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Governor General of Canada


Governor General of Canada

Governor General of Canada
David Lloyd Johnston

since 1 October 2010
Style His Excellency the Right Honourable
Residence Rideau Hall, Ottawa
La Citadelle, Quebec City
Appointer Monarch of Canada
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
Formation 1 July 1867
First holder The Viscount Monck
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The Governor General of Canada (French [masculine]: Gouverneur général du Canada, or [feminine]: Gouverneure générale du Canada) is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. Because the person of the sovereign is shared equally both with the 15 other Commonwealth realms and the 10 provinces of Canada and resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdom, she, on the advice of the Canadian prime minister,[1] appoints the governor general to carry out most of her constitutional and ceremonial duties. The commission is for an unfixed period of time—known as serving at Her Majesty's pleasure—though five years is the normal convention. Beginning in 1959, it is also traditional to rotate between anglophone and francophone incumbents. Once in office, the governor general maintains direct contact with the Queen, wherever she may be at the time.[2]

The office has its roots in the 16th and 17th century colonial governors of letters patent allowing the viceroy to carry out almost all of the monarch's powers in his or her stead. Per the Constitution Act, 1982, any constitutional amendment that affects the Crown, including the Office of the Governor General, requires the unanimous consent of each provincial legislature as well as the federal parliament.

The current governor general is David Lloyd Johnston, who has served since 1 October 2010; Prime Minister Stephen Harper recommended him to succeed Michaëlle Jean.[13] Johnston's wife—who is thus the viceregal consort—is Sharon Johnston.[14]


  • Spelling of title 1
  • Appointment 2
    • Selection 2.1
  • Role 3
    • Constitutional role 3.1
    • Ceremonial role 3.2
  • Residences and household 4
  • Symbols and protocol 5
  • History 6
    • French and British colonies 6.1
    • Responsible government 6.2
    • Emerging nationality to an independent kingdom 6.3
    • Quebec nationalism and constitutional patriation 6.4
    • Withering and renaissance 6.5
  • Activities post-commission 7
  • Canadian institutions established by governors general 8
  • See also 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13

Spelling of title

The Government of Canada spells the title governor general without a hyphen. The Canadian media still often use the governor-general spelling.

As governor is the main noun in the title, it is the term that is pluralized; thus, it is governors general, rather than governor generals. Moreover, both terms are capitalized when used in the formal title preceding an incumbent's name.


The position of governor general is mandated by both the

Preceded by
Governor General of the Province of Canada or Governor in Chief of the Province of Canada
Governor General of Canada
1867 – present
Succeeded by
(current title)
  • Official website of the Governor General of Canada
  • YouTube Channel of the Governor General of Canada

External links

Coucill, Irma (2005). Canada's Prime Ministers, Governors General and Fathers of Confederation. Pembroke Publishers.  

Further reading

  1. ^ The Royal Household. "The Queen and the Commonwealth > Queen and Canada > The Queen's role in Canada". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 2 June 2009. 
  2. ^ The Royal Household. "Queen and Canada: The role of the Governor-General". Queen's Printer. Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ MacLeod 2008, pp. 34–35
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ a b MacLeod 2008, p. 35
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ a b c Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Commander in Chief". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 5 November 2007. 
  10. ^ a b Victoria 1867, III.15
  11. ^ a b Hubbard, R.H. (1977). Rideau Hall. Montreal and London: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 166.  
  12. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > The Marquess of Willingdon". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  13. ^ Brennan, Richard J. (8 July 2010), "Academic David Johnston Canada's next Gov. Gen.", Toronto Star, retrieved 11 July 2010 
  14. ^ "David Johnston: Lawyer, academic, Canada's next GG". CBC. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c  
  16. ^  
  17. ^  
  18. ^ a b c d e f  
  19. ^ "Gov. Gen. designate denies separatist link". CTV. 18 August 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
  20. ^ "Haitian community holds special church service for the governor general-designate". CBC. 27 August 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
  21. ^ Fidelis (2005). "The Installation of the Governor General in 2005: Innovation and Evolution?". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Fall-Winter 2005 (24): 4. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
  22. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Media > Fact Sheets > The Great Seal of Canada". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 30 May 2009. 
  23. ^ "Adrienne Clarkson Installed as Governor General". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Autumn 1999 (3). 1999. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
  24. ^  
  25. ^ Copeland, Lewis; Lamm, Lawrence W.; McKenna, Stephen J. (1999). The World's Great Speeches. Mineola: Courier Dover Publications. p. 381.  
  26. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 145
  27. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 147
  28. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > Major General The Earl of Athlone". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
  29. ^ Trepanier, Peter (2006), "A Not Unwilling Subject: Canada and Her Queen", in Coates, Colin M., Majesty in Canada, Hamilton: Dundurn Press, p. 143,  
  30. ^ LeBlanc, Daniel (13 August 2005). "Martin defends viceregal couple's loyalty". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
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  49. ^ Galbraith, William (1989). "Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1939 Royal Visit". Canadian Parliamentary Review (Ottawa: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) 12 (3): 9. Retrieved 22 February 2009. 
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  66. ^ Victoria 1867, VII.96
  67. ^ a b House of Commons. "The Governor General of Canada: Role, Duties and Funding for Activities". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  68. ^ Victoria 1867, IV.55
  69. ^ MacLeod 2008, p. 25
  70. ^ a b c Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Role and Responsibilities". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 2 June 2009. 
  71. ^ George VI 1947, XIV
  72. ^ a b c d e Boyce, Peter (2008). Written at Sydney. Jackson, Michael D., ed. "The Senior Realms of the Queen". Canadian Monarchist News. Autumn 2009 (30) (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada, published October 2009). p. 10. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
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  87. ^ The Canadian Press (29 March 2012). "Governor General's salary to be taxed, but it won't cost him a dime". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
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  90. ^ Department of National Defence 1999, pp. 11–2
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  99. ^ Department of Canadian Heritage. "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion > Honours and salutes > Musical salute". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2009. 
  100. ^ a b Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Heraldry > Emblems of Canada and of Government House > Symbols of the Governor General > The Governor General's Flag". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 3 June 2009. 
  101. ^ Department of National Defence 1999, p. 14-2-2
  102. ^ Department of National Defence 1999, p. 4-2-6
  103. ^ Nelson, Phil. "Governor General of Canada (Canada)". Flags of the World. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  104. ^ Hoxie, Frederick E. (September 1999). Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Darby: Diane Publishing Company. p. 284.  
  105. ^ Tidridge, Nathan (2011). Canada's Constitutional Monarchy: An Introduction to Our Form of Government. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 26.  
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  107. ^ Eccles, W. J. (2000). "Saffray de Mézy (or Mésy), Augustin de". In English, John. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 1000–1700 1. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
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  112. ^ Mills, David. "The Canadian Encyclopedia". In Marsh, James Harley. Law > Acts & Statutes > Rebellion Losses Bill. Toronto: Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2009. 
  113. ^ Hilliker, John (1990). Canada's Department of External Affairs: The early years, 1909–1946. Montreal: McGill-Queen's Press. p. 71.  
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  115. ^ Skelton, Oscar D. (2009), "The Day of Sir Wilfrid Laurier: A Chronicle of the 20th Century", in Wrong, George M.; Langton, H. H., The Chronicles of Canada III, Tucson: Fireship Press, p. 228,  
  116. ^ MacNutt 1955, p. 47
  117. ^ Hubbard 1977, pp. 55–56
  118. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 125
  119. ^  
  120. ^ Hubbard 1977, pp. 141–142
  121. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > The Duke of Devonshire". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  122. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 42
  123. ^ Cowan, John (1965). Canada's Governors General, Lord Monck to General Vanier (2 ed.). York: York Publishing Co. p. 156. 
  124. ^ Williams, Jeffery (1983). Byng of Vimy: General and Governor General. Barnsley, S. Yorkshire: Leo Cooper in association with Secker & Warburg. pp. 314–317. 
  125. ^ Marshall, Peter (September 2001). "The Balfour Formula and the Evolution of the Commonwealth".  
  126. ^ Baker, Philip Noel (1929). The Present Juridical Status of the British Dominions in International Law. London: Longmans. p. 231. 
  127. ^  
  128. ^ Judd, Denis (9 July 1998). Empire: The British Imperial Experience from 1765 to the Present. New York: Basic Books. p. 287.  
  129. ^ Hillmer, Norman. "History > Constitution > Constitutional History > The Federal System". In Marsh, James H. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Toronto: Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2009. 
  130. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > Lord Tweedsmuir of Elsfield". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 26 March 2009. 
  131. ^ Hillmer, Norman. "Biography > Governors General of Canada > Buchan, John, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir". In Marsh, James H. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Toronto: Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  132. ^ Smith, Janet Adam (1965). John Buchanan: a Biography. Boston: Little Brown and Company. p. 423. 
  133. ^ "Royal Visit". Time (New York: Time Inc.) IXX (17). 21 October 1957.  
  134. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > Major General The Earl of Athlone". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  135. ^ Galbraith, William (February 2002). "The Canadian and the Crown". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 19 March 2009. 
  136. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > General The Right Honourable Georges Philias Vanier". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  137. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 233
  138. ^ a b Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > The Right Honourable Daniel Roland Michener". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  139. ^  
  140. ^ Speaker of the Senate. "Canada: a Constitutional Monarchy". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  141. ^  
  142. ^ Heinricks, Geoff (2001). "Trudeau and the Monarchy". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada, published July 2001) (Winter/Spring 2001–2001). Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  143. ^ Smith, David (1999). Watson, William, ed. Policy Options (May 1999) (Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy). p. 8 . Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  144. ^ a b c d e Pepall, John (1 March 1990). "Who is the Governor General?". The Idler (Toronto). Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  145. ^ Valpy, Michael. Watson, William, ed. Policy Options (May 1999) (Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy). p. 26 . Retrieved 17 February 2009. 
  146. ^ Smith 1999, p. 11
  147. ^ Phillips, Stephen. "Republicanism in Canada in the reign of Elizabeth II: the dog that didn't bark". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Summer 2004 (22): 19–20. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  148. ^  
  149. ^ Jackson, Michael (2002). "Political Paradox: The Lieutenant Governor in Saskatchewan". In Leeson, Howard A. Saskatchewan Politics Into the 21st Century. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center. 
  150. ^ Gardner, Dan (17 February 2009). "A stealth campaign against the Queen". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  151. ^ Miranda, Charles (2 March 2009). "Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson on love in royal palace". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 June 2009. 
  152. ^ a b Fidelis (1999). "The LeBlanc Years: A Frank Assessment". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Autumn 1999. Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  153. ^ Toffoli, Gary. "The Hnatyshyn Years". Monarchy Canada (Toronto: Fealty Enterprises) (Spring 1995). Retrieved 19 March 2009. 
  154. ^ a b Martin, Don (28 May 2009). "Jean is now least boring G-Gever". National Post. Retrieved 6 June 2009. 
  155. ^ Smith, David E. (1999). Written at Toronto-Buffalo-London. Jackson, Michael D., ed. "The Crown in Today's Federal State". Canadian Monarchist News. Autumn-Winter 2007 (27) (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada, published 2007). p. 12. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  156. ^ Janigan, Mary; Nicol, John (20 September 1999). "Clarkson Appointed Governor General". Maclean's (Toronto: Kenneth Whyte).  
  157. ^ Walker, William (9 September 1999). "PM names Clarkson". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  158. ^  
  159. ^ Editorial (2005). "Our Governor General". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Spring 2005 (23): 6. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  160. ^ "Clarkson out of hospital after pacemaker surgery". CTV. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  161. ^ Black, Dan (1 September 2000). "The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier". Legion Magazine (Kanata: Canvet Publications Ltd.). September 2000. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  162. ^  
  163. ^ Greenway, Norma (27 September 2005). "Jean puts imprint on swearing-in". CanWest News Service. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  164. ^  
  165. ^  
  166. ^ Fidelis (2005). "A Very Alarming Situation: the New Threat to the Canadian Monarchy – What Next?". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Spring 2005 (23): 2. Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  167. ^ Editorial (2005). "Hope for the Monarchy in Canada: The Provincial Crown". Canadian Monarchist News (Toronto: Monarchist League of Canada). Spring 2005 (23): 12. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  168. ^ a b Fraser, John (28 April 2012), "John Fraser: When Quebecers loved the Crown (and why they stopped)", National Post, retrieved 29 April 2012 
  169. ^ Galloway, Gloria (7 June 2010), "Jean to squeeze in trip to China between royal tour hello and goodbye", The Globe and Mail (Toronto), retrieved 7 June 2010 
  170. ^ Boswell, Randy (7 October 2009). "Governor General calling herself 'head of state' riles monarchists". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 7 October 2009. 
  171. ^  
  172. ^ "Governor General proposes two new options to recognize Constable Garrett" (Press release). Office of the Governor General of Canada. 27 November 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2007. 
  173. ^  
  174. ^  
  175. ^ Gardner, Dan (13 February 2009). "Governor General to Dan Gardner: you're right". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  176. ^ Taylor, Nathan (6 December 2008). "Stanton defends Harper". Packet & Times. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  177. ^ Dreschel, Andrew (5 December 2008). "Jean was right to stave off Bloc coalition". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  178. ^  
  179. ^ "GG David Johnston sworn in". CBC. 1 October 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  180. ^ "Johnston named Canada's next governor general". CBC. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  181. ^ "Michaëlle Jean begins UN job for Haiti". CBC. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  182. ^ Unless noted otherwise, the source for information in this section is found in: Hubbard 1977
  183. ^ "Who We Are > Our Founder". The Hnatyshyn Foundation. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 


  1. ^ Roland Michener served for just under seven years, from 17 April 1967 to 14 January 1974.
  2. ^ Roméo LeBlanc resigned the viceregal post in 1999 due to health concerns.
  3. ^ Rideau Hall on 5 March 1967.
  4. ^ The only individuals to serve as administrators due to the deaths of governors general were Chief Justice Sir Lyman Poore Duff in 1940 and Chief Justice Robert Taschereau in 1967.
  5. ^ Governor General [49]
  6. ^ See Note 1 at Queen's Privy Council for Canada.
  7. ^ Some seven years after he left office, the Earl Alexander of Tunis was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit. Similarly, Vincent Massey was awarded the Royal Victorian Chain by Queen Elizabeth II approximately six months after leaving the viceregal post and was in 1967 invested into the Order of Canada.[98] Roland Michener was presented with the Royal Victorian Chain a few months before he retired as governor general.
  8. ^ Kevin MacLeod, in his book A Crown of Maples, pegs the start date of Champlain's governorship at 1627,[3] whereas the official website of the Governor General of Canada puts it at 1608.[106]
  9. ^ The offices were subsequently incorporated into the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), but have been restored to their 19th century appearance after the PMO moved to the Langevin Block in the 1970s, and are now preserved as a tourist attraction along with other historic offices in the East Block.[6]
  10. ^ The appointment in 1916 of the Duke of Devonshire as governor general caused political problems, as Canadian prime minister Robert Borden had, counter to established common practice, not been consulted on the matter by his British counterpart, H.H. Asquith.[121]
  11. ^ During the Great Depression, the Earl of Bessborough voluntarily cut his salary by ten percent as a sign of his solidarity with the Canadian people.[123]
  12. ^ Governors general had been venturing to Washington to meet informally with the President of the United States since the time of the Viscount Monck.
  13. ^ The ministers in attendance at the Imperial Conference agreed that: "In our opinion it is an essential consequence of the equality of status existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the Governor General of a Dominion is the representative of the Crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in great Britain, and that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain or of any Department of that Government."[127]
  14. ^ LeBlanc's strong ties to the Liberal Party led other party leaders to protest his appointment by boycotting his installation ceremony.[152]
  15. ^ In 1952, the Earl Alexander of Tunis resigned as Governor General of Canada to accept an appointment as Minister of Defence in the Cabinet of Winston Churchill. The Marquess of Lansdowne and the Duke of Devonshire both also served in the British Cabinet following their viceregal careers, and Lansdowne went on to serve as leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords for over a decade.


See also

Canadian institutions established by governors general

Generally an outgoing governor general will leave Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Three former governors general have released biographies: the Lord Tweedsmuir (Memory Hold-the-Door), Vincent Massey (On Being Canadian and What's Past is Prologue), and Clarkson (Heart Matters).

Retired governors general usually withdraw from public life or accept diplomatic postings. Edward Schreyer, for instance, was appointed Canadian High Commissioner to Australia upon his departure from the viceregal role in 1984, and Michaëlle Jean is currently the UNESCO special envoy to Haiti.[181] Schreyer did also, however, become the first former governor general to run for elected office in Canada when he vied for a seat in the House of Commons as a member of parliament for the New Democratic Party. He did not win the riding. Prior to 1952, several former viceroys returned to political careers in the United Kingdom, sitting with party affiliations in the House of Lords and, in some cases, taking a position in the British Cabinet.[n 15]

Activities post-commission

With the appointment of David Johnston, a lifelong academic and former University of Waterloo president and vice-chancellor, there was a signalled emphasis for the Governor General to vigorously promote learning and innovation. Johnston stated in his inaugural address: "[We want to be] a society that innovates, embraces its talent and uses the knowledge of each of its citizens to improve the human condition for all."[179] There was also a recognition of Johnston's expertise in constitutional law, following the controversial prorogations of parliament in 2008 and 2009, which initiated some debate about the governor general's role as the representative of Canada's head of state.[180]

Governor General David Johnston and Sharon Johnston with Jason Kenney and Cardinal Marc Ouellet in Rome for the Papal inauguration of Pope Francis

Prime Minister Paul Martin followed Chrétien's example and, for Clarkson's successor, put forward to the Queen the name of Michaëlle Jean, who was, like Clarkson, a woman, a refugee, a member of a visible minority, a CBC career journalist, and married to an intellectual husband who worked in the arts.[171] Her appointment initially sparked accusations that she was a supporter of Quebec sovereignty, and it was observed that she had on a few occasions trodden into political matters,[172][173][174] as well as continuing to foster the notion that the governor general had replaced the Queen as head of state, thereby "unbalancing[...] the federalist symmetry."[175] But Jean ultimately won plaudits,[154] particularly for her solidarity with the Canadian Forces and Canada's Aboriginal peoples, as well as her role in the parliamentary dispute that took place between December 2008 and January 2009.[176][177][178]

As the representative of Canada's head of state, the governor general, Michaëlle Jean, welcomes US President Barack Obama to Canada, 19 February 2009

It was with the Queen's appointment of Adrienne Clarkson, on the advice of then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, that a shift in the office took place. Clarkson was the first Canadian viceroy to have not previously held any political or military position—coming as she did from a background of television journalism with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation—was the first since 1952 to have been born outside of Canada, the first from a visible minority (she is of Chinese ancestry), and, by her being accompanied to Rideau Hall by her husband, author and philosopher John Ralston Saul, the official appointment brought an unofficial pair to the viceregal placement,[156][157] in that the governor general would not be the only person actively exploring Canadian theory and culture. Clarkson managed to bring the viceregal office back into the collective consciousness of Canadians, winning praise for touring the country more than any of her predecessors, her inspiring speeches, and her dedication to the military in her role as the Commander-in-Chief's representative.[158][159][160][161][162][163] This did not come without a cost, however, as the attention also drew widespread criticism of the Governor General's increased spending on state affairs, for which the office was symbolically rebuked by parliament when it voted in favour of cutting by 10% the viceregal budget it had earlier supported,[164][165] as well as for fostering the notion, through various demonstrations, that the governor general was ultimately the Canadian head of state above the Queen herself,[166][167][168] an approach that was said by Jack Granatstein to have caused "a fury" with the Queen on one occasion in 2004.[169] This attitude was not unique to Clarkson, though; it had been observed that, for some decades, staff at Rideau Hall and various government departments in Ottawa had been pushing to present the governor general as head of state,[170] part of a wider Liberal policy on the monarchy that had been in effect at least since the proposed constitutional changes in the 1970s,[144] if not the 1964 Truncheon Saturday riot in Quebec City.[168] Indeed, international observers opined that the viceroys had been, over the years, making deliberate attempts to distance themselves from the sovereign, for fear of being too closely associated with any "Britishness" the monarch embodied.[72]

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson (right) toasts Russian president Vladimir Putin in the ballroom of Rideau Hall, 18 December 2000

Sarah, Duchess of York, said in 2009 that sometime during her marriage to Prince Andrew, Duke of York, her husband was offered the position of Governor General of Canada, and she speculated in hindsight that their agreement to refuse the commission may have been a contributing factor in their eventual break-up.[151] Instead, Sauvé's tenure as governor general was book-ended by a series of appointments—Edward Schreyer, Ray Hnatyshyn, and Roméo LeBlanc—that have been generally regarded as mere patronage postings for former politicians and friends of the incumbent prime minister at the time,[n 14][72][144] and despite the duties they carried out, their combined time in the viceregal office is generally viewed as unremarkable, at best, damaging to the office, at worst;[72][144][152][153][154] as David Smith described it: "Notwithstanding the personal qualities of the appointees, which have often been extraordinary, the Canadian governor general has become a hermetic head of state—ignored by press, politicians and public."[155] It was theorized by Peter Boyce that this was due, in part, to widespread misunderstanding about the governor general's role coupled with a lack of public presence compared to the media coverage dedicated to the increasingly presidentialized prime minister.[72]

Withering and renaissance

The Cabinet in June 1978 put forward the constitutional amendment Bill C-60, that, amongst other changes, vested executive authority directly in the governor general and renamed the position as First Canadian,[142][143][144] but the proposal was thwarted by the provincial premiers.[145][146][147] When the constitution was patriated four years later, the new amending formula for the documents outlined that any changes to the Crown, including the Office of the Governor General, would require the unanimous consent of all the provincial legislatures plus the federal parliament.[148] By 1984, Canada's first female governor general—Jeanne Sauvé—was appointed. While it was she who created the Canadian Heraldic Authority, as permitted by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth II, and who championed youth and world peace, Sauvé proved to be a controversial vicereine, closing to the public the grounds of the Queen's residence and self-aggrandizingly breaching protocol on a number of occasions.[144][149][150]

In light of this regional nationalism and a resultant change in attitudes towards Canadian identity, images and the role of the monarchy were cautiously downplayed, and Vanier's successor, Roland Michener, was the last viceroy to practice many of the office's ancient traditions, such as the wearing of the Windsor uniform, the requirement of court dress for state occasions, and expecting women to curtsey before the governor general.[138] At the same time, he initiated new practices for the viceroy, including regular conferences with the lieutenant governors and the undertaking of state visits.[138] He presided over Canada's centennial celebrations and the coincidental Expo 67, to which French president Charles de Gaulle was invited. Michener was with de Gaulle when he made his infamous "Vive le Québec libre" speech in Montreal and was cheered wildly by the gathered crowd while they booed and jeered Michener.[139] With the additional recognition of the monarchy as a Canadian institution,[140][141] the establishment of a distinct Canadian honours system, an increase of state visits coming with Canada's growing role on the world stage, and the more prevalent use of television to visually broadcast ceremonial state affairs, the governor general became more publicly active in national life.

Jeanne Sauvé (left), Canada's first female governor general

The governor general is also tasked with fostering national unity and pride.[72] One way in which this is carried out is travelling the country and meeting with Canadians from The Canadian Cabinet's first recommendation under this new system was still, however, a

Governor General the Earl of Athlone (seated right) with (l to r) Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King, US president Roosevelt, and UK prime minister Churchill, at La Citadelle, August 1943

In 1926, Balfour Declaration, which declared formally the practical reality that had existed for some years: namely, that the Dominions were fully autonomous and equal in status to the United Kingdom.[125] These new developments were codified in the Statute of Westminster, through the enactment of which on 11 December 1931, Canada, along with the Union of South Africa and the Irish Free State, immediately obtained formal legislative independence from the UK.[126] The governor general thus became solely the representative of the King within Canadian jurisdiction, ceasing completely to be an agent of the British Cabinet,[n 13][8][128] and as such would be appointed by the monarch granting his royal sign-manual under the Great Seal of Canada only on the advice of his Canadian prime minister.[129]

Canada's national sentiment had gained fortitude through the country's sacrifices on the battlefields of the First World War and, by war's end, the interference of the British government in Canadian affairs was causing ever-increasing discontent amongst Canadian officials;[n 10] in 1918, the Toronto Star was even advocating the end of the office.[122] The governor general's role was also morphing to focus less on the larger Empire and more on uniquely Canadian affairs,[n 11] including the undertaking of official international visits on behalf of Canada, the first being that of the Marquess of Willingdon to the United States, where he was accorded by President Calvin Coolidge the full honours of representative of a head of state.[n 12][11] It would be another decade, however, before the King-Byng Affair: another catalyst for change in the relationship between Canada—indeed, all the Dominions—and the United Kingdom, and thus the purpose of the governor general.

During the First World War, into which Canada was drawn due to its association with the United Kingdom, the governor general's role turned from one of cultural patron and state ceremony to one of military inspector and morale booster. Starting in 1914, Governor General Prince Arthur donned his Field Marshal's uniform and put his efforts into raising contingents, inspecting army camps, and seeing troops off before their voyage to Europe. These actions, however, led to conflict with the Prince's prime minister at the time, Robert Borden; though the latter placed blame on the Military Secretary Edward Stanton, he also opined that the Duke "laboured under the handicap of his position as a member of the Royal Family and never realized his limitations as Governor General."[119] Prince Arthur's successor, the Duke of Devonshire, faced the Conscription Crisis of 1917 and held discussions with his Canadian prime minister, as well as His Majesty's Loyal Opposition members, on the matter. Once the government implemented conscription, Devonshire, after consulting on the pulse of the nation with Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Vincent Massey, Henri Bourassa, Archbishop of Montreal Paul Bruchési, Duncan Campbell Scott, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, and Stephen Leacock, made efforts to conciliate Quebec, though he had little real success.[120]

The Lord Byng of Vimy, Governor General of Canada, 1921 — 1926

Emerging nationality to an independent kingdom

As early as 1880, the viceregal family and court attracted minor ridicule from the Queen's subjects: in July of that year, someone under the [118]

This arrangement continued after the reunification in 1840 of Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada, and the establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. The governor general carried out in Canada all the parliamentary and ceremonial functions of a constitutional monarch—amongst other things, granting Royal Assent, issuing Orders-in-Council, and taking advice from the Canadian privy council. However, the governor still remained not a viceroy, in the true sense of the word, being still a representative of and liaison to the British government[51][113]—the Queen in her British council of ministers—who answered to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London and who,[114] as a British observer of Canadian politics, held well into the First World War a suite of offices in the East Block of Parliament Hill.[n 9] But, the new position of Canadian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, created in 1880, began to take over the governor general's role as a link between the Canadian and British governments, leaving the viceroy increasingly as a personal representative of the monarch.[115] As such, the governor general had to retain a sense of political neutrality; a skill that was put to the test when the Marquess of Lorne disagreed with his Canadian prime minister, John A. Macdonald, over the dismissal of Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Luc Letellier de St-Just. On the advice of the Colonial Secretary, and to avoid conflict with the cabinet of Canada, the Marquess did eventually concede, and released St-Just from duty.[116] The Governor General of Canada was then in May 1891 called upon to resolve the Dominion's first cabinet crisis, wherein Prime Minister Macdonald died, leaving the Lord Stanley of Preston to select a new prime minister.

The Rebellions of 1837 brought about great changes to the role of the governor general, prompting, as they did, the British government to grant responsible government to the Canadian provinces.[110][111] As a result, the viceroys became largely nominal heads, while the democratically elected legislatures and the premiers they supported exercised the authority belonging to the Crown; a concept first put to the test when in 1849 Governor-General of the Province of Canada and Lieutenant-Governor of Canada East the Earl of Elgin granted Royal Assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill, despite his personal misgivings towards the legislation.[112]

Responsible government

With the signing of the a royal proclamation establishing, amongst other regulations, the Office of the Governor of Quebec to preside over the new Province of Quebec.[109] Nova Scotia and New Brunswick remained completely separate colonies, each with their own governor, until the cabinet of William Pitt adopted in the 1780s the idea that they, along with Quebec and Prince Edward Island, should have as their respective governors a single individual styled as Governor-in-Chief. The post was created in 1786, with The Lord Dorchester as its first occupant. However, the governor-in-chief directly governed only Quebec. It was not until the splitting in 1791 of the Province of Quebec, to accommodate the influx of United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American revolutionary war, that the king's representative, with a change in title to Governor General, directly governed Lower Canada, while the other three colonies were each administered by a lieutenant governor in his stead.

French colonization of North America began in the 1580s and Aymar de Chaste was appointed in 1602 by King Henry IV as Viceroy of Canada.[104][105] The explorer Samuel de Champlain became the first unofficial Governor of New France in the early 17th century,[n 8] serving until Charles Huault de Montmagny was in 1636 formally appointed to the post by King Louis XIII. The French Company of One Hundred Associates then administered New France until King Louis XIV took control of the colony and appointed Augustin de Saffray de Mésy as the first governor general in 1663,[107] after whom 12 more people served in the post.

French and British colonies


1901 1921 1931 1981

The crest of the Royal Arms of Canada is employed as the badge of the governor general, appearing on the viceroy's flag and on other objects associated with the person or the office. This is the fourth such incarnation of the governor general's mark since confederation.[103]

The Viceregal Salute—composed of the first six bars of the Royal Anthem ("God Save the Queen") followed by the first and last four bars of the national anthem ("O Canada")—is the salute used to greet the governor general upon arrival at, and mark his or her departure from most official events.[99] To mark the viceroy's presence at any building, ship, airplane, or car in Canada, the governor general's flag is employed. The present form was adopted on 23 February 1981 and,[100] in the federal jurisdiction, takes precedence over all other flags save the Queen's personal Canadian standard.[101] When the governor general undertakes a state visit, however, the national flag is generally employed to mark his or her presence.[100] This flag is also, along with all flags on Canadian Forces property, flown at half-mast upon the death of an incumbent or former governor general.[102]

Per the orders' constitutions, the governor general serves as the Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada,[94] the Chancellor of the Order of Military Merit,[95] and the Chancellor of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.[96] He or she also upon installation automatically becomes a Knight or Dame of Justice and the Prior and Chief Officer in Canada of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem.[97] As acting commander-in-chief, the governor general is further routinely granted the Canadian Forces Decoration by the Chief of the Defence Staff on behalf of the monarch. All of these honours are retained following an incumbent's departure from office, with the individual remaining in the highest categories of the orders, and they may also be further distinguished with induction into other orders or the receipt of other awards.[n 7]

Prior to 1952, all Governors General of Canada were members of the Nickle Resolution.

As the personal representative of the monarch, the governor general follows only the sovereign in the Canadian order of precedence, preceding even other members of the Royal Family. Though the federal viceroy is considered primus inter pares amongst his or her provincial counterparts, the governor general also outranks the lieutenant governors in the federal sphere; at provincial functions, however, the relevant lieutenant governor, as the Queen's representative in the province, precedes the governor general.[89] The incumbent governor general and his or her spouse are also the only people in Canada, other than serving Canadian ambassadors and high commissioners, entitled to the use the style His or Her Excellency and the governor general is granted the additional honorific of The Right Honourable for their time in office and for life afterwards.[90][91][92]

Symbols and protocol

The governor general's air transportation is assigned to 412 (Transport) Squadron. The squadron uses Bombardier Challenger 600 VIP jet to transport the governor general to locations within and outside of Canada.

The viceregal household aids the governor general in the execution of the royal constitutional and ceremonial duties and is managed by the Office of the National Capital Commission, the Department of National Defence, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.[88]

Rideau Hall in Ottawa is, as the residence of the monarch,[3][75][76][77][78] the official residence of the governor general and is thus the location of the viceroyal household and the Chancellery of Honours.[79] A governor general's wife is known as the chatelaine of Rideau Hall, though there is no equivalent term for a governor general's husband. For a part of each year since 1872, governors general have also resided at the Citadel (La Citadelle) in Quebec City, Quebec.[80]

The present flag of the governor general, adopted in 1981
Rideau Hall, the official residence in Ottawa of the governor general

Residences and household

Although the constitution of Canada states that the "Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen,"[10] the governor general acts in her place as Patron Scout.[74]

During a federal election, the governor general will curtail these public duties, so as not to appear as though they are involving themselves in political affairs. [70] was chosen by Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker as the next governor general. Vanier was subsequently appointed by Queen Elizabeth II in person at a meeting of her Canadian Cabinet,[136] thus initiating the convention of alternating between individuals from Canada's two main linguistic groups. This move did not, however, placate those who were fostering the new Quebec nationalist movement, for whom the monarchy and other federal institutions were a target for attack. Though Vanier was a native of Quebec and fostered biculturalism, he was not immune to the barbs of the province's sovereigntists and, when he attended la Fête St-Jean-Baptiste in Montreal in 1964, a group of separatists held placards reading "Vanier vendu" ("Vanier sold out") and "Vanier fou de la Reine" ("Vanier Queen's jester").[137]

Governor General Roland Michener attends graduation ceremonies at Alma College in 1972

With most constitutional functions lent to Cabinet, the governor general acts in a primarily ceremonial fashion. He or she will host members of Canada's royal family, as well as foreign royalty and heads of state, and will represent the Queen and country abroad on state visits to other nations,[70][67] though the monarch's permission is necessary, via the prime minister, for the viceroy to leave Canada.[71] Also as part of international relations, the governor general issues letters of credence and of recall for Canadian ambassadors and receives the same from foreign ambassadors appointed to Canada.

Ceremonial role

The governor general alone is also constitutionally mandated to summon parliament. Beyond that, the viceroy carries out the other conventional parliamentary duties in the sovereign's absence, including reading the Speech From the Throne and proroguing and dissolving parliament. The governor general also grants Royal Assent in the Queen's name; legally, he or she has three options: grant Royal Assent (making the bill law), withhold Royal Assent (vetoing the bill), or reserve the bill for the signification of the Queen's pleasure (allowing the sovereign to personally grant or withhold assent).[68] If the governor general withholds the Queen's assent, the sovereign may within two years disallow the bill, thereby annulling the law in question. No modern Canadian viceroy has denied Royal Assent to a bill. Provincial viceroys, however, are able to reserve Royal Assent to provincial bills for the governor general; this clause was last invoked in 1961 by the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan.[69]

It is the governor general who is required by the Constitution Act, 1867, to appoint for life persons to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada,[60] who are all theoretically tasked with tendering to the monarch and viceroy guidance on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Convention dictates, though, that the governor general must draw from the privy council an individual to act as prime minister—in almost all cases the Member of Parliament who commands the confidence of the House of Commons. The prime minister then directs the governor general to appoint other members of parliament to a committee of the privy council known as the Cabinet, and it is in practice only from this group of ministers of the Crown that the Queen and governor general will take direction on the use of executive power;[61] an arrangement called the Queen-in-Council or,[55] more specifically, the Governor-in-Council. In this capacity, the governor general will issue royal proclamations and sign orders in council. The Governor-in-Council is also specifically tasked by the Constitution Act, 1867, to appoint in the Queen's name the lieutenant governors of the provinces (with the Advisory Committee on Vice-Regal Appointments and the premiers of the provinces concerned playing an advisory role),[62] senators,[63] the Speaker of the Senate,[64] supreme court justices,[65] and superior and county court judges in each province, except those of the Courts of Probate in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.[66] The advice given by the Cabinet is, in order to ensure the stability of government, typically binding; both the Queen and her viceroy, however, may in exceptional circumstances invoke the reserve powers, which remain the Crown's final check against a ministry's abuse of power.[n 6][67]

Though the monarch retains all executive, legislative, and judicial power in and over Canada,[54][55] the governor general is permitted to exercise most of this, including the Royal Prerogative, in the sovereign's name; some as outlined in the Constitution Act, 1867, and some through various letters patent issued over the decades, particularly those from 1947 that constitute the Office of Governor General of Canada;[56] they state: "And We do hereby authorize and empower Our Governor General, with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada or of any members thereof or individually, as the case requires, to exercise all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Us in respect of Canada."[57] Amongst other duties, however, the monarch retains the sole right to appoint the governor general.[7] It is also stipulated that the governor general may appoint deputies—usually Supreme Court justices and the Secretary to the Governor General—who can perform some of the viceroy's constitutional duties in his or her stead,[58] and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (or a puisne justice in the chief justice's absence) will act as the Administrator of the Government upon the death, removal, incapacitation, or absence of the governor general for more than one month.[59]

Constitutional role

Past governor general the Marquess of Lorne said of the job: "It is no easy thing to be a governor general of Canada. You must have the patience of a saint, the smile of a cherub, the generosity of an Indian prince, and the back of a camel,"[52] and the Earl of Dufferin stated that the governor general is "A representative of all that is august, stable, and sedate in the government, the history, and the traditions of the country; incapable of partizanship, and lifted far above the atmosphere of faction; without adherents to reward or opponents to oust from office; docile to the suggestions of his Ministers, and yet securing to the people the certainty of being able to get rid of an Administration or Parliament the moment either had forfeited their confidence."[53]

As Canada shares its monarch equally with 15 other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, the sovereign has 10 other legal personas within the Canadian federation, and the sovereign lives predominantly outside Canada's borders, the governor general's primary task is to perform the monarch's federal constitutional duties on his or her behalf. He or she acts within the principles of parliamentary democracy and responsible government as a guarantor of continuous and stable governance and as a nonpartisan safeguard against the abuse of power.[46][47][48] For the most part, however, the powers of the Crown are exercised on a day-to-day basis by elected and appointed individuals, leaving the governor general to perform the various ceremonial duties the sovereign otherwise carries out when in the country; at such a moment, the governor general removes him or herself from public,[n 5] though the presence of the monarch does not affect the governor general's ability to perform governmental roles.[50][51]

If, and because your Governor-General is in the service of the Crown, he is, therefore... in the service of Canada... [A]loof though he be from actual executive responsibility, his attitude must be that of ceaseless and watchful readiness to take part... in the fostering of every influence that will sweeten and elevate public life; to... join in making known the resources and developments of the country; to vindicate, if required, the rights of the people and the ordinariness and Constitution, and lastly, to promote by all means in his power, without reference to class or creed, every movement and every institution calculated to forward the social, moral, and religious welfare of the inhabitants of the Dominion.[45]

Governor General the Marquess of Aberdeen, 1893
Governor General Adrienne Clarkson (right) meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin (left) in the governor general's study of Rideau Hall, 18 December 2000
The Lord Tweedsmuir gives the Throne Speech at the opening of the third session of the 18th Canadian parliament, 27 January 1938


A new approach was used in 2010 for the selection of David Johnston as governor general-designate. For the task, Prime Minister Stephen Harper convened a special search group—the Governor General Consultation Committee[39]—was instructed to find a non-partisan candidate who would respect the monarchical aspects of the viceregal office and conducted extensive consultations with more than 200 people across the country.[40][41][42][43] In 2012, the committee was made permanent and renamed as the Advisory Committee on Vice-Regal Appointments, with a modified membership and its scope broadened to include the appointment of provincial lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners (though the latter are not personal representatives of the monarch).[44]

There have been, from time to time, proposals put forward for modifications to the selection process of the governor general. Most recently, the group Citizens for a Canadian Republic has advocated the election of the nominee to the Queen, either by popular or parliamentary vote;[33] a proposal echoed by Adrienne Clarkson, who called for the prime minister's choice to not only be vetted by a parliamentary committee,[34][35] but also submit to a televised quiz on Canadiana.[36] Constitutional scholars, editorial boards, and the Monarchist League of Canada have argued against any such constitutional tinkering with the viceregal appointment process, stating that the position being "not elected is an asset, not a handicap," and that an election would politicize the office, thereby undermining the impartiality necessary to the proper functioning of the governor general.[37][38]

Although required by the tenets of constitutional monarchy to be nonpartisan while in office, governors general were frequently former politicians; a number held seats in the House of Lords by virtue of their inclusion in the peerage. Appointments of former ministers of the Crown in the 1980s and 1990s were criticized by Peter H. Russell, who stated in 2009: "much of [the] advantage of the monarchical system is lost in Canada when prime ministers recommend partisan colleagues to be appointed governor general and represent [the Queen]."[32] Clarkson was the first governor general in Canadian history without either a political or military background, as well as the first Asian-Canadian and the second woman, following on Jeanne Sauvé. The third woman to hold this position was also the first Caribbean-Canadian governor general, Michaëlle Jean.

Francophone governor general

In a speech on the subject of background checks by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.[30][31]


The incumbent will generally serve for at least five years, though this is only a developed convention, and the governor general still technically acts at Her Majesty's pleasure (or the Royal Pleasure).[24] The prime minister may therefore recommend to the Queen that the viceroy remain in her service for a longer period of time, sometimes upwards of more than seven years.[n 1] A governor general may also resign,[n 2] and two have died in office.[n 3] In such a circumstance, or if the governor general leaves the country for longer than one month, the Chief Justice of Canada (or, if that position is vacant or unavailable, the senior puisne justice of the Supreme Court) serves as Administrator of the Government and exercises all powers of the governor general.[n 4]

The swearing-in ceremony begins with the arrival at 7 Rideau Gate of one of the ministers of the Crown, who then accompanies the governor general-designate to Parliament Hill, where a Canadian Forces Guard of Honour (consisting of the Army Guard, Royal Canadian Air Force Guard, and Flag Party of the Royal Canadian Navy) awaits to give a general salute. From there, the party is led by the Queen's parliamentary messenger—the Usher of the Black Rod—to the Senate chamber, wherein all justices of the Supreme Court, senators, members of parliament, and other guests are assembled. The Queen's commission for the governor general-designate is then read aloud by the Secretary to the Governor General and the required oaths are administered to the appointee by either the chief justice or one of the puisne justices of the Supreme Court; the three oaths are: the Oath of Allegiance, the Oath of Office as Governor General and Commander-in-Chief, and the Oath as Keeper of the Great Seal of Canada. With the affixing of their signature to these three solemn promises, the individual is officially the governor general, and at that moment the Flag of the Governor General of Canada is raised on the Peace Tower,[18] the Viceregal Salute is played by the Central Band of the Canadian Forces, and a 21-gun salute is conducted by the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. The governor general is seated on the throne while a prayer is read, and then receives the Great Seal of Canada (which is passed to the registrar general for protection),[22] as well as the chains of both the Chancellor of the Order of Canada and of the Order of Military Merit.[23] The governor general will then give a speech, outlining whichever cause or causes he or she will champion during his or her time as viceroy.[18]

Besides the administration of the oaths of office, there is no set formula for the swearing-in of a governor general-designate.[18] Though there may therefore be variations to the following, the appointee will generally travel to Ottawa, there receiving an official welcome and taking up residence at 7 Rideau Gate,[18][21] and will begin preparations for their upcoming role, meeting with various high level officials to ensure a smooth transition between governors general. The sovereign will also hold an audience with the appointee and will at that time induct both the governor general-designate and his or her spouse into the Order of Canada as Companions, as well as appointing the former as a Commander of both the Order of Military Merit and the Order of Merit of the Police Forces (should either person not have already received either of those honours).[18]

Michaëlle Jean reciting the oaths of office as administered by Puisne Justice Michel Bastarache, 27 September 2005
Vincent Massey (far left), the first Canadian-born person appointed to the viceregal post since Confederation.

[20][19][18][17][16][15].governor general-designate. That individual is, from then until being sworn-in, referred to as the Great Seal of Canada and royal sign-manual appoints the governor general by commission issued under the Canadian monarch, the Canadian prime minister As such, on the recommendation of his or her [15]

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