OTTAWA—Mary Simon, Canada’s 30th Governor General, steps into a job that’s existed in one way or another for nearly 400 years.
It began with Samuel de Champlain acting as the representative of the French Crown as French settlements were being set up in what became North America.
When the British took over, a similar job was created and when in 1867 Canada became a country, it became an official role.
So, what’s the job exactly?
Canada is both a constitutional monarchy, and a parliamentary democracy. What that means is the government acts in the name of the Crown, but on the authority of the Canadian people.
So, the role of the GG, as it is colloquially known, is as the Crown’s representative in Canada, ensuring that the gears of democracy are turning as they should.
It’s a non-partisan and apolitical post, with the main responsibility ensuring Canada has a prime minister and government with the confidence of Parliament.
That part comes with some obligatory duties: swearing in the prime minister, cabinet, and the chief justice; delivering the Speech from the Throne, granting Royal Assent to bills so they become law, making some federal-level appointments, and summoning, proroguing and dissolving Parliament.
There are diplomatic duties, including representing Canada abroad, whether at state funerals, Olympic Games or other events, and the governor general is the commander-in-chief of Canada, which brings some responsibility connected to the military.
The governor general also presides over honours like the Order of Canada and the Meritorious Services Decorations.
And, if you’re looking to get a coat of arms made for your family? The GG oversees that system too.
Stephanie Levitz is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @StephanieLevitz