Did You Know? Canada’s Northern Territories Operate Without Lieutenant Governors?

Canada’s Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon, carve a distinctive path within the Canadian governance landscape, deviating from the standard provincial structure by forgoing the appointment of Lieutenant Governors. Instead, these regions adopt a governance model that designates appointed commissioners as Chief Executive Officers, responsible for day-to-day administration and representing federal interests.

Initially comprising of a Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, and Assistant Commissioner, the Executive held authority over all Cabinet proceedings. Over time, elected members gradually assumed leadership roles, mirroring the responsibilities of Lieutenant Governors in provinces.

A pivotal moment they occurred during the 10th Legislative Assembly (1983 – 1987) when the Government Leader assumed the chairperson role of the Executive Council. This marked a significant shift as the Commissioner ceased attending Assembly sittings, and ministerial portfolios were exclusively delegated to elected Members.

While the Commissioner retains the official duties of opening each session and granting assent to bills, the role has evolved into a predominantly ceremonial function. Decision-making has transitioned towards elected leaders, symbolizing a notable shift in the governance dynamics of these northern territories.

Across Canada, the historical relationship between Indigenous communities and the Monarchy has been marked by challenges dating back to colonialism and its detrimental impact. The absence of Lieutenant Governors representing the Crown in these territories is perceived as a positive.

Although the territories operate with a Federal Commissioner and the office of a Provincial premier, the Indigenous communities play integral roles in forming the government. This is done in collaboration with set elections date mandates by provincial and federal charters and through elected representatives from Chiefs and the band council.