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Governor General of Canada / Gouverneur général du Canadaa


Governor General


Commander-in-Chief of Canada

Historical background

The Governor General of Canada is the Commander-in-Chief of Canada.

Responsibilities include:

  • Encouraging excellence and dedication in the Forces;
  • Visiting military bases across Canada;
  • Participating in memorial services for fallen military;
  • Welcoming troops home;
  • Keeping up morale among those performing peacekeeping missions around the world.

The role of Commander-in-Chief of Canada has been closely linked to the evolution of Canada, as well as to the history of the Canadian Forces.

The migration of monarchs

In 1627, King Louis XIII of France appointed Samuel de Champlain the first Governor of New France.

After the British conquest of New France, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, establishing a foundation for British government in Canada and appointing the first British governor of Canada. A small militia was also present.

The birth of a new nation

After Confederation in 1867, Governors General were authorized to oversee internal matters, but had to acknowledge and respect British policy concerning external affairs. The British North America Act declared that the Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia would continue to be vested in the Queen.

A Governor General as Head of State, a Canadian Militia

The Militia was established by the Militia Act of 1868. In the 1870s, a small militia was based in Halifax under the command of a general officer on loan from the British Army.

In 1904, however, a new Militia Act stated that "the Command-in-Chief of the Militia is declared to continue and be vested in the King, and shall be administered by His Majesty or by the Governor General as his representative." This Act also doubled the permanent force to 4000, to provide a garrison to replace the British in Halifax.

This was an important landmark, as it was the beginning of a truly Canadian force, and it reinforced the role of the Governor General as Commander-in-Chief. In 1905, the change to the Militia Act was legalized and reference to the Office of the Governor General became the Office of the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia.

The Militia legislation was passed in the House of Commons August 3, 1904 and came into effect on November 1, 1904.

  • In 1905 the "Letters Patent constituting the Office of the Governor General" were amended to read the Letters Patent constituting the Office of the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief.
  • In 1910, with the establishment of the Canadian Department of the Naval Service, the Governor General became the Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval Forces.
  • After the creation of the Canadian Air Force in 1919, the Governor General became Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces.
  • In 1947, the Letters Patent of King George VI transferred all the duties of Head of State of Canada to the Governor General and the new Commission of Appointment referred to the Office of Governor General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada.

In 1968, following the unification of the three services, the Governor General became Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces (now, the Canadian Forces).

Updated: 2018-03-26
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