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Jan 14, 2021

14 Jan 2021 – Admiral Art McDonald was appointed Canada’s new Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) during a change of command ceremony held virtually in Ottawa today.


14 January 2021 – Admiral Art McDonald assumed command of the Canadian Armed Forces during change of command ceremony held virtually in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo: CpI Rachael Allen)

The event was presided over by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, and marked the official transfer of command of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) from General Jonathan Vance to Admiral McDonald.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence; and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence were also in attendance virtually.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) implements government decisions that involve the CAF, by issuing orders and instructions. Whenever required, the CDS also advises the Prime Minister and Cabinet directly on major military developments and issues. The CDS is the senior serving military advisor to the Government of Canada.

As defined in the National Defence Act, the CDS has direct responsibility for the control and administration of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and is appointed by the Governor-in-Council, by recommendation of the Prime Minister. The CDS is accountable to the Minister of National Defence for the conduct of all CAF activities, as well as for the readiness and the ability to fulfill military commitments and obligations undertaken by the government.

A Bluenoser born in New Waterford, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1967, Admiral (Adm) Art McDonald is a 1990 graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada and was appointed to serve as Canada’s 20th Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). Prior to his appointment as CDS, Adm McDonald commanded the Royal Canadian Navy for 18 months (2019 to 2021). He had previously commanded HMCS Halifax (2007-2009), Operations Group / Fleet (Maritime Operations Group Five 2010-2011), and Formation levels (Maritime Forces Pacific and Joint Task Force Pacific 2016-2018).

The outgoing CDS, General Jonathan Vance, retires after 39 years of distinguished service in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). He joined the CAF in 1982 and, in 1986, upon graduation from Royal Roads Military College, was commissioned as an infantry officer into The Royal Canadian Regiment. He commanded at all levels within the field force as well as 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Edmonton before deploying as Commander of Joint Task Forces Afghanistan and Kandahar in 2009, and again in 2010. General Vance also completed a tour as Deputy Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, in July 2014, before assuming the position as Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command later that year. General Vance was appointed Chief of the Defence Staff on July 17, 2015, making him the longest serving defence chief in the history of the CAF.

“For 39 years, the extraordinary members of the Canadian Armed Forces have inspired my life’s work. And for 39 years, I have been proud to be counted among their ranks,” said General Vance. “It has been an honour to serve Canadians as your 19th Chief of the Defence Staff. I offer my sincere congratulations to Admiral McDonald. As he takes command, I know he will continue to care for our people and keep the force strong, now and into the future.”  


During a ceremony held virtually in Ottawa, General Jonathan Vance (left) signs over command to the new Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Art McDonald, on January 14, 2021. (Photo: CpI Rachael Allen)

The incoming Chief thanked General Vance on behalf of the Canadian Armed Forces, “for his distinguished service, leadership and mentorship as he prepares to retire. I am humbled and honoured to assume the Watch as the twentieth Chief of the Defence Staff. As I do, my focus is quite naturally you, the members of the CAF, who have dedicated yourself to the service of Canada, and your families, who make routine sacrifices to enable you. There is no greater privilege or responsibility than to be charged with advocating for, empowering and leading you. I look forward to navigating through these challenging times with you and our invaluable Defence Team teammates – together ensuring that the CAF remains the go-to, no-fail Force that Canadians know.

This change of command comes at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces are part of a whole-of-government approach to national COVID-19 response efforts.

Calling this “a critical time for Canada,” the Minister of National Defence, Harjit S. Sajjan, said: “His work will be vital in supporting our efforts to help Canadians through the current pandemic while maintaining our commitments to our partners and allies around the world. He will continue the important work and transformation of the Canadian Armed Forces, ensuring that it better represents the Canadians it serves.”

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