During a recent trip to Canada, we saw President Obama being escorted across the tarmac by a woman of color.
Who is that lady? Why she is Governor General Michaelle Jean.
A well-known journalist and broadcaster in Quebec, Michaëlle Jean immigrated from Haiti with her family at an early age. Fluent in five languages – French, English, Italian, Spanish and Haitian Creole – Michaëlle Jean is the first black Governor General of Canada. A social activist for women and children at risk, Michaëlle Jean plans to use the office of Governor General to help disadvantaged young people. Michaëlle Jean is married to filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond and has a young daughter.
Jean was appointed as the Governor General on September 27,2005.
Head of State
Although the Queen or sovereign is the head of state in Canada, the powers and authority of the sovereign have been delegated to the Governor General of Canada, and the Governor General is in effect the Canadian head of state. The role of the Canadian Governor General is mostly symbolic and ceremonial.
Appointment of the Governor General
The Canadian Governor General is selected by the Prime Minister of Canada, although the formal appointment is made by the Queen. The term of office of the Governor General is usually five years, but it is sometimes extended up to seven years. There is a tradition of alternating between anglophone and francophone Governors General in Canada.
Official Duties of the Governor General of Canada
The official duties of the Governor General of Canada include:
* giving Royal Assent to bills passed in the Canadian House of Commons and Senate
* reading the Speech from the Throne which outlines the Canadian federal government agenda for a new session of Parliament
* executing orders-in-council or cabinet decisions
* appointing superior court judges, on the advice of cabinet
* summoning, closing and dissolving Parliament, on the advice of the Prime Minister
* inviting the leader of the party with the most support in the House of Commons to form the government. That party leader becomes Prime Minister.
* in times of emergency or special circumstances, exercising the special personal authority of the Governor General to appoint or dismiss a prime minister or dissolve Parliament. This authority is rarely used.
* receiving and sending ambassadors.
The Canadian Governor General plays a strong role in encouraging excellence in Canada through a system of honours and awards such as the Order of Canada and promotes national identity and national unity.
The Governor General of Canada is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
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