Governors General Representing Canada at Home and Abroad

As representatives of The Queen in Canada, governors general host numerous foreign leaders visiting Canada on State and official visits every year. As a regular practice of international relations, governors general receive reciprocal invitations to conduct visits abroad to many countries on behalf of all Canadians. By undertaking these visits at the request of the prime minister of Canada, governors general build on existing international relationships and strengthen ties across a broad range of sectors of Canadian life. Thematically focused delegations of Canadians from across the country accompany governors general on such visits, to convey a sense of Canadian initiatives and ideas to the host countries, and to represent various Canadian interests, achievements and areas of expertise.

Governors general first began to represent Canada on international travels in 1927, when Lord Willingdon was invited by President Calvin Coolidge to visit the United States. The first full State visit occurred 10 years later, in 1937, when Lord Tweedsmuir, was received at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and addressed the United States Senate. In 1948, Viscount Alexander made the first Canadian State visit to Latin America when he visited Brazil.

After visiting a number of Caribbean countries in 1969, Roland Michener further expanded the range of State visits by Canadian governors general by travelling outside the Americas. He was the first to be received on State visits in Europe, visiting the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in 1971.

Since then, each governor general has actively represented Canada at home and abroad.

1867-1926 The Post-Colonial Years

In the early days of Confederation, Canada conducted its formal relations with other countries through the diplomatic services of the imperial government in London, and through British embassies in other countries, including the United States. Governors general did not have official status outside Canada, but were nonetheless received with courtesy by presidents of the United States. The governor general’s office served as the connecting point in relations between the Government of Canada and the imperial government in London.


Lord Dufferin travels to the United States and meets President Ulysses S. Grant, as well as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes.


The Marquess of Lorne is given a military escort by a troop of the United States Cavalry as he travels to Fort Shaw, Montana.


Lord Lansdowne conducts a working visit to the United Kingdom to address the fisheries dispute between Canada and the United States.


Lord Minto travels to the United States and stays as a guest of President Theodore Roosevelt at his Long Island home.


Lord Minto pays an official visit to Michigan and receives a formal address of welcome from both houses of the State Legislature.


Earl Grey travels to the United Kingdom to help Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier convince the government of the United Kingdom to establish a fast trans-Atlantic service.

Earl Grey and the British ambassador to the United States attend a Quaker peace conference in New York. Earl Grey holds private talks with President Roosevelt.


Earl Grey receives Prince Fushimi Sadanaru of Japan, during the first official visit to Ottawa by a member of a foreign royal family.


Earl Grey travels to the United States to meet with President William Howard Taft.


The Duke of Connaught makes a goodwill visit to ease anxieties in the United States over Canada’s rejection of trade reciprocity. He visits the Vanderbilt mansion, calls on former President Roosevelt and steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and goes on to Washington for private meetings with President Taft and his officials.


The Duke of Devonshire travels to Washington to meet with President Woodrow Wilson and his Cabinet.


Lord Byng of Vimy pays an informal visit to the United States’ Territory of Alaska, escorted by Alaskan Governor Scott Cordelle Bone.

1926-1947 The Post-Imperial Years

The Imperial Conference of 1926 determined that the governor general’s functions in a dominion should be similar to those of a sovereign. Future relations between and among governments of dominions and the United Kingdom would be conducted through high commissioners. The governor general would be appointed by the Sovereign, on the recommendation of the Canadian, rather than British, government. The governor general would deal directly with Buckingham Palace, rather than through the Colonial Office. The governor general would also represent the Sovereign in dealings with other heads of State.

Canada started to conduct its own foreign affairs directly, opening diplomatic missions in Washington, Paris and Tokyo. The United States accorded the equivalency of Head of State status to visiting governors general.


Lord Willingdon receives Queen Marie of Romania.


First official visit by a British prime minister: Lord Willingdon receives Stanley Baldwin.  Later the same year, he receives newly elected British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, as well as the prime ministers of New Zealand and Australia.

Lord Willingdon visits Washington where President Calvin Coolidge hosts a head of State reception in his honour (arranged by Vincent Massey, the newly appointed first Canadian diplomatic representative to Washington.) Lord Willingdon travels on to New York and Boston.


Lord Willingdon receives Prime Minister William Cosgrave of the Irish Free State.


Lord Willingdon travels to the West Indies, Mauritius, Panama, Trinidad and Jamaica on an informal visit.


The Earl of Bessborough receives Prince and Princess Takamatsu of Japan.

The Earl of Bessborough receives King Prajadhipok of Siam, during the first visit to Canada by a reigning foreign monarch.


The first high-level international gathering in Ottawa, the Imperial Economic Conference, is opened by the Earl of Bessborough.


Lord Bessborough receives a delegation of senators from the United States investigating Canadian liquor laws in preparation for the appeal of Prohibition.


The first official visit by a president of the United States to a governor general on Canadian soil: President Franklin D. Roosevelt is the guest of Lord Tweedsmuir at the Citadelle of Québec.


Lord Tweedsmuir pays the first full State visit by a Canadian governor general to the United States. He stays at the White House as a guest of President Roosevelt, and addresses the United States Senate.

Lord Tweedsmuir receives Prince and Princess Chichibu of Japan.


The Earl of Athlone is a guest of President Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park on the Hudson. He tours the Canadian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair.


The Earl of Athlone receives Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands; Prince Olav and Princess Martha of Norway; Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Luxembourg; Empress Zita of Austria; and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom.


The Earl of Athlone receives King Georges of Greece; King Peter of Yugoslavia; and Prime Minister Herbert Evatt of Australia.

President Roosevelt visits the Earl of Athlone in Ottawa and addresses Parliament.


President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill are guests of the Earl of Athlone at the Citadelle of Québec, where they attend the Quebec Conference with Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King of Canada.


President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Prime Minister MacKenzie King stay at the Citadelle of Québec, as guests of the Earl of Athlone, for the Second Quebec Conference.


The Earl of Athlone visits President Roosevelt in March. A State dinner is held at the White House.

The Earl of Athlone returns to Washington in April for President Roosevelt’s funeral.

The Earl of Athlone receives Prime Minister Jan Smuts of South Africa.


Viscount Alexander visits President Harry S. Truman in Washington and goes on to visit the military academies at Annapolis and West Point.

1947 - 1952 The Assignment of Sovereign Powers

King George VI signs Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, 1947, governing the appointment of governors general. The letters patent authorize future governors general to exercise, on the advice of the Canadian government, all of the Sovereign’s powers and authorities in respect to Canada, including the signing and ratification of treaties, and the issuance of letters of credence for ambassadors.


Viscount Alexander hosts President Harry S. Truman of the United States on a State visit to Ottawa.


Viscount Alexander visits the United Kingdom for the Royal Silver Wedding Anniversary celebrations of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the unveiling of a commemorative statue of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States.

Viscount Alexander pays a State visit to Brazil and is received by President General
Enrico Gaspar Durra.


Viscount Alexander travels to Fort Lewis, Washington State, for the departure to Korea of the 6 000 members of the Canadian 25th Brigade.

1952 - 1967 The First Canadians

Vincent Massey becomes the first Canadian citizen to be appointed governor general. He is succeeded by Georges Vanier, the first Francophone to serve as governor general. They both face the responsibility of defining a Canadian character for the vice-regal office in Canada, and of responding to a growing number of high-level international visitors as a result of the country’s post-war stature.


Vincent Massey receives Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.


Massey receives President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States during his first State visit to Canada.


Massey visits Washington.

Massey receives Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Other visitors received by Massey during his mandate include Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India; the presidents of Germany, Indonesia and Italy; and President Eisenhower (on his second visit to Canada).


Georges Vanier receives President Charles de Gaulle of the French Republic on a State visit.


Vanier receives President John F. Kennedy of the United States on a State visit.


Vanier receives President Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan on a State visit.


Vanier receives Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia on his second State visit to Canada.


Vanier receives President Leopold Senghor of Senegal on a State visit. Other visitors received by Vanier during his mandate include the Shah and Empress of Iran; the presidents of Tunisia, Ireland, Finland, Iceland and Argentina; Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion of Israel; and British prime ministers Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson.

Canada on the World Stage

Upon his nomination as governor general in 1967, Roland Michener was encouraged by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to represent Canada in visits abroad under the terms of the Letters Patent signed by King George VI in 1947. The Government of Canada recognized state visits by the governor general as an effective way to promote Canadian interests overseas.

The number of foreign leaders visiting Canada grew steadily as Canada hosted major international events such as Expo 67 and Expo 86; the Olympics in 1976, 1988 and 2010; and meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, the G8, the G20 and the Summit of La Francophonie. At the same time, the number of ambassadors and high commissioners residing in Ottawa increased, as did the time spent by the governor general in discussions with representatives of foreign governments.


Roland Michener receives 53 Heads of State or their representatives in conjunction with
Expo 67. Among them are Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia on his third visit to Canada; Queen Juliana of the Netherlands; the Shah of Iran; the King of Thailand; the King and Queen of Greece; Princess Christina of Denmark; Princess Margrethe of Sweden;
Prince Harald of Norway; Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco; Prince Albert of Belgium; and the presidents of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Tanzania, French Republic, Germany, India, Iceland, Italy, Venezuela, Rwanda, and the Ivory Coast.


Michener conducts state visits to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Guyana.


Michener conducts State visits to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. This is the first time Canada pays a State visit to a European country, and the first time a Canadian governor general is recognized as the equivalent of head of State by a foreign monarch outside Canada. Michener, at the request of the government of Canada, joins the heads of State and their representatives from 50 countries at the international ceremonies commemorating the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, in Iran.


Michener receives President Richard Nixon of the United States on a State visit to Ottawa.


Jules Léger receives Baudouin, King of the Belgians, on a State visit to Canada.


Léger conducts a State visit to Spain.

Royal Tours in Canada

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh (1967, 1973, 1977); The Prince of Wales (1970, 1975).

Edward Schreyer (1979-1984)


Edward Schreyer receives President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico and
President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda on State visits to Canada.


Schreyer receives President Ronald Reagan of the United States on a State visit to Canada.

Schreyer receives King Hussein of Jordan.

Schreyer conducts State visits to Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.


Schreyer conducts State visits to Romania and Greece and also visits Greenland.


Schreyer conducts a State visit to Germany and also visits Austria.


Schreyer receives President Ramalho Eance of Portugal; King Juan Carlos I of Spain; and President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado of Mexico on State visits to Canada.

Royal Tours in Canada

The Prince of Wales (1980); The Prince and Princess of Wales (1983); Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1981); Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh (1984); The Duke of Edinburgh (1980, 1983, 1984).

Jeanne Sauvé (1984-1990)


Jeanne Sauvé receives Pope John Paul II.


Sauvé receives President Li Xiannian of China; Javier Perez de Cuéllar, United Nations Secretary-General; President Nicolae Ceaucescu of Romania; and President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania on State visits to Canada.



Sauvé conducts State visits to Italy and the Vatican.

Sauvé receives President Francesco Cossiga of the Republic of Italy; and the presidents of the People’s Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Cameroon on State visits to Canada.



Sauvé conducts State visits to China and Thailand.

Sauvé receives President Reagan and President François Mitterrand of  the French Republic on State visits to Canada.



Sauvé receives King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on State visits to Canada.

Sauvé conducts a State visit to France.




Sauvé receives President Chaim Herzog of Israel; President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland; and President Corazon Aquino of the Philippines on State visits to Canada.

Sauvé conducts State visits to Brazil and Uruguay.

Sauvé receives King Hussein of Jordan.

Royal Tours in Canada

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1985, 1989); The Earl of Wessex (1987).

Ramon Hnatyshyn (1990-1995)


Hnatyshyn receives Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, United Nations Secretary-General; President Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR; President Richard Von Weizsäcker of the Federal Republic of Germany; President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; and President Mauno Koivisto of Finland on State visits to Canada.

Hnatyshyn represents Canada at the Enthronement of Emperor Akihito of Japan.


Hnatyshyn represents Canada at the funeral of the King of Norway.

Hnatyshyn receives President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico; President Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera of Uruguay; President Roh Tae-woo of the Republic of Korea; President Arpad Goncz of Hungary; and Queen Margrethe of Denmark on State visits to Canada.

Hnatyshyn conducts a State visit to Portugal.


Hnatyshyn receives President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation on a State visit to Canada.

Hnatyshyn conducts State visits to Ukraine and Hungary, with an official visit to Vienna to meet Thomas Klestl, the new president of Austria.

Hnatyshyn receives King Hussein of Jordan.


Hnatyshyn represents Canada at the funeral of Baudouin, King of the Belgians.


Hnatyshyn conducts State visits to the Republic of Korea and China, as well as the first official visit by a Canadian governor general to Hong Kong.

Hnatyshyn is invited by the President François Mitterrand of the French Republic to join the representatives of World War II allies in ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Hnatyshyn receives President Carlos Menem of Argentina; President Lech Walesa of Poland; and President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine on State visits to Canada.

Hnatyshyn receives President Mary Robinson of Ireland; Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai of Thailand; Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene of Belgium; and President Nicéphore Soglo of Benin on official visits to Canada.

Royal Tours in Canada

Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh (1990, 1991, 1994); The Prince and Princess of Wales, Princes William and Henry of Wales (1991).

Roméo LeBlanc (1995-1999)


Roméo LeBlanc receives President Abdou Diouf of Senegal; President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico; and President Eduardo Frei of Chile.

LeBlanc conducts State visits to Czech Republic, Austria and the Netherlands.


LeBlanc receives President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil; President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro of Italy; President Jiang Zemin of China; President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines; and Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.


LeBlanc receives President Emil Constantinescu of Romania; President Nelson Mandela of South Africa; President Mary McAleese of Ireland; and President Alberto Fujimori of Peru.

LeBlanc conducts State visits to India and Pakistan.


LeBlanc receives President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic; Prince El-Hassan Bin Talil of Jordan; President Andres Pastrana Arango of Colombia; and President Kim Dae-jung of the Republic of Korea.

LeBlanc conducts State visits to Senegal, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Mali, and Morocco.

Royal Tours in Canada

The Duke of Edinburgh (1999).

Adrienne Clarkson (1999-2005)


Adrienne Clarkson receives President Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Costa Rica; President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen; Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa of Hong Kong; President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria; President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria; President Constantinos Stephanopoulos of Greece; President Olafue Ragnar Grimsson of Iceland; and President Vladimir Putin of Russia.


Clarkson conducts State visits to Argentina, Chile, and Germany.

Clarkson receives President Vicente Fox of Mexico; President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal; and President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana.


Clarkson receives President Moshe Katsav of Israel; King Harald V of Norway; and President Rudolf Schuster of Slovakia.


Clarkson conducts State visits to Russia, Finland and Iceland.

Clarkson receives President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Clarkson conducts a visit to Afghanistan.


Clarkson receives visits from Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, and President Natsagiin Bagabandi of Mongolia.

Clarkson conducts a second visit to Afghanistan.


Clarkson receives President George Bush of the United States; President Amadou Touamni Touré of Mali; and President Hu Jintao of China.

Royal Tours in Canada

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh (2002)

Michaëlle Jean (2005-2010)


Michaëlle Jean conducts State visits to Algeria, Ghana, Mali, South Africa, and Morocco. She also conducts visits to France, Italy, the Vatican, and Chile.

Jean receives President Vaira Freiberga of Latvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.


Jean conducts a State visit to Brazil.  She also visits Afghanistan, Argentina, and the Czech Republic.

Jean receives President László Sólyom of Hungary.


Jean conducts State visits to Hungary, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia.  She also visits France.

Jean receives President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine; President Barack Obama of the United States; and Emperor Akihito of Japan.


Jean conducts State visits to Ukraine, Norway, Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.  She also visits Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Liberia.


Jean conducts State visits to Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.  She also visits Cape Verde, China, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

Royal Tours in Canada

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (2009);
Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh (2010).

David Johnston (2010-2017)


David Johnston conducts a visit to Afghanistan.


Johnston conducts visits to Kuwait, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Afghanistan.


Johnston conducts visits to France, Belgium, Brazil, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, France, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and the United Kingdom (Olympic Games and Diamond Jubilee Celebrations).

Johnston receives President Shimon Peres of Israel; President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; President Boni Yayi of Benin; and President-Elect Enrique Nieto of Mexico.


Johnston conducts State visits to Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, China, and Mongolia.  He also visits the Vatican, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Johnston receives Governor General Quentin Bryce of Australia; President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia; President Sebastián Piñera of Chile; President Andris Berziņš of Latvia; and President Dr. Boni Yayi of Benin.


Johnston conducts State visits to India, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Chile, and Colombia.  He also visits the United Kingdom and the United States (Boston, New York).

Johnston receives President Ollanta Humala Tasso of Peru; President Park Geun-hye of Korea; President Joachim Gauck of Germany; President Sauli Niinistö of Finland; President François Hollande of the French Republic; His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines; and Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.


Johnston conducts visits to Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the United States (Minneapolis-St.Paul, Chicago & Detroit).

Johnston receives President Ólafur R. Grímsson of Iceland and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.


Johnston conducts visits to Washington D. C. in the United States; Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Denver (USA); England; Brazil; Jordan, Israel and West Bank and Cuba.

Johnston receives Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General; Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş of Romania; President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico; President Barack Obama of the United States; Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France and The Crown Prince and The Crown Princess of Norway.


Johnston conducts a State visit to Sweden.  He also visits Vimy, France; China, and London, UK.

Johnston receives Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg; Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy; President Michelle Bachelet of Chile; Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium; and President Sergio Mattarella of Italy.

Royal Tours in Canada

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (2011); Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex (2012); Their Royal Highnesses
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (2012); His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh (2013); Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (May 2014); Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal (November 2014); Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (2016); and Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (2017).

Julie Payette (2017-2021)


Payette conducts a visit to Thailand.

Payette receives President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón of the Republic of Colombia; and the Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman of Ukraine.