The Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces (French: Commandant en chef des Forces canadiennes) is the supreme commander of Canada's armed forces. Constitutionally, command-in-chief is vested in the Canadian sovereign, presently Queen Elizabeth II. As the representative of the Queen, the Governor General of Canada, presently David Johnston, has been authorized to exercise the powers and responsibilities belonging to the sovereign and has consequently been bestowed with the title Commander-in-Chief. By viceregal protocol, the title used with Canadian audiences is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces and, in international contexts, Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
Constitutional provisions, title, and delegation
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 and be vested in the Queen." 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, 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, the letters patent issued in 1947 by King George VI referred to the Office of Governor General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada. 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 most senior officer of the Canadian Armed 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 NaziGermany, 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."
The banner of the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation
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 (except for those bearing St. Edward's Crown, which may only be sanctioned by the monarch), visits Canadian Forces personnel within Canada and abroad, bestowes honours, and signs commission scrolls. Since 2000, the governor general also awards the Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation to units in the Canadian Forces and allied militias that have performed extraordinary deeds or activities in highly hazardous circumstances in active combat. An insignia pin is presented to members and the unit receives a scroll and may fly a special banner.
Unique commander-in-chief rank insignia is displayed on the applicable Canadian Forces uniforms, which the commander-in-chief may choose to wear on occasion. In accordance with the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions, the commander-in-chief wears a general officer uniform for any of the three environments with, as appropriate or desirable; a flag or general officer hat badge; a special flag or general officer sleeve braid, embellished with the commander-in-chief's badge (the crest of the Royal Arms of Canada); and a large, embroidered commander-in-chief's badge on the shoulder straps or boards, the badges facing forward.