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Governor General of Canada / Gouverneur général du Canadaa
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The Great Seal of Canada

The Great Seal of Canada is one of the oldest and most venerated instruments of our government. Since the earliest days of our nation, Canada's most important documents have been made official through its imprint. The Great Seal signifies the power and authority of the Crown flowing from the sovereign to our parliamentary government.

The Great Seal has both ceremonial and administrative purposes. Each time a new governor general is installed in Canada, he or she is solemnly charged with custody of the Seal as representative of the Crown. It is used on all state documents, such as Royal proclamations and commissions issued for the appointment of Cabinet ministers, lieutenant governors, senators and judges. The presence of the Seal melds together the notions of authenticity, authority and the will of the Crown, while at the same time lending a certain prestige to a document.

Our country's Great Seal is uniquely Canadian. It has been in existence since Confederation; yet it has changed, as currency changes, with each successive reign. The present Great Seal was made by the Royal Canadian Mint and bears the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in her robes, holding the orb and sceptre, and sitting on the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey. The bilingual inscription reads: REINE DU CANADA ELIZABETH II QUEEN OF CANADA. Previous Great Seals were inscribed in Latin. It is made of steel, weighs 3.75 kg and is 12.7 cm in diameter.

The governor general is the official keeper of the Great Seal; he or she takes an oath to this effect at the installation ceremony. In each Ministry, a minister (the deputy minister of that department) is designated to be the Registrar General of Canada. The Registrar General then becomes the keeper of the Seal on a day-to-day basis.

During a change of government, the Great Seal is returned to the governor general by the outgoing government; when a new ministry is subsequently sworn in, the governor general immediately entrusts the Seal to the new government for safekeeping.

Updated: 2018-03-26
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