The Governor General represents His Majesty The King at the federal level in Canada. The office of Governor General is the oldest continuous institution in Canada and is an unbroken link with the early days of European settlement in our country. Appointed governor of New France in 1627, Samuel de Champlain was the first of 18 French governors who would hold the position in turn until 1760. From then until 1867, a total of 21 British governors and governors general held office in Canada. Until 1952, Governors General were British. The 1952 installation of Vincent Massey, the first Canadian to hold the office, reflected Canada's new sense of autonomy and identity in the post-war era and Canadian sense of pride in the Canadian Crown.
Vincent Massey's appointment was important, marking the beginning of the modern institution of the Governor General where a Canadian represents The King and carries out His Majesty’s responsibilities in Canada. Since then, the role of the Governor General has evolved. The following are among the responsibilities of Canada's Governor General, all of which are undertaken in the name of The King:
Appointed by The King on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Governor General usually holds office for 5 years. Lieutenant Governors fulfill the responsibilities and functions of The King in the provinces in the same way that the Governor General does at the national level.
The Governor General bears the title “Excellency” during office, along with his or her spouse, and carries the title “Right Honourable” for life.
In 1947, "Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General of Canada" (under King George VI) authorized the Governor General to exercise most of the Crown's powers on behalf of the Sovereign.
The Governor General has important parliamentary responsibilities:
The Governor General is also Commander-in-Chief of Canada. He or she visits military bases and honours Canadian military personnel on behalf of The King.
The Governor General also fulfills important ceremonial duties:
Under exceptional circumstances, it is possible for the Governor General to be absent or for the position of Governor General to be temporarily vacant. In such cases, the “Letters Patent Constituting the Office of the Governor General of Canada” (1947) stipulate that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada will assume the duties of Governor General on a temporary basis, as the Administrator of the Government, until an absent Governor General returns to Canada and resumes their duties, or in the case of a transition, until the Governor General Designate has been appointed and sworn in as the new Governor General of Canada.
His Majesty The King is represented by ten lieutenant governors at the provincial level. The governor general, lieutenant governors and territorial commissioners meet annually to discuss matters of mutual interests and how they can better serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
While in office, the lieutenant governors exercise the following responsibilities:
Lieutenant Governors are the highest ranking officers of their province and represent His Majesty The King in their jurisdictions. The Lieutenant Governor's ceremonial and community functions include, among others:
After the British North America Act was adopted in 1867, lieutenant governors acted as a liaison between federal and provincial governments and advised the provincial government on federal legislation. Now that provinces have acquired jurisdiction over more regional matters, the role is focused primarily on responsibilities as the Sovereign’s representative and as chief executive officer of the province.
- Source : Governor General of Canada
Lieutenant governors are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister of Canada. They act as representatives of the Sovereign and normally serve for five years.
Upon taking office, they assume the title “Honourable” for the remainder of their lives. In conversation and correspondence, the lieutenant governor is addressed as “Your Honour,” as is his or her spouse.