Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces
|Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces
Commandant en chef des Forces armées canadiennes
|Her Majesty's Canadian Armed Forces|
|Constituting instrument||Constitution Act, 1867, Letters Patent, 1947|
|Formation||1 July 1867|
|First holder||Queen Victoria|
|Succession||Reigning monarch of Canada, represented by the Governor General of Canada|
|Deputy||Chief of the Defence Staff|
The Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces (French: Commandant en chef des Forces armées 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 Julie Payette, 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 were delegated 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.
As all executive power is legally reposed in the Canadian sovereign, the role of commander-in-chief is the only constitutional means by which decisions are made over the deployment and disposition of the Canadian Armed Forces. 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—generally exercises the crown prerogative powers relating to the 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."
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 Armed 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 may wear a flag officer's navy uniform or a general officer's army or air force uniform 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 shoulder boards with the badges facing forward.
Commanders-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces
|Year||Sovereign||Year||Represented by Governor General|
|Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Land and Naval Militia|
|1867 – 1901||Queen Victoria|
|1901 – 1910||King Edward VII||1904 – 1910||The Earl Grey|
|Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Militia and Naval Forces|
|1910 – 1919||King George V||1910 – 1911||The Earl Grey|
|1911 – 1916||Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn|
|1916 – 1919||The Duke of Devonshire|
|Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Militia and Naval and Air Forces|
|1919 – 1936||King George V||1919 – 1921||The Duke of Devonshire|
|1921 – 1926||The Viscount Byng of Vimy|
|1926 – 1931||The Marquess of Willingdon|
|1931 – 1935||The Earl of Bessborough|
|1935 – 1936||The Lord Tweedsmuir|
|1936||King Edward VIII||1936|
|1936 – 1952||King George VI||1936 – 1940|
|1940 – 1946||The Earl of Athlone|
|1946 – 1952||The Earl Alexander of Tunis|
|1952 – 1968||Queen Elizabeth II||1952|
|1952 – 1959||Vincent Massey|
|1959 – 1967||Georges Vanier|
|1967 – 1968||Roland Michener|
|Commanders-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces|
|1968 – present||Queen Elizabeth II||1968 – 1974||Roland Michener|
|1974 – 1979||Jules Léger|
|1979 – 1984||Edward Schreyer|
|1984 – 1990||Jeanne Sauvé|
|1990 – 1995||Ramon John Hnatyshyn|
|1995 – 1999||Roméo LeBlanc|
|1999 – 2005||Adrienne Clarkson|
|2005 – 2010||Michaëlle Jean|
|2010 – 2017||David Lloyd Johnston|
|2017 –||Julie Payette|
- Victoria (29 March 1867), Constitution Act, 1867, III.15, Westminster: Queen's Printer, archived from the original on 28 May 2013, retrieved 1 June 2013
- Canadian Forces Grievance Board (28 August 2006), Canadian Forces Grievance Board, HAR-7088-3119, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, archived from the original on 7 April 2008, retrieved 7 February 2008
- Federal Court of Canada (21 January 2008), In the Matter of Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh v. the Attorney-General of Canada (PDF), T-1809-06; 38, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 5, 2008 FC 69, retrieved 7 February 2008
- Office of the Governor General of Canada, Role and Responsibilities > Commander-in-Chief, Queen's Printer for Canada, retrieved 1 October 2010
- 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
- Lagassé, Philippe (December 2013). "The Crown’s Powers of Command-in Chief: Interpreting Section 15 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867" (PDF). Review of Constitutional Studies. 18 (2): 189–220.
- Department of National Defence (27 July 2013). "FAQ". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- 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
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Honours > Other > Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
- Canadian Heraldic Authority. "The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada > Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
- Department of National Defence, Canadian Forces Dress Instructions (PDF), Queen's Printer for Canada, pp. 3–7–3, archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011, retrieved 15 November 2010