Governor General is perhaps the least understood government role in Canada.
It is easy enough to dismiss the GG, and many do, as a powerless figurehead, an outdated representative of the British monarchy, a vestigial remnant of our colonial past
In reality, it is much more complicated than that.
Canada remains a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. While the prime minister is certainly the most powerful player on the political stage as he is the head of government, the governor general is the official head of state, representing Canada during state visits abroad and receiving heads of state here at home. He or she is an important figure in international relations and in promoting Canadian values around the world.
Another important aspect of the GG’s activities is recognizing and encouraging the exemplary performance of Canadians who bring special credit to the nation.
Since 1967, governors general, through the Canadian Honours System, have bestowed orders, decorations and medals upon thousands of deserving citizens.
Last year, with funding from The Taylor Family Foundation—a Calgary-based charity founded by oil patch philanthropist Don Taylor and his wife Ruth—His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Canada’s 28th GG since confederation set out inspire Canadians with a traveling exhibition called “It’s an Honour!”
The exhibit, housed in a converted semi-trailer that slides out to create a 1,000 square foot mini-museum with numerous interactive features visited Sacred Heart High School in Yorkton April 14 and 15.
At the official kick-off of the cross-Canada tour in September 2013 in Calgary, Johnston laid out his hopes for the exhibition.
“My hope is that, as you learn about our country’s highest honours and the remarkable stories of recipients, you will be inspired and motivated by what you see,” he said. “My hope is that you will understand that courage, inspiration, tradition, service and excellence are qualities and values that are important to all Canadians. My hope is that you will find ways to fulfill your great potential and, in doing so, to make our country a better place.”
Francois Grenier, the tour’s road manager, believes it is working so far.
“The teachers love it, they think it’s a great way to educate students with all the touch screens and everything,” he said.
“All of the students love it too, it’s some time well-spent, we get a lot of positive comments in the guest book and everybody likes it so far so we’re quite happy about it.”
Grenier hopes that by making people, particularly young people, aware of the Honour System, it will give them the inspiration to strive for excellence as they work toward their goals.