How can the Queen, who lives in Britain, be our head of state? Enter the vice regal representative.
She Can't Be Everywhere at Once
While The Queen is our official head of state, she obviously can't be physically present in every country of which she is Sovereign. She relies on her vice regal representatives to act on her behalf.
Eleven Crowns in Canada
The Governor General serves as the Crown's representative for Canada as a whole. Lieutenant Governors are appointed by the federal government. This doesn't mean that the Lieutenant Governors are lower in status than the Governor General. Lieutenant Governors are provincial representatives of the Sovereign invested with the same powers in provincial jurisdiction as the Governor General in federal jurisdiction.
-- J. E. N. Weibe Interpretive Centre, Government House, Regina
GOVERNORS OF NEW FRANCE 1612-1760
THE FRENCH REGIME
- Samuel de Champlain 1612-1629 1633-1635
- Charles de Montmagny 1636-1648
- Louis d'Ailleboust de Coulonge 1648-1651
- Jean de Lauson 1651-1656
- Le vicomte d'Argenson 1658-1661
- Le baron d'Avaugour 1661-1663
- Sieur de Mesy 1663-1665
- Sieur de Courcelle 1665-1672
- Le comte de Frontenac 1672-1682
- Joseph-Antoine de LaBarre 1682-1685
- Le marquis de Denonville 1685-1689
- Le comte de Frontenac 1689-1698
- Le chevalier Hector de Calliere 1699-1705
- Le marquis de Vaudreuil 1705-1725
- Le marquis de Beauharnois 1726-1747
- Le comte de La Galissonniere 1747-1749
- Le marquis de La Jonquiere 1749-1752
- Le marquis Duquesne de Menneville 1752-1755
- Le marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal 1755-1760
GOVERNORS OF BRITISH NORTH AMERICA 1760-1867
THE BRITISH REGIME
Jeffrey Amherst 1760-1763
James Murray 1764-1768
Sir Guy Carleton (Lord Dorchester) 1768-1778
Sir Frederick Haldimand 1778-1786
Lord Dorchester 1786-1796
Robert Prescott 1797-1807
Sir James Craig 1807-1811
Sir George Prevost 1812-1815
Sir John Sherbrooke 1816-1818
The Duke of Richmond 1818-1819
The Earl of Dalhousie 1820-1828
Lord Aylmer 1831-1835
Earl Amherst 1835
The Earl of Gosford 1835-1837
The Earl of Durham 1838
Sir John Colborne 1839
Lord Sydenham 1839-1841
Sir Charles Bagot 1841-1843
Lord Metcalfe 1843-1845
The Earl of Cathcart 1846-1847
The Earl of Elgin 1847-1854
Sir Edmund Head 1854-1861
The Viscount Monck 1861-1867
GOVERNORS GENERAL OF CANADA 1867-PRESENT
The Viscount Monck 1867-1868
Lord Lisgar 1868-1872
The Earl of Dufferin 1872-1878
The Marquess of Lorne 1878-1883
The Marquess of Lansdowne 1883-1888
Lord Stanley 1888-1893
The Earl of Aberdeen 1893-1898
The Earl of Minto 1898-1904
Earl Grey 1904-1911
HRH The Duke of Connaught 1911-1916
The Duke of Devonshire 1916-1921
Lord Byng 1921-1926
The Viscount Willingdon 1926-1931
The Earl of Bessborough 1931-1935
Lord Tweedsmuir 1935-1940
The Earl of Athlone 1940-1946
The Viscount Alexander 1946-1952
The Right Honourable Vincent Massey 1952-1959
Major General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier 1959-1967
The Right Honourable Roland Michener 1967-1974
The Right Honourable Jules Léger 1974-1979
The Right Honourable Edward Schreyer 1979-1984
The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé 1984-1990
The Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn 1990-1995
The Right Honourable Roméo Leblanc 1995-1999
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson 1999-2005
The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean 2005-2010
The Right Honourable David Johnston 2010-2017
The Right Honourable Julie Payette 2017-present
** Since 1952, Governors General of Canada have been Canadians
* Since 1952, the appointment of Governor General has fashioned in the tradition of alternating between English and French background
THE VICE-REGAL STANDARD OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL
The Vice Regal Standard of the Governor General of Canada bears the crest from the Canadian arms: a crowned lion holding a red maple leaf in its right front paw and standing on a heraldic wreath of red and white upon a blue field.
The use of this device for a governor general goes back to when the Queen wished to honour Governor General Vincent Massey. During her 1957 visit, the Queen had offered to make him a member of the Order of the Garter, thus giving him the oldest and most prestigious of the British honours. However, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker refused to allow him to accept. As Vincent Massey clearly merited a high honour, the Queen's recourse was to give him a truly unusual augmentation of his personal arms: the use of "our royal crest of Canada," on a blue field as a canton on the shield. Nearly a decade then passed before the suggestion arose that this crest from the arms of Canada would make an excellent flag for the governor general. It was made in 1968 by the Reverend Ralph Spence, an ardent flag enthusiast, to Lieutenant Commander Alan Beddoe, one of Canada's leading heraldic authorities, while they were having lunch in a Toronto restaurant. Beddoe liked the idea and took it back to Ottawa where it was received warmly by Governor General Roland Michener. Michener took it to the Queen, who had been encouraging the Canadianization of the royal symbols used in Canada. She was willing to make the change, but the government of the day feared that the public would view the change to the Canadian crest as evidence of creeping republicanism; the issue temporarily died.
In 1980, as discussions proceeded on the patriation of the Constitution, the appropriateness of the idea again became apparent. In 1981, the crest of the Canadian arms upon a blue field became the sixth version assumed by the flag of the governor general of Canada.
This flag marks the physical presence of the governor general and so is flown both day and night at any building in which the governor general is in residence. As with the Queen's Personal Flag for Canada, the governor general's flag distinguishes the head of state and must not be flown or used by anyone else.
RIDEAU HALL, OTTAWA
Rideau Hall is the official residence of the Governor General of Canada, the home and workplace of every Governor General since Confederation in 1867. Located at One Sussex Drive, Rideau Hall is 79 acres of beautiful landscapted grounds. This stone home of Canada's Governor General was built in 1838 for Thomas Mackay, a prominent mill owner. The property was named Rideau Hall because Mackay helped build the Rideau Canal and owned mills on the Rideau River.In 1867, it was acquired by the newly-formed Government of Canada as the official residence for Governor General Monck.
LA CITADELLE, QUÉBEC CITY
La Citadelle has been an official Residence of the Governor General of Canada since 1872. La Citadelle is located on the grounds of the Canadian Forces Base in Québec City. Constructed over a thirty-year period beginning in 1820, and occupied by British troops to defend the city and port from a potential American invasion, it is in the shape of a four-sided polygon and covers an area of 37 acres. In 1871, shortly after Confederation, the buildings at La Citadelle were given to the Canadian government. It was at this time that the Earl of Dufferin established a residence for the Governor General in the old capital, reviving a tradition that began with the settlement of New France. Lord Dufferin had the East wing of the officers quarters converted into a vice-regal residence in 1872.
THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL
As both a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, Canada's Head of State is Her Majesty The Queen who is represented at the national level by a Governor General and at the provincial level by a Lieutenant Governor. Therefore, The Queen has eleven direct representatives in Canada who, by their presence, represent the important work of the Crown and reflect the true face of Canadian society.
As our Head of State, Her Majesty The Queen cannot be in Canada at all times. In her absence, her direct representatives ensure that the role of the Crown functions as an integral part of our system of government. At the federal level, the duties of the Governor General are varied and form a significant component of our Parliamentary democracy and daily lives.
The Lieutenant-Governors of the provinces, once representing the Governor General, now act as direct representatives of the Queen.
Before 1926, the Governor General acted as the representative of the British government in Canada, and until 1952, was always British. Since then, the post has alternated between an English-Canadian and a French-Canadian.
The Governor General's duties, which are largely ceremonial, include:
- Representing the Crown and ensuring there is always a prime minister.
- Acting on advice of prime minister and cabinet ministers to give royal assent to bills passed in the Senate and House of Commons.
- Signing state documents.
- Reading the throne speech.
- Presiding over swearing-in of prime minister, chief justice and cabinet ministers.
THE APPOINTMENT OF THE GOVERNOR GENERAL
The monarch appoints the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada. From 1867 to 1952, every Governor General was a subject of the United Kingdom and a member of the aristocracy. The last British Governor General was Harold Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Tunis, who served from 1946 to 1952. Since Vincent Massey's appointment in 1952, the position has been held only by Canadians. Moreover, by tradition, the post has been held alternately by English-Canadians and French-Canadians. Beginning in 1967, the Prime Minister has forwarded the Queen a single name when proposing a vice-regal appointment; previously a list of several names had been given to the Queen.
Although non-partisan while in office, Governors General are often former politicians. Since 1952, individuals who previously served as diplomats, as cabinet members, or as Speakers of the House of Commons have been appointed to the post. The former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, was previously an author and television anchor; she was the first Governor General in Canadian history without either a political or military background. She was also the first Asian-Canadian and the second woman to serve in the position. The first female Governor General of Canada was Jeanne Sauvé, who served from 1984 to 1990.
The third woman to hold this position is Michaëlle Jean, who took office on September 27, 2005. Jean is also the first Black Canadian Governor General.
It is traditional that an appointed individual act as the Queen's representative for a minimum of five years, but the Canadian Prime Minister may advise the Queen to extend the Vice-Regal's tenure. For instance, Adrienne Clarkson would have been in office for five years as of 2004, but her appointment as Governor General was extended by the Queen on the advice of Prime Minister Paul Martin, who deemed that it was preferable to have an experienced Governor General in place while a minority government remained in power. The tenures of other Governors General, including Georges VanierRoland Michener, have been extended beyond five years in previous circumstances. Governors General may resign from office, as, for instance, Roméo LeBlanc did in 1999 due to health concerns.
If the Governor General dies or leaves the country for more than one month, the Chief Justice of Canada (or, if that position is vacant, the senior Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada) serves as Administrator of the Government Sir Lyman Poore Duff (1940) and Chief Justice Robert Taschereau (1967).