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Vice-Admiral Art McDonald named new chief of the defence staff

The country’s next top military commander will come from the navy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Vice Admiral Art McDonald as the new chief of the defence staff on Wednesday, replacing Gen. Jonathan Vance, who announced his retirement last summer.

McDonald is currently the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and, within the defence community, has been considered the leading candidate for the post for weeks.  

His appointment was reported earlier in the day by CBC News.

A former frigate captain and Pacific fleet commander, McDonald has been intimately involved in the planning of the navy’s new combat fleet for a number of years.

Vaccine rollout help among first tasks

He is the first naval officer to hold the defence chief’s post in more than two decades.

The last sailor in that job was Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, who was only appointed on an acting basis amid the fallout of the Somalia scandal in the mid-1990s.

In his remarks, Trudeau underlined the important role the military has played in the federal government’s response to the global pandemic.

“In his new role as Chief, Vice-Admiral McDonald will oversee the work of the Canadian Armed Forces, including on vaccine rollout through Operation Vector,” the prime minister said.

“McDonald’s leadership and expertise will be invaluable as the Armed Forces continue to work around the clock to keep Canadians safe.”

McDonald inherits tough files

A change of command ceremony will take place in the new year, at which time McDonald will be promoted to full admiral.

Aside from managing the ongoing fallout of coronavirus both at home and abroad, McDonald will inherit a number of tough files, including the military’s ongoing efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct within the ranks, as well as a rising campaign to deal with extremism among military members.

He will also face heightened scrutiny on some of the biggest military purchases in a generation, worth tens of billions of dollars, including new fighter jets and the construction of 15 new frigates.

Trudeau expressed his gratitude to Vance for his more than five years of leadership as defence chief.


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