Next governor general has Sooke connection

Former astronaut soars again

Julie Payette, Canada’s next governor general, has an interesting link to Sooke.

Sooke resident Dr. Parvez Kumar has known Payette for more than 25 years. The two met in the early 1990s when Payette was undergoing astronaut training with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.

“She’s a very hard work and determined,” said Kumar, who’s been associated with NASA for 25 years, and has worked for Canada’s National Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency.

Payette was officially named Canada’s next governor general on Thursday.

The 53-year-old from Montreal will be the fourth woman to be the monarch’s representative when she is sworn-in, taking over from Gov. Gen David Johnston, whose term expires in September.

Payette applied to the Canadian Space Agency in the late 1980s, and it’s where she first met Kumar who was part of the interview panel.

Kumar said Payette stood out from the beginning. She was selected in an astronaut class that included Canadians Chris Hatfield, Dave Williams and Mike McKay. Later, Kumar became the group’s training officer.

“Anything she sets her mind, she will achieve it,” said Kumar of Payette.

Payette was the first Canadian woman to board the International Space Station in 1999. She went on a second flight in 2009.

She is fluently bilingual in English and French, and speaks four other languages. She has corporate and government experience through her time at the Canadian Space Agency and as a vice-president at the Canada Lands Co., which oversees the sales of unneeded federal properties.

Kumar said Payette won the governor general’s job on merit. “I expected a lot of her in the early days, and I expect a lot from her now. I think she’ll make a great governor general,” he said.

“Once she settles in, she’ll do great.”

Premier-designate and Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan called Payette’s appointment an “exemplary choice.”

“Ms. Payette is a role model to many British Columbians – she is a strong advocate for discovery and ingenuity, a beacon for women in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, was one of the first women in the Canadian astronaut corps and the first Canadian on board the International Space Station,” Horgan said in a statement.