the present day, will we be able to achieve meaningful reconciliation. Today my commitment is clear – the path to reconciliation and the pursuit of truth shall inform every action I take. The painstaking work of the art restorers must inspire us to reveal the beauty hidden by the passing years."

Ornate murals were painted on the ceiling and walls of the legislative chamber in 1893 by Gustav Hahn, but in 1912, the space was redecorated and white acoustic panels were installed on the ceiling, burying the art under layers of horse hair, chicken wire and canvas.

In 2016, four panels were removed in the centre of the chamber and restoration work was done to reveal various maple leaf designs. 

Premier Doug Ford said Dumont is "highly regarded" for her leadership and service.

"Her honour is a respected educator and community advocate having worked as a special-education teacher, a school principal and an executive," he said. "She's a champion for our francophone communities here in Ontario and right across Canada."

Ford also paid tribute to former lieutenant-governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who began her term in 2014 and since then conducted about 6,000 engagements in all of Ontario's 124 ridings.

"Over the past nine years, she has built a lasting legacy as a strong advocate for inclusive prosperity, environmental stewardship and safeguarding democracy," Ford said in his speech. 

"More than that, she's been a friend and I'm going to miss her dearly." 

Dumont and her husband have three children and her official biography says that in her spare time, Dumont enjoys open water swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing and skating on the Rideau Canal. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2023.

Allison Jones and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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