What Does the Governor General of Canada Do?

The flag of the Governor General of Canada.
The flag of the Governor General of Canada.

The governor general is a representative of the Sovereign in Canada, and the person who exercises the powers of the Crown. The Queen advised by the Prime Minister who is the head of government appoints the holder of the office of the Governor General. The selected person is commissioned for an unfixed period though holders typically serve for five years. The governor general performs all the constitutional and ceremonial duties on behalf of the Queen. David Johnson is the current Canadian Governor General and has held the position since October 1, 2010.

Duties of the Governor General of Canada

The governor general performs both constitutional and ceremonial duties in the name of the sovereign.

Constitutional Roles

Despite not possessing any prerogative powers independently, the governor general exercises the executive, legislative, and judicial powers in the sovereign’s name. The incumbent also has powers to give executive and cabinet orders. Tasked by the Constitution Act, 1867, the governor general appoints persons to the Queens Privy Council for Canada. The Prime Minister also directs the governor general to appoint the cabinet. The holder of the office also appoints superior court judges with the advice of the cabinet.

The governor general performs parliamentary duties in the absence of the sovereign, duties such as summoning of Parliament, delivering the Speech from the Throne, and dissolving parliament. The governor general assents to bills that have been passed by the Canadian House of Commons and the Senate in the Queens’s name.

Ceremonial Roles

Since the Constitution delegates most of the constitutional functions of the cabinet, the governor general acts primarily on ceremonial duties. The governor general host Canada’s royal family members as well as foreign heads of states and other royalties.He or she also represents the Queen of Canada in visiting other countries through the approval of her Majesty and the prime minister. The governor general also has the powers to receive foreign ambassadors send to Canada and can also send and recall Canadian representatives. The governor general has the task of fostering national pride and unity as it is of great important to maintain the relationship between the Crown and the Canadian people.The governor general issues medals and public orders to individuals being honored by Canada. He or she acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces in the event when the Queen delegates these duties through issuing of commands to Canadian troops, visiting them in their bases and seeing them off when they are going on duty. The holder of the office is also an honorary colonel.


Since the Governor General represents the Sovereign of Canada, he performs virtually all the duties of the Queen. He or she performs daily functions of the Queen but in the name of the sovereign although constitutionally, they are not the same with the sovereign. This fact means that the office of the governor general does not possess independent powers.

What Does the Governor General of Canada Do?

RankGovernors General of Canada (Since 1952)Prime Minister
1The Viscount Alexander of TunisSt. Laurent
2Vincent MasseySt. Laurent, Diefenbaker
3Georges VanierDiefenbaker, Pearson
4Roland MichenerPearson, P.E. Trudeau
5Jules LegerP.E. Trudeau
6Edward SchreyerP.E. Trudeau, Clark
7Jeanne sauceP.E. Trudeau, Malroney
8Ray HnatshynMulroney, Campbell, Chretien
9Romeo LeBlancChretien
10Adrienne ClarksonChretien, Martin
11Michaelle JeanMartin, Harper
12David JohnstonHarper, J. Trudeau

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