Who needs a viceregal when you've got the sovereign?
Governor-General Michaëlle Jean will greet the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, when they land in Canada on June 28 to begin a three-province royal tour. Ms. Jean will bid her adieus when the couple board the plane for the flight back to Britain.
But, for most of the nine-day visit, Ms. Jean will make herself scarce. In fact, she won't even be in the country. The Prime Minister's Office announced on Monday that the Governor-General will travel to China two days after the Queen arrives in Canada and return the day before she leaves.
It is protocol for both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister to be on hand when the monarch arrives and when she departs. But, while the Queen is travelling the country, the Governor-General is rather superfluous.
"While it's indeed unusual for the Governor-General to undertake a state visit overseas during a royal tour, it's certainly not out of the ordinary. Frankly, it's probably expected that the Governor-General fade into the background while the Queen is in Canada," Robert Finch, the chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, said in an e-mail.
"We must remember that the Queen is not coming to Canada as a foreign head of state. She's coming as Canada's head of state. Therefore, it really doesn't matter one way or another that her representative - the Governor-General - won't be here as well for the duration of Her Majesty's tour."
Ms. Jean has accepted China's invitation to represent Canadians for Canada's National Day at the World Expo in Shanghai.
"Canada is at an important juncture with China," said Sarah MacIntyre, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who noted that 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Plus, it's not a bad idea to ensure that the head of state and the viceregal steer clear of one another.
Canadian historian Jack Granatstein recalled that, in 2004, both the Queen and then-governor-general Adrienne Clarkson were at Juno Beach for the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. Ms. Clarkson insisted on speaking as the Queen, said Mr. Granatstein And the Queen, he said, was not happy. "I am told there was fury."
Royalty expert Michael Jackson, who was Saskatchewan's protocol officer for 25 years, said there is no need for the Governor-General to be around when the sovereign visits. However, he pointed out, the Governor-General continues to exercise all her constitutional functions even when the Queen is present.
Ms. Jean's five-year term of office ends this year and she is completing her final round of duties in a job in which she has negotiated through some complex issues - including Mr. Harper's request that she prorogue Parliament when he was challenged by an opposition coalition in 2008.
"I think this is simply an opportunity," said Mr. Finch, "for Madame Jean to make one more state visit - and an important one, too - before her mandate winds down."