Overview of the Roles and Responsibilities
of the Governor General
The office of Governor General is the oldest, continuous institution in Canada’s public life, going back in an unbroken
line to Samuel de Champlain, the first Governor of New France nearly 400 years ago. Since that time, the office has evolved
and developed to what we know today – a Canadian Governor General, which along with Parliament and the Judiciary are
the three coordinate bodies that form the foundation of our democratic system in Canada.
The Governor General is the guarantor of responsible government in Canada. Since 1935, all governors general of Canada
have been named by the Sovereign exclusively on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
On September 8, 1947, George VI issued new Letters Patent to the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada.
This instrument empowered the Governor General to exercise, on the advice of her or his Canadian ministers, all the powers
of the Sovereign in relation to Canada, with the exception of the appointment of the Governor General, in other words the
Letters Patent transferred the powers of the Sovereign to the Governor General.
The Governor General ensures the continuity and functioning of the government. She is in regular consultation with the
Prime Minister, other ministers of the Crown and senior officials, elected and unelected. She has the right to be consulted,
to encourage and to warn.
The Governor General is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces. She encourages
excellence and dedication in military personnel, visits Canadian Forces bases in all regions of the country and on missions
abroad, often welcomes troops on their return from overseas missions and performs other ceremonial duties. She also chairs
the Armed Forces Council and meets regularly with the Chief of Defence Staff.
The Governor General has always had a central role in promoting national identity by
supporting and promoting Canadian values, culture, heritage, inclusion and diversity. The Governor General also promotes
national unity by fostering a sense of belonging through her participation in events such as Canada Day, Remembrance Day,
official commemorative services, provincial, regional and urban visits, national citizenship ceremonies and civic events.
By listening and speaking to Canadians where they live and work, the Governor General is able to bring Canadians together
in a non-partisan way, reminding us of the common values that unite us, while celebrating our regional diversity and Canadian
Honouring Canadians and recognizing excellence is a further important role of the Governor
General. She recognizes and rewards individuals for outstanding achievements in many fields of endeavour through such national
honours as the Order of Canada, Bravery Decorations, and academic medals, as well as awards conferred in the Governor General's
name such as the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, the Governor
General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts Awards, the Governor General’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching Canadian
Role of the Spouse to the Governor General
Since 1848, the Spouse of the Governor General has shared in the ceremonial, domestic and representational aspects of
the viceregal role. In addition, spouses have always carried out their own programs in support of the Governor General’s