Canada and the United States originally left England on very different terms. The United States broke ties with England completely, whereas Canada continued to be an English colony, accepting the British king or queen as its own.
Canada’s connection to Britain is maintained by a special head of state known as the Governor-General.
The Governor-General is the link between Canada’s Prime Minister and Britain’s Queen. To this day, when certain Acts of Parliament are passed, it is the Governor-General who obtains the Queen’s signature. The Governor-General is also the Queen’s representative at official events such as military ceremonies.
The Governor-General is appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, on a recommendation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In reality, Stephen Harper chooses the person and Queen Elizabeth signs off on the appointment—and although it is unlikely that she would say no, technically she does hold that power.
There is no set time limit for a person to hold the office of Governor-General, but it’s usually about five years. There is a Canadian tradition of alternating between French-Canadian and English-Canadian Governors-General.
Since 2005, Canada’s Governor-General has been Michaelle Jean. However, she recently stepped down. Last Friday, Canada appointed its 28th Governor-General: David Johnston.
The former university professor said that his priorities as Governor-General will be supporting families and children; learning and innovation; and encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism. He said that we need to “cherish our teachers.” Johnston has a wife, Sharon, and five children, all of them girls.
Here is the Governor-General’s official website.
Many previous Governors-General have backgrounds in politics. Michaelle Jean, who was the former Governor-General, was a journalist and broadcaster who did not have experience in politics. Do you think it is important for the Governor-General to be a politician?
One of the main roles of the Governor-General is to be “the link between Canada’s Prime Minister and Britain’s Queen.” This role is controversial because some people believe that Canada should separate itself from Britain; whereas other people think Canada should maintain its ties to the commonwealth. What is your opinion? Do you think the role of Governor-General is important, or do you think it is irrelevant?
A previous Governor-General, the Marquess of Lorne, believed that the position of Governor-General was very difficult. He explained: “It is no easy thing to be a Governor-General of Canada. You must have the patience of a saint, the smile of a cherub, the generosity of an Indian prince, and the back of a camel.”
Explain what the Marquess of Lorne means by his statement. Discuss what characteristics you think are important for Governors-General to have.
Express personal opinions about ideas presented in texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).
Make judgments and draw conclusions about ideas in texts and cite stated or implied evidence from the text to support their views (OME, Reading: 1.8).
Grammar Feature: Plural Nouns
Discuss the different ways in which words are made plural.
“To this day, when certain laws are passed, it is the Governor-General who goes to the Queen for her signature.” (add an ‘s’)
“The former university professor said that his priorities as Governor-General will be supporting families and children; learning and innovation; and encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism.” (change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and add ‘es’)
“There is a Canadian tradition of alternating between French-Canadian and English-Canadian Governors-General.” (exceptions to the common rules)