Canada to name astronaut Payette as new governor general: media reports

FILE PHOTO: Canadian astronaut Julie Payette (L), smiles after being awarded the rank of Officer in the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall in Ottawa September 16, 2011. REUTERS/Christopher Pike

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will name retired astronaut Julie Payette as the next governor general, the acting head of state and Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Canada, media outlets reported on Wednesday.

Payette, 53, would replace outgoing Governor General David Johnston, 76, whose term is set to expire in September after nearly seven years in office.

Trudeau, who made headlines by naming a gender-balanced cabinet after his Liberals won a surprise majority government in 2015, will announce Payette’s appointment on Thursday, the Globe and Mail newspaper and Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported.

The prime minister’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

A Montreal native, Payette participated in space missions in 1999 and 2009 and worked with both the U.S. and Russian space agencies, according to her Canadian Space Agency biography. She was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station, in 1999, and flew on space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery.

The lion’s share of the governor general’s role is ceremonial, including the swearing-in of the prime minister, chief justices and cabinet ministers and formally signing legislation into law, but the job can also entail settling constitutional questions. The governor general is also nominally Canada’s commander-in-chief.

Payette would be the fourth woman to serve in the role.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Paul Tait