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Chief of the Defence Staff

The Chief of the Defence Staff has primary responsibility for command, control and administration of the Canadian Forces and military strategy, plans and requirements. The Chief of the Defence Staff is 23rd on the Canadian Order of Precedence.



The Chief of the Defence Staff is appointed by the Governor-in-Council on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) also has a special relationship to the Governor General who, as the Queen's representative in Canada, exercises virtually all of her powers under the Constitution and, therefore, serves as Commander in Chief of the Canadian Forces. Thus there is in formal terms, though not in practice, a direct "line of command" from the Head of State through the CDS to all the officers who hold the Queen's Commission and, through them, to all members of the Canadian Forces.

The Chief of the Defence Staff is charged with the command, control and administration of the Canadian Forces and advises the Minister on all these matters - including military requirements, capabilities, options and the possible consequences of undertaking or failing to undertake various military activities. Whenever required, the Chief of the Defence Staff advises the Prime Minister and Cabinet directly on major military developments. The CDS is thus the senior military advisor to the Government as a whole.

The Chief of the Defence Staff implements government decisions involving the Canadian Forces by issuing appropriate orders and instructions. The CDS is accountable to the Minister for the conduct of CF activities, as well as for the condition of the Forces and their ability to fulfil the military commitments and obligations undertaken by the government.

Admiral Art McDonald

Admiral Art McDonald
Admiral Art McDonald
A Bluenoser born in New Waterford, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1967, Admiral (Adm) Art McDonald became Chief of the Defence Staff on January 14, 2021. Prior to that, Admiral McDonald was Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) since June 12, 2019. Prior to his appointment as CRCN, Adm McDonald commanded at the ship (HMCS Halifax from 2007 to 2009), Operations Group / Fleet (Maritime Operations Group Five from 2010 to 2011), and Formation (Maritime Forces Pacific and Joint Task Force Pacific from 2016 to 2018) levels.

After completing basic Naval Warfare Officer training and becoming an Above Water Warfare specialist in the early nineties, he spent most of the next two decades as a sea-going officer while serving in HMC Ships Vancouver, Halifax, Montréal, and Calgary, with the Canadian Fleet Pacific staff, as Executive Officer in HMCS Regina from 2003 to 2005, and as Commanding Officer in HMCS Halifax from 2007 to 2009. In so doing, he deployed repeatedly – including three tours on the Arabian Gulf and one on the Adriatic Sea – and also circumnavigated the globe (HMCS Calgary, 1995). As Captain (N), he was the Maritime Component Commander of Canadian Joint Task Force (Haiti), leading sea-based humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He then commanded a seven-ship combined, multi-national Task Group in the High Arctic later in 2010 during the annual Op NANOOK. Later, as a Rear Admiral, he also led the Canadian Armed Forces’ recurring Op LENTUS responses to historic fires and floods in British Columbia while commanding Joint Task Force Pacific from 2016 to 2018.

As a staff officer, Adm McDonald served four tours on the Naval Staff in National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. In addition to service as Deputy Commander of the RCN from 2018 to 2019, he was Director General Naval Force Development from 2013 to 2016, Director Naval Requirements from 2012 to 2013, and Executive Secretary to the Chief of the Maritime Staff from 2005 to 2007.

A 1990 graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada who holds a bachelor’s degree in Military and Strategic Studies and a Master of Defence Studies degree, Adm McDonald is also a graduate of the 2003 Canadian Forces College (CFC) Command and Staff Course, the 2012 CFC National Security Studies Programme, and the 2014 U.S. CAPSTONE General and Flag Officer Course. A 2016 alumnus of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, he is also a graduate of the Senior Executives in National and International Security program at Harvard University (2017).

SOURCE: Department of National Defence.

See also
Former Chiefs of the Defence Staff
Canadian Armed Forces Council
Canadian Armed Forces
Canadian Army
Royal Canadian Navy
Disaster Assistance Response Team
Royal Canadian Air Force
Joint Task Force 2
Communications Security Establishment

External Links
Chief of the Defence Staff Official Website
National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces Official Website
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Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt