The Letters Patent Removing Julie Payette from the Office of Governor General

I’m circling back, as Jen Psaki would say when she has more news to convey, and closing the loop on this saga of the spectacular remnant of Julie Payette’s supernova. On 10 April 2021, the Trudeau government gazetted the letters patent removing Julie Payette as Governor General. The wording of the executive instrument entrenches a legal fiction that Payette resigned entirely on her own account instead of under a cloud of intense pressure and scrutiny for having cultivated the crown jewel of all toxic workplaces within the federal civil service. And the letters patent are dated to 22 January 2021, one day after Payette announced her resignation.

Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, issued these letters patent on the advice of Prime Minister J. Trudeau.

WHEREAS by a Commission under Our Sign Manual and Our Great Seal of Canada bearing date the twentieth day of September, 2017 We did appoint you, the said Julie Payette, to be, during Our pleasure, Our Governor General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada, with all the powers, rights, privileges and advantages to the said office belong or appertaining;

AND WHEREAS you have requested that We be pleased to relieve you of the duties of and to remove you from the said office;

AND WHEREAS it is Our will and pleasure therefore to relieve you of the duties of the said office and to that end to declare that the said Commission of appointment ceases to have further effect;

AND WHEREAS the Eighth Clause of Our Letters Patent bearing date the eighth day of September 1947, provides that the powers and authorities of Our Governor General of Canada are vested in an Administrator as therein prescribed in the event of death, incapacity, removal, or absence of Our Governor General out of Canada:

NOW THEREFORE We do by these Presents determine your said appointment on and after the twenty-second day of January, 2021 and do declare that your said Commission shall cease to have effect on that date.

GIVEN under Our Royal Hand and under Our Great Seal of Canada this twenty-second day of January, 2021 and in the sixty-ninth year of Our reign.

By Her Majesty’s Command[1]

The wording of these letters patent closely follow the precedent from January 1952, where George VI, King of Canada, revoked the commission of Lord Alexander as Governor General of Canada. We can now officially conclude after some ambiguity earlier in the year that Payette ceased to be Governor General on 22 January 2021 and that Chief Justice Wagner was sworn in as the Administrator of the Government of Canada on 23 January 2021.

However, officials in 2021 did not follow the precedent of removing a Governor General from 1952, nor for swearing in the Administrator and Deputy Administrators from 1974, in every respect. The Canada Gazette still contains no record for the “Proclamation of Administrator” acknowledging Justice Wagner’s swearing in on 23 January 2021. Nor have Wagner’s appointments of Ian McCowan and Marie-Geneviève Mounier as Deputy Administrators been gazetted, even though Government House relayed that information to the Senate of Canada on 17 February 2021. The Journals of the Senate include official-looking facsimiles of what a proclamation in the Canada Gazette would say and would look like, so the record presumably exists somewhere.

Some officials at Government House and in the Privy Council Office did not create the proper critical path and update on their deliverables. If we achieved “open government” in matters of historical record in the mid-20th century simply out of common decency, without all the surrounding flummery of “deliverology”, then these proclamations for the swearing of the Administrator and Deputy Administrators ought to be gazetted, too.

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[1]     Canada Gazette, Part 1, Volume 155, Number 15, “Government House: Letters Patent Terminating the Commission of the Right Honourable Julie Payette as Governor General of Canada,” (Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 10 April 2020), 1551-1552.


About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
This entry was posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Governor General. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Letters Patent Removing Julie Payette from the Office of Governor General

  1. Bill Hadgkiss says:

    Hi James;     Some of the government employees ‘accused her of throwing tantrums over the quality of their work and staffers of incompetence’.  They’re normal government workers, not known for remarkable minds or skills, and Julie was used to doing much more than the bare minimum to qualify.  It’s a bit like hiring a bomber or fighter pilot to deliver pizza. 
        The complaints against her were alleged and I’ve seen no guilt in court. I’m concerned as to how the whole thing has been handled, considering the position is close to the top of the chain. 
         But that’s Canada eh…, sincerely Bill


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