The Governor General

The Governor General represents Her Majesty The Queen at the federal level in Canada.

The office of Governor General is the oldest continuous institution in Canada and is an unbroken link with the early days of our country’s recorded history. Samuel de Champlain was appointed the first governor of New France in 1627 and was followed by seventeen French governors until 1760. From then until 1867, a total of twenty-one British governors and governors general held office in Canada. Until 1952, Governors General were British. The 1952 installation of Vincent Massey, the first Canadian to hold the office, reflected Canada's new sense of autonomy and identity in the post-war era and Canadian sense of pride in the Canadian Crown.

Vincent Massey's appointment was important, marking the beginning of the modern institution of the Governor General where a Canadian represents The Queen and carries out Her Majesty’s responsibilities at the formal level. Since then, the role of the Governor General has evolved: Canada's Governor General has responsibilities such as managing the Canadian honours system, representing Canada abroad, signing the letters of credence for outgoing Canadian diplomats, signing treaties and declarations of war, and granting Canadian Coats of Arms. All are undertaken in the name of The Queen.

Appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Governor General usually holds office for five years. Lieutenant Governors fulfill the responsibilities and functions of The Queen in the provinces in the same way that the Governor General does at the national level.

The Governor General bears the title “Excellency” during office along with his or her spouse and carries the title “Right Honourable” for life.

For more details, consult the webpage of the Governor General of Canada

The Role and Responsibilities of the Governor General

In 1947, "Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General of Canada" (under King George VI), authorized the Governor General to exercise most of the Crown's powers on behalf of the Sovereign.

The Governor General has important parliamentary responsibilities:

  • Summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament.
  • Setting out the government’s program by reading the Speech from the Throne.
  • Giving Royal Assent, which makes acts of Parliament into law.

The Governor General is also Commander-in-Chief of Canada. He or she visits military bases and honours Canadian military personnel on behalf of The Queen.

The Governor General also fulfills important ceremonial duties:

  • Promoting a sense of identity.
  • Recognizing the achievements of outstanding Canadians.
  • Receiving foreign dignitaries.
  • Travelling overseas as the representative of Canada.
  • Hosting and taking part in official events.

Installation of a Governor General

The installation of a new Governor General is intended to officially mark his or her assumption of office, replacing the outgoing Governor General. It is an historic event which represents the most important state ceremony within Canada's constitutional and ceremonial structure.

Each installation ceremony is unique and reflects the preferences of the individuals involved and the ongoing evolution of the office of the Governor General.

Regardless of the details, the element that cannot change is when the Governor General Designate takes the oath of allegiance. The chief justice or other senior judge of the Supreme Court of Canada administers this oath.

Another key element of the installation is the Governor General's first address to the nation. This speech will set out the Governor General's vision for his or her term of office in bringing to life the important and ongoing role of the Canadian Crown in the life of our country and its citizens.

Installation of the 29th Governor General

Her Excellency Julie Payette delivers her first speech in the Senate Chamber after taking the oath of office.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette delivers her first speech in the Senate Chamber after taking the oath of office.

On July 13, 2017 the Prime Minister of Canada announced that Her Majesty The Queen approved the appointment of Ms. Julie Payette as the 29th Governor General of Canada since Confederation.

Her Excellency was sworn into office on October 2, 2017, at a ceremony in the Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill. Her Excellency’s installation ceremony included military honours, Indigenous elements and performances by Canadians artists. In a break with tradition, Her Excellency left Parliament Hill on foot, walking with dignitaries, members of her family and guests. She stopped at the National War Memorial to lay flowers to honour the fallen before proceeding to Rideau Hall.

The Governor General Designate

The Governor General Designate is the person who has been appointed as Governor General, but who has not yet been sworn-in. He or she will keep this title until the swearing-in ceremony has taken place.

During the transition period, the Governor General Designate undertakes a series of briefings with various members of government, ensuring he or she will be able to step into the role of Governor General without difficulty.

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