Admiral Art McDonald becomes 20th Chief of the Defence Staff

Admiral Art McDonald assumed command of the Canadian Armed Forces from General Jonathan Vance Jan. 14 during a ceremony held virtually in Ottawa.

Admiral Art McDonald assumed command of the Canadian Armed Forces from General Jonathan Vance Jan. 14 during a ceremony held virtually in Ottawa.

Royal Canadian Navy

For the first time in more than two decades, one of the Royal Canadian Navy’s own is Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS).

Admiral (Adm) Art McDonald assumed the role of CDS from General (Gen) Jonathan Vance in a COVID-friendly virtual ceremony on Jan.14 in Ottawa. A Bluenoser born in New Waterford, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Adm McDonald is Canada’s 20th CDS.

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, presided over the ceremony virtually. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence; and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, also attended virtually.

“It is the greatest privilege of my career to address you as your Chief of the Defence Staff,” Adm McDonald said in his message released National Defence-wide following the ceremony. “Upon assuming the Watch, I offer tremendous thanks and appreciation to General Vance – wishing him fair winds and following seas. I am humbled and honoured to relieve such a great leader and mentor.”

The Admiral went on to praise Defence Team members for their professionalism, integrity, creativity, and ingenuity.

“Your integrity shines through and inspires Canadians,” he said. “Not surprisingly, you have as a result become a beacon of hope when times are difficult. You are Canada at its best when Canada’s best are needed at home or abroad.”

In his new role, Adm McDonald will oversee the Canadian Armed Forces’ ongoing operations in Canada and around the world, and their contributions to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including support for Canada’s vaccine rollout through Operation VECTOR.

The Admiral noted that although Canadians are living through a time of change, CAF members should know that it is also a time of continuity. 

“Our course was charted in Strong, Secure, Engaged, and in its pursuit our mission is to keep steady,” he said.

“As we move forward with implementing our Defence policy, you will have the equipment that you need to accomplish the important work you do. So I share your excitement about our clear progress in acquiring new ships, aircraft, vehicles, weapons systems, C4ISR technology, and more. Investment and innovation will continue to set the conditions for future success.”

The organization’s commitment to growing an inclusive and diverse workplace will continue, he explained, as will the efforts to identify and eliminate racism, discrimination, and hateful conduct within the CAF. However, creating culture change will take a concerted effort by everyone, including active leadership and continuous engagement at all levels. Equally strong for the Admiral is his commitment to people, viewing as his prime directive: “People first, mission always.” 

“Teammates, the sacred responsibility that I have undertaken is to advocate for, empower, and lead you. I look forward to navigating through these interesting and exciting waters with you. We got this.”


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