ANG 160 Fall 2005
From 1867 to 1952, every Governor General was a subject of the United
Kingdom and a member of the aristocracy. The last British Governor General was
Harold Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Tunis, who served from 1946 to 1952.
Since Vincent Massey's appointment in 1952, the position has been held only by
Canadians. Moreover, by tradition, the post has been held alternately by
English-Canadians and French-Canadians. Beginning in 1967, the Prime Minister
has forwarded the Queen a single name when proposing a vice-regal appointment;
previously a list of several names had been given to the Queen.
Although non-partisan while in office, Governors General are often former
politicians. Since 1952, individuals who previously served as diplomats, as
cabinet members, or as Speakers of the House of Commons have been appointed to
the post. The former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, was previously an
author and television anchor; she is the first Governor General in Canadian
history without either a political or military background. She is also the first
Asian-Canadian and the second woman to serve in the position. The first female
Governor General of Canada was Jeanne Sauvé, who served from 1984 to 1990. The
third woman to hold this position is Michaëlle Jean, who took office on
September 27, 2005. Jean is also the first Black Canadian Governor General.
Arms of Governor
The present flag of the Governor General was adopted in 1981. It
features a crowned lion holding a red maple leaf.
Although the Governor General's powers are in theory extensive, they are in
practice very limited. The Governor General is a symbolic and nominal chief
executive, acting within the constraints of constitutional convention and
precedent. Should the Governor General of Canada attempt to exercise any powers
without reference to constitutional convention and solely at his or her own
personal discretion, the action would likely result in a constitutional crisis
and in public outrage. Almost always, the Governor General exercises the Royal
Prerogative on the advice of the Prime Minister and other ministers. The Prime
Minister and ministers are, in turn, accountable to the democratically elected
House of Commons, and through it, to the people.
the adoption of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, it is obvious that
Governors General have been carefully chosen as a means of advertising
Canada’s multicultural policy and promote immigration.
in 1990 with the nomination of Ray Hnatyshyn, a Ukrainian Canadian, the post has
since been held, two times out of three, by people whose origins were other than
British or Canadian.
Right Honourable Ramon John "Ray" Hnatyshyn was Canada's
twenty-fourth governor general, serving from 1990 to 1995.
Canadian, was born the son of Canadian senator John Hnatyshyn in Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan. He attended the University of Saskatchewan and practised law in
that province until being elected to the House of Commons. He served as
Conservative Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-area ridings from 1974 to 1988.
The Right Honourable Adrienne Louise Clarkson was the Governor General of Canada from October 7, 1999 to September 27, 2005. She was the first Chinese Canadian and second woman to hold this position, the first being Jeanne Sauvé.
An image and nothing more? Or is the Government of Canada really ready to “ensure that Canadians of all origins have an equal opportunity to obtain employment and advancement in [federal] institutions”? And if so, will we live to see a person from a visible miority as Prime minister?