The Queen's Privy Council for Canada

The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada is the group of cabinet ministers, former cabinet ministers and other prominent Canadians appointed to advise the Queen on issues of importance to the country. This includes both issues of state and constitutional affairs.

The Governor General appoints each privy councillor on the advice of the Prime Minister. Membership is for life, unless the Governor General withdraws the appointment – again on the Prime Minister’s advice.

The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada consists of:

  • Cabinet ministers
  • Former cabinet ministers
  • The Chief Justice of Canada
  • Former chief justices
  • Former speakers of the House of Commons
  • Former speakers of the Senate
  • Former Governors General
  • Distinguished individuals (as a mark of honour)

The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada was first established by the British North America Act, 1867 (later renamed the Constitution Act, 1867). It has been adding members ever since.

The Queen’s Privy Council in Practice

The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada is also sometimes called Her Majesty’s Privy Council for Canada. More informally, it is referred to as the Privy Council.

The entire Privy Council almost never meets. Usually, only ministers and a handful of non-ministers attend the rare ceremonial occasions when the Privy Council is asked to gather. Some examples of these occasions include:

  • The proclamation of a new King or Queen
  • A request for consent to a royal marriage

The last formal gathering of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada was in 1981. The Privy Council was asked to give its formal consent to the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer.

Key Links

Bibliography

  • Forsey, Eugene. “The Institutions of Our Federal Government.”How Canadians Govern Themselves, 7th Edition. downloaded March 26, 2010.
  • Ward, Norman. Dawson’s The Government of Canada. 6th ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1987.