Queen's Privy Council for Canada

The Queen's Privy Council for Canada is the ceremonial council of advisors to the Queen of Canada, whose members are appointed by her Governor General in Canada for life on the advice of the Prime Minister. It was established by the British North America Act 1867, and is modelled on the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Britain and Canada are the only two Commonwealth Realms to have privy councils. Other realms, as well as Canadian provinces, have Executive Councils which are the equivalent of the federal Cabinet in Canada.

The formal authority of the council is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Canadian Cabinet, who make up a minority of the council's members. Their actions are supported by the Privy Council Office which is headed by the Clerk of the Privy Council as chief civil servant and the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada as the Cabinet minister in charge. All Orders of the Governor in Council must be made on the recommendation of a Privy Councillor, invariably a government minister.

At present the membership of the Council comprises all current and former federal cabinet ministers, and Chief Justices of Canada. As well, all former Governors General are members as are all former Speakers of the House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition and leaders or other members of Opposition parties are inducted into the Privy Council from time to time, either as an honour or so that sensitive information can be disclosed to them under the Official Secrets Act. For this reason, new members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee are inducted into the Privy Council if they are not already members. Other persons recommended by the Prime Minister have been sworn into the Privy Council as an honour.

Under Paul Martin, Parliamentary Secretaries have also been sworn into the Privy Council.

Ministers are the only automatic appointees, though various non-cabinet members have been appointed since 1891. Provincial premiers do not automatically become Privy Councillors, but have been made members on special occasions (e.g. the centennial of Canadian Confederation, 1967; the patriation of the Constitution of Canada, 1982; the 125th anniversary of Confederation, 1992).

Privy Councillors are entitled to the style The Honourable (or if a serving or former Governor General, Prime Minister or Chief Justice of Canada, The Right Honourable as are certain other eminent individuals). The post-nominal initials "P.C." are also used.

Governors General are entitled to use the title "Right Honourable" while they are in office; however, unless they are already members of the Privy Council by virtue of being a former Cabinet minister or having been inducted for another reason, they do not become members of the Privy Council until their term as Governor General has concluded.

The Canadian Privy Council has met in the presence of the Sovereign only twice: in Ottawa in 1957 and in Halifax in 1959.

The full Privy Council meets to proclaim the accession of a new sovereign and to give consent to royal marriages. The last meeting of the full Privy Council was in 1981 to give formal consent to the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer. Following the announcement of the Prince of Wales' engagement to Camilla Parker-Bowles, however, the Department of Justice announced its decision that the Privy Council was not required to meet to give its consent to the marriage as the union would not result in offspring and thus would have no impact on the succession to the throne.

See also

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