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Commandant en chef des Forces canadiennes
Governor General Michaëlle Jean presenting the Queen's Colour to the Canadian Forces Maritime Command, 27 June 2009.
Command Her Majesty's Canadian Forces
Eligibility Reigning Monarch of Canada, represented by the Governor General of Canada
Status Currently constituted
Abbreviation C-in-C
Next (lower) Chief of the Defence Staff

In Canada, the term Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces (in French: Commandant en chef des Forces canadiennes) can refer to both the position of supreme commander of the country's armed forces, and to the title granted to the viceroy. Constitutionally, command-in-chief is vested in the Canadian sovereign, though these duties have been delegated to the Governor General of Canada, who has consequently been bestowed with the title Commander-in-Chief.[1] By viceregal protocol, the title used with Canadian audiences is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, and in international contexts is Commander-in-Chief of Canada.


Constitutional provisions, title, and delegation

Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, in her role as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Militia and Naval and Air Forces, pictured with the crew of the HMCS St. Laurent in Stockholm, Sweden, 11 June 1956.

The Constitution Act, 1867, states that "The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue to be vested in the Queen."[2] However, beginning in 1904, the exercise of the duties of the Commander-in-Chief was transferred to the Governor General of Canada, the monarch's representative in the country. The Militia Act from that year stated that "the Command-in-Chief of the Militia is declared to continue and be vested in the King, and shall be administered by His Majesty or by the Governor General as his representative." Following this, in 1905, the Letters Patent constituting the Office of the Governor General were amended to read the "Letters Patent constituting the Office of the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief."

Throughout the development of the Armed Forces, the monarch has remained vested with command-in-chief,[3][4] while the Governor General's title altered to suit the changes in the militia's structure. Following the establishment of the Canadian Department of the Naval Service in 1910, the viceroy was styled Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval Forces, and after the creation of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1918, as Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces. Following this, letters patent issued in 1947 by King George VI referred to the Office of Governor General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada.[1][5] In 1968, following the unification of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Commander-in-Chief became the senior most officer of the Canadian Armed Forces, now the Canadian Forces.

Though all executive power is legally reposed in the Crown, the role of commander-in-chief is primarily symbolic in practice; under the Westminster system's conventions of responsible government, the Cabinet – which advises the sovereign or her viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers – holds de facto decision making power over the deployment and disposition of Canadian forces. Still, all declarations of war are issued with the approval, and in the name, of the monarch, and must be signed by either the sovereign or the Governor General, as was done with the proclamation that declared Canada at war with Nazi Germany, issued on 10 September 1939; it stated: "Whereas by and with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada We have signified Our Approval for the issue of a Proclamation in the Canada Gazette declaring that a State of War with the German Reich exists and has existed in Our Dominion of Canada as and from the tenth day of September, 1939."[6]

In exercising the duties of commander-in-chief, the Governor General appoints the Chief of the Defence Staff, as well as royal colonels-in-chief of Canadian regiments (save for the Queen herself), approves new military badges and insignia, visits Canadian Forces personnel within Canada and abroad, bestowes honours, and signs Commission Scrolls.[1]

Commanders-in-chief of the Canadian Forces

Year Sovereign Year Represented by Governor General
Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Land and Naval Militia
1867 – 1901 Victoria-sm.jpg Queen Victoria
1901 – 1910 Edward VII in coronation robes.jpg King Edward VII 1904 – 1910 GG-Albert Grey.jpg The Earl Grey
Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Militia and Naval Forces
1910 – 1919 Kinggeorgev1923.jpg King George V 1910 – 1911 GG-Albert Grey.jpg The Earl Grey
1911 – 1916 GG-Prince Arthur.jpg Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
1916 – 1919 GG-Victor Cavendish.jpg The Duke of Devonshire
Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Militia and Naval and Air Forces
1919 – 1936 Kinggeorgev1923.jpg King George V 1919 – 1921 GG-Victor Cavendish.jpg The Duke of Devonshire
1921 – 1926 GG-Julian Byng.jpg The Viscount Byng of Vimy
1926 – 1931 GG-Freeman Freeman-Thomas.jpg The Marquess of Willingdon
1931 – 1935 GG-Vere Ponsonby.jpg The Earl of Bessborough
1935 – 1936 GG-John Buchan.jpg The Lord Tweedsmuir
1936 Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13538, Edward Herzog von Windsor.jpg King Edward VIII 1936
1936 – 1952 King George VI of England, formal photo portrait, circa 1940-1946.jpg King George VI 1936 – 1940
1940 – 1946 GG-Alexander Cambridge.jpg The Earl of Athlone
1946 – 1952 GG-Harold Alexander.jpg The Earl Alexander of Tunis
1952 – 1968 Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit.jpg Queen Elizabeth II 1952
1952 – 1959 Can GG NoPic.svg Vincent Massey
1959 – 1967 Vanier.jpg Georges Vanier
1967 – 1968 Can GG NoPic.svg Roland Michener
Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces
1968 – present Elizabeth II greets NASA GSFC employees, May 8, 2007 edit.jpg Queen Elizabeth II 1968 – 1974 Can GG NoPic.svg Roland Michener
1974 – 1979 Can GG NoPic.svg Jules Léger
1979 – 1984 Can GG NoPic.svg Edward Schreyer
1984 – 1990 Can GG NoPic.svg Jeanne Sauvé
1990 – 1995 Can GG NoPic.svg Ramon John Hnatyshyn
1995 – 1999 Can GG NoPic.svg Roméo LeBlanc
1999 – 2005 GG-Adrienne Clarkson.jpg Adrienne Clarkson
2005 – present GG-Michaelle Jean.jpg Michaëlle Jean

See also


  1. ^ a b c Office of the Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean > Role and Responsibilities > Commander-in-Chief, Queen's Printer for Canada,, retrieved 15 January 2009  
  2. ^ Victoria (29 March 1867), Constitution Act, 1867, III.15, Westminster: Queen's Printer,, retrieved 15 January 2009  
  3. ^ Canadian Forces Grievance Board (28 August 2006), Canadian Forces Grievance Board, HAR-7088-3119, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada,, retrieved 7 February 2008  
  4. ^ Federal Court of Canada (21 January 2008), In the Matter of Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh v. the Attorney-General of Canada, T-1809-06; 38, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 5, 2008 FC 69,, retrieved 7 February 2008  
  5. ^ George VI (1 October 1947), Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor General of Canada, X., Ottawa: King's Printer for Canada,, retrieved 7 June 2006  
  6. ^ George VI (10 September 1939), "Proclamation of a State of War between Canada and Germany", Canada Gazette (Ottawa: King's Printer for Canada) (Extra),, retrieved 16 January 2009  


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