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Role of the Governor General of Canada

Appointment and Duties of the Canadian Governor General

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Representative of the Crown in Canada

The Queen or sovereign is the head of state in Canada. The Governor General of Canada represents the sovereign, and most of the powers and authority of the sovereign have been delegated to the Governor General. The role of the Canadian Governor General is mostly symbolic and ceremonial.

The head of government in Canada is the Prime Minister, an elected political leader.

Appointment of the Governor General

The Canadian Governor General is selected by the Prime Minister of Canada, although the formal appointment is made by the Queen. The term of office of the Governor General is usually five years, but it is sometimes extended up to seven years. There is a tradition of alternating between anglophone and francophone Governors General in Canada.

Official Duties of the Governor General of Canada

The official duties of the Governor General of Canada include:

  • giving Royal Assent to bills passed in the Canadian House of Commons and Senate

  • reading the Speech from the Throne which outlines the Canadian federal government agenda for a new session of Parliament

  • executing orders-in-council or cabinet decisions

  • appointing superior court judges, on the advice of cabinet

  • summoning, closing and dissolving Parliament, on the advice of the Prime Minister

  • inviting the leader of the party with the most support in the House of Commons to form the government. That party leader becomes Prime Minister.

  • in times of emergency or special circumstances, exercising the special personal authority of the Governor General to appoint or dismiss a prime minister or dissolve Parliament. This authority is rarely used.

  • receiving and sending ambassadors.

The Canadian Governor General plays a strong role in encouraging excellence in Canada through a system of honours and awards such as the Order of Canada and promotes national identity and national unity.

The Governor General of Canada is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.

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