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The Governor General of Canada (French [masculine]: Gouverneur général du Canada, or [feminine]: Gouverneure générale du Canada) is the viceregal representative in the federal jurisdiction of the Canadian monarch and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who is equally shared with 15 other sovereign nations in a form of personal union, but resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdommarker. On the advice of her Canadian Prime Minister only, the Queen appoints the Governor General to carry out most of the monarch's constitutional and ceremonial duties for an unfixed period of time known as serving At Her Majesty's Pleasure though five years is the normal convention, as is a rotation between anglophone and francophone incumbents. Once in office, these individuals maintain direct contact with the Queen, wherever she may be at the time.

The office has its roots in the 16th and 17th century colonial governors of New France and British North America, and thus is the oldest continuous institution in Canada. The present incarnation of the position emerged with Canadian Confederation and the British North America Act in 1867, which defined the viceregal office as the "Governor General acting by and with the Advice of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada." However, the post still ultimately represented the government of the United Kingdom (that is, the monarch in his British Council) until the passage in 1931 of the Statute of Westminster, whereafter the Governor General became the direct representative of the uniquely Canadian sovereign (the monarch in his Canadian Council). This was the culmination of a process of gradual independence that saw the Governor General take on an ever expanding role: in 1904, the Militia Act granted permission for the Governor General to use the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian militia, in the name of the sovereign and actual Commander-in-Chief, and in 1927 the first official international visit by a Governor General was made. In 1949, King George VI issued 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 parliamentmarker.

The current Governor General is Michaëlle Jean, who has served since 27 September 2005; then-Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin recommended her to replace Adrienne Clarkson. Jean's husband who is thus the viceregal consort is Jean-Daniel Lafond.


According to the Canadian government, the title Governor General is not hyphenated, even though a hyphen is used for the same title in other Commonwealth realms. Many other media organizations in Canada ignore this rule, however, and 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 often capitalized, particularly when preceding an incumbent's name, but sometimes they are not (e.g. Canadian governors general).


The Governor General is required by both the Constitution Act (previously the British North America Act), 1867, and the letters patent issued in 1947 by King George VI. As such, the Canadian monarch approves with commission issued under the royal sign-manual and Great Seal of Canada her Canadian prime minister's recommendation for viceroy, who is from then until being sworn-in referred to as the Governor General-designate.

Besides the administration of the oaths of office, there is no set formula for the swearing-in of a Governor General-designate. Though there may therefore be variations to the following, the appointee will generally travel to Ottawamarker, there receiving an official welcome, and prepare for their swearing-in ceremony some days later. The latter begins with the arrival at Rideau Hallmarker of one of the Ministers of the Crown, who then accompanies the Governor General-designate to Parliament Hillmarker, where a guard of honour 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 Courtmarker; 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 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), as well as the chains of both the Chancellor of the Order of Canada and of the Order of Military Merit.

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). 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. A governor general may also resign, and two have died in office. 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.


Between 1867 and 1952, all Governors General were born beyond Canada's borders and were members of the Peerage; these viceroys spent a relatively limited time in Canada, but their travel schedules were so extensive that they could "learn more about Canada in five years than many Canadians in a lifetime." However, even though prior to the implementation of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947 all Canadian nationals were as equally British subjects as their British counterparts, the idea of Canadian-born persons being appointed Governor General was raised as early as 1919, when, at the Paris Peace Conference, Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden consulted with Prime Minister of South Africa Louis Botha, and the two agreed that the viceregal appointees should be long-term residents of their respective Dominions. Calls for just such an individual to be made viceroy came again in the late 1930s, but it was not until Vincent Massey's appointment by King George VI in 1952 that the position was filled by a Canadian-born individual; this practice continued until 1999, when the Queen commissioned as her representative Adrienne Clarkson, a Hong Kongmarker-born refugee to Canada. Moreover, the practice of alternating between anglophone and francophone Canadians was instituted with the appointment of Georges Vanier, a francophone who succeeded the anglophone Massey. All persons whose names are put forward to the Queen for approval must first undergo background checks by the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker and the Canadian Security Intelligence Servicemarker.

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 Lordsmarker by virtue of their inclusion in the Peerage. 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.

There has 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 by either popular or parliamentary vote; a proposal echoed by Adrienne Clarkson, who called for the Prime Minister's choice to not only be vetted by a parliamentary committee, in a similar format to Congressional confirmation hearings in the United Statesmarker, but also submit to a televised quiz on Canadiana. 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 undermine the impartiality necessary to the proper functioning of the Governor General.


Further information: Monarchy of Canada > International and domestic aspects

As Canada shares its monarch equally with fifteen other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, and the sovereign lives predominantly outside Canada's borders, the Governor General's primary task is to perform the sovereign's constitutional duties on his or her behalf, acting 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. 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, though the presence of the monarch does not undermine the Governor General's ability to perform governmental roles.

Past Governor General John Campbell, 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 Indianmarker prince, and the back of a camel," and The Earl of Dufferin stated that the Governor General is "a representative of all that is august, stable, and sedate in the country; incapable of partisanship, and lifted far above the atmosphere of fraction, 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 on an Administration of Parliament the moment either has forfeited their confidence."

Constitutional role

Though the monarch retains all executive, legislative, and judicial power in and over Canada, 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; 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." Amongst other duties, however, the monarch retains the sole right to appoint the Governor General. 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 her stead, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (or a Puisne Justice in the Chief Justice's absence) will act as the Administrator of Canada upon the death, removal, incapacitation, or absence of the Governor General for more than one month.

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, 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 directon on the use of executive power; an arrangement called the Queen-in-Council, or, 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 Premiers of the provinces concerned playing an advisory role), Senators, the Speaker of the Senate, Supreme Court Justices, and Superior and County Court judges in each province, except those of the Courts of Probate in Nova Scotiamarker and New Brunswickmarker. 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.

The Governor General alone is also constitutionally mandated to summon parliamentmarker. 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). 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.

Ceremonial role

Further information: Monarchy of Canada > Cultural role
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, though the monarch's permission is necessary for the viceroy to leave Canada. 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.

The Governor General is also tasked with fostering national unity and pride. One way in which this is carried out is travelling the country and meeting with Canadians from all regions and ethnic groups in Canada, continuing the tradition begun in 1869 by former Governor General The Lord Lisgar. He or she will also induct individuals into the various national honours and present national medals and decorations. Similarly, the viceroy administers and distributes the Governor General's Awards, and will also give out awards associated with private organizations, some of which are named for past Governors General. 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.

Though the position is constitutionally granted to the Canadian monarch, the Governor General acts in her place as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, and is permitted to use the title. The position technically involves issuing commands for Canadian troops, airmen, and sailors, but is predominantly a ceremonial role in which the viceroy will visit Canadian Forces bases across Canada and abroad to take part in military ceremonies, see troops off to and return from active duty, and encourage excellence and morale amongst the forces. The Governor General also serves as honorary Colonel of three household regiments: the Governor General's Horse Guards, Governor General's Foot Guards and Canadian Grenadier Guards. This ceremonial position is directly under that of Colonel-in-Chief, which is held by the Queen. Since 1946, the Governor General has also always been made the Chief Scout of Canada, a position that some viceroys have taken seriously.

Residences and household

Rideau Hallmarker in Ottawamarker is, as the residence of the monarch, the official residence of the Governor General, and is thus the location of the viceroyal household and the Chancellery of Honours. 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 Citadelmarker (La Citadelle) in Quebec Citymarker, Quebecmarker.

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 Secretary to the Governor General. These organized offices and support systems include Aides-de-Camp, press officers, financial managers, speech writers, trip organizers, event planners, protocol officers, chefs and other kitchen employees, waiters, and various cleaning staff, as well as visitors' centre staff and tour guides at both official residences. The Chancellery of Honours also centres around the Queen, and is thus administered by the Governor General, who's secretary simultaneously holds the position of Herald Chancellor of Canada, and, as such, oversees the Canadian Heraldic Authority the mechanism of the Canadian honours system by which armorial bearings are granted to Canadians by the Governor General in the name of the sovereign. In this official and bureaucratic capacity, the entire household is often referred to as Government House. These departments are funded through the normal federal budgetary process, as is the Governor General's salary of CAD110,126. Additional costs are incurred from separate ministries and organizations such as the National Capital Commission, the Department of National Defence, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker.

Symbols and protocol

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. The incumbent Governor General and his or her spouse are also the only people in Canada 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.

Per the orders' constitutions, the Governor General serves as the Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, the Chancellor of the Order of Military Merit, and the Chancellor of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces. 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. 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.

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. 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 in the federal jurisdiction takes precedence over all other flags save the Queen's personal Canadian standard. When the Governor General undertakes a state visit, however, the national flag is generally employed to mark his or her presence. 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.


French and British colonies

Frenchmarker colonization of North America began in the 1580s, and the explorer Samuel de Champlain became the first unofficial Governor of New France in the early 1600s, 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, after whom 12 more governors general served in the post.

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France relinquished most of its North American territories, including Canada, to Great Britainmarker. King George III then issued in that same year a Royal Proclamation establishing, amongst other regulations, the Office of the Governor of Quebec to preside over the new Province of Quebec. Nova Scotiamarker and New Brunswickmarker remained completely separate colonies, each with their own governor, until the government of William Pitt adopted in the 1780s the idea that they, along with Quebec and Prince Edward Islandmarker, 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 only directly governed Quebec, and later, following the splitting in 1791 of the Province of Quebec to accommodate the influx of United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolutionary War, and 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.

Responsible government

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. 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.

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 the British government the Queen in her British council of ministers who answered to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Londonmarker. Because he remained a British observer of Canadian politics, the Governor General and his staff held well into the First World War a suite of offices in the East Blockmarker of Parliament Hillmarker. But, as a representative of the Crown in Canadian parliament, the Governor General simultaneously 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. 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 to select a new prime minister.

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 pseudonym Captain Mac included in a pamphlet called Canada: from the Lakes to the Gulf, a coarse satire of an investiture ceremony at Rideau Hallmarker, in which a retired inn-keeper and his wife undergo the rigorous protocol of the royal household and sprawl on the floor before The Duke of Argyll so as to be granted the knighthood for which they had "paid in cold, hard cash." Later, prior to the arrival of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (the uncle of King George V), to take up the post of Governor General, there was a "feeble undercurrent of criticism" centring on worries about a rigid court at Rideau Hall; worries that turned out to be unfounded as the royal couple was more relaxed than their predecessors.

Emerging nationality to an independent kingdom

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." 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 Quebecmarker, though he had little real success.

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; in 1918, the Toronto Star was even advocating the end of the office. The Governor General's role was also morphing to focus less on the larger Empire and more on uniquely Canadian affairs, including the undertaking of official international visits on behalf of Canada, the first being that of The Marquess of Willingdon to the United Statesmarker, where he was accorded by President Calvin Coolidge the full honours of representative of a head of state. 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.

In 1926, Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, facing a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons over a scandal in his party, requested that Governor General The Lord Byng of Vimy dissolve parliament and call an election. Byng, however, refused his Canadian prime minister's advice, citing both the facts that King held the minority of seats in the house, and a general election had been held only months earlier; he thus called on Arthur Meighen to form a government. Within a week however, Meighen's Conservative government lost its own non-confidence vote, forcing the Governor General to dissolve parliament and call elections that saw Mackenzie King returned to power. King then went on to the Imperial Conference that same year, and there pushed for reorganizations that resulted in the 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. 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. The Governor General thus became solely the representative of the King within Canadian jurisdiction, ceasing completely to be an agent of the British Cabinet, 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.

The Canadian Cabinet's first recommendation under this new system was still, however, a British subject born outside of Canada: The Lord Tweedsmuir. His birth place aside, though, the professional author took further than any of his predecessors the idea of a distinct Canadian identity, travelling the length and breadth of the country, including, for the first time for a governor general, the Arctic regions. Not all Canadians, however, shared Tweedsmuir's views; the Baron raised the ire of imperialists when he said in Montreal in 1937: "a Canadian's first loyalty is not to the British Commonwealth of Nations, but to Canadamarker and Canada's King," a statement the Montreal Gazette dubbed as "disloyal." During Tweedsmuir's time as viceroy, which started in 1935, calls began to emerge for a Canadian-born individual to be appointed as Governor General; but Tweedsmuir died suddenly in office in 1940, while Canada was in the midst of the Second World War, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King did not feel it was the right time to search for a suitable Canadian. The Earl of Athlone was instead appointed by King George VI, Athlone's nephew, to be his viceroy for the duration of the war.

Quebec nationalism and constitutional patriation

It was in 1952, a mere five days before King George VI's death, that Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born person to be appointed as a governor general in Canada since The Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal was made Governor General of New France on 1 January 1755, as well as the first not to be elevated to the Peerage since Sir Edmund Walker Head in 1854. There was some trepidation about this departure from tradition, and Massey was intended to be a compromise: he was known to embody loyalty, dignity, and formality, as expected from a viceroy. As his viceregal tenure neared an end, it was thought that Massey, an Anglophone, should be followed by a Francophone Canadian; and so, in spite of his Liberal Party attachments, Georges Vanier 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, 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 Montrealmarker in 1964, a group of separatists held placards reading "Vanier vendu" ("Vanier sold out") and "Vanier fou de la Reine" ("Vanier Queen's jester").

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 and the requirement of court dress for state occasions, and expecting women to curtsey before the Governor General. At the same time, he initiated new practices for the viceroy, including regular conferences with the Lieutenant Governors, and the undertaking of state visits. 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 Montrealmarker, and was cheered wildly by the gathered crowd while they booed and jeered Michener. With the additional recognition of the monarchy as a Canadian institution, 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.

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, but the proposal was thwarted by the provincial Premiers. 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. 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 she championed youth and world peace, Sauvé proved to be a controversial viceroy, closing to the public the grounds of the Queen's residence, and self-aggrandizingly breaching protocol on a number of occasions.

Withering and renaissance

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 speculated in hindsight that their agreement to refuse the commission may have been a contributing factor in their eventual break-up. 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, and despite the duties they carried out, their combined time in the viceregal office is generally viewed as unremarkable, at best, seriously damaging to the office, at worst; 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." It was theorised 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 presidentialised prime minister.

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, and, by her being accompanied to Rideau Hall by her husband, John Ralston Saul, the official appointment brought an unofficial pair to the viceregal placement, 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. 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, 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. This attitude was not, however, unique to Clarkson; 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.

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. Her appointment initially sparked accusations that she was a supporter of Quebec sovereignty, and it was observed that she had on a few occasions tread into political matters, 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." But Jean ultimately won plaudits, particularly for her role in the parliamentary dispute that took place between December 2008 and January 2009.

Activities post-commission

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. 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.

Generally an outgoing Governor General will leave an eponymous award as a legacy, such as the Stanley Cup and Grey Cup. Others may also or instead found an institution, as Georges Vanier did with the Vanier Institute of the Family and Adrienne Clarkson's Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Three former Governors General have released biographies: John Buchan (Memory Hold-the-Door), Vincent Massey (On Being Canadian and What's Past is Prologue), and Clarkson (Heart Matters).

Canadian institutions established by Governors General

See also


  1. Unless noted otherwise, the source for information in this section is found in:


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