Julie Payette is out as Canada’s Governor General.
The Queen’s vice-regal representative in Canada resigned this week following a scathing report into workplace harassment and bullying in her office. Payette’s departure leaves Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with the key role of selecting a new person to put forward to Queen Elizabeth II for approval to fill the role.
The type of person selected to be governor general has varied throughout history. For a long time, the role was filled by members of the royal family. Throughout the back end of the 20th century, former Canadian politicians, officials or friends of the prime minister often got the nod. And in recent years it’s been filled by individuals looking to promote education or progress.
Trudeau says he’s already spoken to Queen Elizabeth II about Payette’s resignation and is considering who to nominate in her place.
The main role of the governor general is to provide a direct line between the Queen and the Canadian government. In the absence of the monarch, they do all their parliamentary duties, such as summoning parliament, dissolving it for elections or even proroguing it. They also give the official go-ahead — aka royal assent — to federal bills. Ceremonially, they also host members of the royal family when they visit Canada, and are tasked with fostering “national unity and pride.”
So that’s all to say, it really could be anyone. And while there are some obvious politically sound picks we’ll get to, let’s use this opportunity to truly imagine a fun and iconically Canadian governor general.
With that in mind, here are 11 very serious (and not so serious) candidates for Canada’s governor general.
The national icon: Celine Dion
Who better to represent our country and act as our formal head of state than the icon herself? This week she demonstrated that she is adept at communicating important government messages in both English and French.
We all know that Celine will show the best of Canada to important officials, and her flair for the dramatic (and amazing outfits) means there will never be a dull moment.
The royal pick: Prince Harry
Nothing about the governor general’s role says they have to be Canadian, so why not get the Queen’s grandson himself to do it? Back in the day, the governor general’s role in commonwealth countries was often filled by members of the royal family. Harry’s a great fit seeing as he’s already in North America
The shooting star: Chris Hatfield
Just because one astronaut didn’t work out doesn’t mean we can’t have another in Rideau Hall!
The do-it-all celeb: Dan Levy
He won like a million Emmys last year, got thousands of people to enroll in an online course on Indigenous history and called bullsh*t when a Catholic school board tried to censor LGBTQ+ teens. What can’t Dan Levy do? Why not add a stint in Rideau Hall to that list of accolades?
The king of the north: Drake
He’s already the ceremonial head of the Toronto Raptors, why not extend that role to all of Canada? Besides who among us doesn’t want a future episode of “The Crown” where Drake meets with the Queen? #WeTheNorth
The Canadian story: Tareq Hadhad
The Syrian refugee and founder of Peace By Chocolate is at the centre of one of Canada’s most heartwarming stories. He definitely has the “fostering national pride” part of the job down. And there’s precedent — former governor general Michaelle Jean was also a refugee.
The beloved athlete: Hayley Wickenheiser
She is a little busy putting her medical education to use amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of Canada’s all-time greatest athletes would certainly be a good choice. She’s got the national pride, the resume and the youthful spirit to bring an exciting new era to the office of governor general.
WATCH: This Canadian hockey hero is bring love of sport to India’s girls. Story continues below.
The next generation: Elliot Page
The Nova Scotia-born actor and advocate has become a beacon for Canada’s LGBTQ+ community, particularly in recent months after coming out as trans. They’ve used their celebrity to speak out about issues like LGBTQ+ rights, clean water access for Indigenous communities and climate change, all issues that would further be platformed from the governor general’s office.
The former PM: Kim Campbell
Canada’s first and only female prime minister has remained an outspoken figure in Canadian politics since her departure from the House of Commons, and remains well-respected by Trudeau and other officials in the current government, having been brought on to several advisory roles in recent years. The governor general’s office has long been a space for retired politicians to take up residence, and Campbell would make sense.
The more obvious political choice: Anne McLellan
Speaking of political retirees from Western Canada, many are pegging former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan for the role. The former Edmonton MP was defeated in the 2006 federal election, but has enjoyed quite a distinguished career since leaving office.
She’s served as Chancellor of Dalhousie University in Halifax, and was brought on by Trudeau as an adviser following the 2019 federal election to help address western alienation. A governor general with history in both Alberta and Atlantic Canada would certainly help in the push towards more national unity.
The reconciliatory choice: an Indigenous leader
Many have speculated that Trudeau will nominate a respected Indigenous leader to the role as a move to further entrench Indigenous voices in Canada’s governance system. Historically, the governor general played a key role in developing treaties in Canada, and the head of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs says it’s time for an Indigenous person in the role.
“It would also be a testament to the collaboration of what it took to make Canada the country it is today,” he told the CBC this week.
“I think that having a First Nations person play that role would help expedite those things and encourage the conversation and acknowledgement of how it’s actually the First Nations, along with the French and English, that built this country.”
However, not everyone’s onboard. When asked on Twitter about it, former MP Romeo Saganash said the Crown must respect and honour all treaties before he would accept any sort of role of honour from the monarchy.
“Queen Elizabeth II sent her Commemorative Diamond Jubilee Medal to all MPs in 2012, for the 60th anniversary of her accession to the Thrones,” he wrote. “I sent it back with a letter basically saying I couldn’t accept it until the Crown respects and honours all Treaties. She never replied!”