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Governors General

The Viscount Alexander

The Viscount Alexander was appointed Governor General in 1946. He had a distinguished career in the British military, serving in both the First and Second World Wars, and he was Canada’s last British Governor General.

Alexander and his wife traveled extensively during his term, both within Canada and to the United States and Brazil. During their first year in Canada, they visited every provincial capital. They went to Newfoundland the summer the province joined Confederation.

Alexander remained Governor General until early 1952. Upon his leave, he returned to Great Britain to become the Minister of Defence. Alexander passed away in June 1969.

Lord Alexander, 17th Governor General of Canada, and Lady Alexander arrive in Ottawa.

Title/Description: Lord Alexander, 17th Governor General of Canada, and Lady Alexander arrive in Ottawa. Alexander visited Canada many times after the end of his term as Governor General.
Photographer: Andy Andrews.
Date: October 20, 1955.
Credit: Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds / City of Ottawa Archives / MG393-AN-039265-001.
Copyright: City of Ottawa Archives.

The Right Honourable Vincent Massey

Vincent Massey was Canada’s first Canadian Governor General. Until his appointment in 1952, all of the previous Governors General had been British. While most people accepted this dramatic shift in policy, some did not. Those opposed, including Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Whitton, boycotted Massey’s installation ceremony in protest. But, after a controversial start, Massey won the approval of Canadians by traveling extensively during his term.

Having headed the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, known as the Massey Commission, Massy remained a strong advocate for the arts throughout his time as Governor General.

The Massey Foundation was one of the first charitable foundations in Canada when it began in 1918. Through Vincent Massey’s work with the foundation, there were two major endowments made to the University of Toronto, his Alma matter.

Vincent Massey died on December 30, 1967.

Right Honourable Vincent Massey,18th Governor General of Canada on his seventieth birthday.

Title/Description: Right Honourable Vincent Massey,18th Governor General of Canada on his seventieth birthday. Vincent Massey was the first Canadian to be appointed Governor General.
Photographer: D.
Date: February 20, 1957.
Credit: Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds / City of Ottawa Archives / MG393-AN-048470-002.
Copyright: City of Ottawa Archives.

General The Right Honourable Georges P Vanier

After a career in the military and as a diplomat, General Georges Vanier became the first French Canadian Governor General when he was appointed to the post in 1959. At the time of his appointment, there was some debate whether the appointment of a French Canadian would be an appropriate way to remember the 200th anniversary of the Battle Of The Planes of Abraham, a sensitive topic for many.

Vanier’s installation ceremony was held on September 15, 1959, for which Vanier decided to wear his Colonel’s uniform from the Royal 22nd “Van Doos” Regiment.

The late 1960s was marked by the rise of separatist movements in Quebec. A believer in bilingualism, Vanier became increasingly concerned about national unity. In addition, he became involved in the issues of the poor and families, founding The Vanier Institute of the Family in 1965.

During his time at Rideau Hall, Vanier hosted many well-known guests including President John F. Kennedy. Despite concerns about his health, he traveled extensively making several trips across the country, and he continued in his role until his death on March 5, 1967.

Installation of new Governor General Georges Vanier with Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

Title/Description: Installation of new Governor General Georges Vanier with Prime Minister Diefenbaker. Georges Vanier was Canada's first French Canadian Governor General and Prime Minister Diefenbaker was the first Conservative Prime Minister in thirty years.
Photographer: Don Ashley and Doug Gall.
Date: October 1959.
Credit: Andrews-Newton Photographers Fonds / City of Ottawa Archives / MG393-AN-A-004028-055.
Copyright: City of Ottawa Archives.