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Governors-general represent the Queen, Canada’s head of state, and carry out some of the key ceremonial functions that keep our constitutional monarchy running. Their duties include:

  • Dissolving and opening Parliament: When it’s time for a federal election, the governor-general starts the process. Then, when a new parliament begins, the governor-general reads the Throne Speech setting out the government’s priorities.
  • Political oaths: The governor-general administers the oaths of office to prime ministers, cabinet ministers and chief justices of the Supreme Court.
  • Royal assent: Once bills are approved by the House and Senate, they have to be assented to by the governor-general before they come into force. No governor-general has ever refused such assent.
  • Diplomatic duties: Abroad, governors-general represent Canada at state functions. At home, they play host to visiting foreign leaders and receive official documents from new ambassadors that allow them to take their posts.
  • Military duties: The governor-general is commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.

To perform these roles, governors-general have to be strictly non-partisan, though some have had careers in party politics before Rideau Hall (like Manitoba’s NDP premier Ed Schreyer).

Inuk advocate Mary Simon is the newest governor-general, the first Indigenous woman to hold the post, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on July 6. The previous governor-general, Julie Payette, quit before her term was up; read our full explainer to learn why.