Welcome back! Yesterday we learned about the Canadian flag, and well, despite Canadians wanting a flag with its own identity, we haven’t yet let go of the Monarchy.
Canada is a member of the Commonwealth of Great Britain. This means that even though we have become independent, we wished to retain our British roots. India was the first country to become part of the Commonwealth, followed by 52 other countries.
Because of this, the Queen of England is also the Queen of Canada. And the Queen of Australia, and the Queen of New Zealand, and twelve other Commonwealth countries.
So how can one Queen (or King) perform royal duties for multiple countries? Well, first of all, in the case of many Commonwealth countries such as Canada, our own parliament makes all the decisions and the Queen allows us to do so. She plays more of a ceremonial role. That said, sometimes, if Canadian parliament cannot agree on something of significance to the nation, they can ask the Queen to intervene.
The Governor General of Canada
And sometimes the Queen can’t be in four places as once. So these ceremonial and constitutional duties are fulfilled by the Governor General of Canada.
He (or she) is the representative of the Queen. He attends events on her behalf. He reads the Speech from the Throne to Canadians. He brings forward issues to the Queen if we want her input. He is recommended by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Queen, and traditionally, the Governor General alternates between a French-speaking Canadian and an English-speaking Canadian.
The Governor General also acts as a symbol of stable government. On behalf of the Queen he is granted executive, legislative and judicial power in Canada (when required). He summons parliament and can also dissolve or prorogue parliament. He also serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. He acts as Head of State on behalf of the Queen. If you’re American, you might notice this is a bit different from having the elected leader of the country as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston
Our current Governor General is His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. He has led a fascinating life: lawyer, professor, University president, accomplished author (25 books!), among other many impressive feats as a citizen’s citizen. Last year, the Governor General granted the Prime Minister’s request to stay on for an additional two years over the five year term – extending his tenure until 2017.