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Governor General of Canada / Gouverneur général du Canadaa
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The Role of the Governor General

The role of the governor general dates back nearly 400 years to 1608 when Samuel de Champlain fulfilled the duties and responsibilities of the governor of New France without ever receiving the official title. He established what has become the oldest continuing public office in Canada.

Canada became a country at Confederation in 1867. Our system of government is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and head of State. Sworn in on September 27, 2005, the Right Honourable MichaŽlle Jean, 27th governor general since Confederation, represents the Crown in Canada and carries out the duties of head of State.

The governor general presides over the swearing-in of the prime minister, the Chief Justice of Canada and cabinet ministers. One of the governor general's most important responsibilities is to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and government in place. In the case of the death of a prime minister, it is the governor general's responsibility to ensure the continuity of government.

The governor general has important parliamentary responsibilities. Canada's Parliament consists of three parts: the House of Commons, the Senate and the governor general. It is the governor general who summons Parliament, sets out the government's program by reading the Speech from the Throne, and gives Royal Assent which makes Acts of Parliament law.

The governor general signs official documents and meets regularly with the prime minister and government officials. She has the right to be consulted, to encourage and to warn.

The governor general is Commander in Chief of the Canadian Forces. She visits military personnel both at home and abroad, encouraging and honouring them.

The governor general receives royal visitors, heads of State and other prominent guests. She accepts the credentials of new ambassadors who represent their respective countries in Canada. In her State visits abroad, the Governor General leads delegations reflecting a broad range of Canadian interests, accomplishment and expertise.

The governor general is Chancellor of the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit. The governor general presents honours and awards on behalf of all Canadians to recognize people who have demonstrated excellence, courage or exceptional dedication to service that brings credit to the country. The Order of Canada recognizes lifetime achievement; the Meritorious Service Decorations recognize exceptional deeds or activities; the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award recognizes selfless voluntarism; and the Decorations for Bravery recognize acts of courage performed in dangerous situations.

For more than 130 years, Canada's governors general have established a tradition of encouraging excellence, establishing more than 60 awards and trophies in the arts, social sciences, humanities and sports.

The governor general encourages Canadians to build a compassionate society, and to continue to work together in fostering strong and caring communities. She welcomes Canadians to Rideau Hall and La Citadelle in Quebec City, and meets them when she visits provinces and territories. She participates in community events and listens to the concerns of Canadians. The governor general promotes our national identity and unity.

A crowned lion holding a maple leaf in its right paw appears on the front page of the booklet. It is the crest of the Arms of Canada, and appears on the governor general's standard. The crest marks the sovereignty of Canada. The lion stands on a red and white wreath, Canada's official colours. The standard indicates the presence of the Governor General, and flies at Rideau Hall or La Citadelle whenever the Governor General is in residence.

For more information:

  • Visit the Governor General web site at www.gg.ca
  • Call 1-800-465-6890
  • Write to the Chancellery of Honours, Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1
Updated: 2018-03-26
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