As defined in the National Defence Act, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) has direct responsibility for the command, control and administration of the Canadian Forces, and is appointed by the Governor-in-Council, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The CDS also has a special relationship with the Governor General who, as the Queen’s (or King’s) representative in Canada, exercises virtually all of the powers of that office under the Constitution and hence serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces(CAF). Formally speaking, though not in practice, there is a direct “line of command” from the Head of State (the King or Queen) to the Governor General, through the CDS to all the officers who hold the Queen’s Commission, and thus through them, to all members of the CAF.
In keeping with the responsibility to command, control and administer the CAF, the CDS also advises the Minister of National Defence on these subjects as required. This provision of advice can cover subjects such as current and future military requirements, force capabilities, and possible courses of action and the consequences of undertaking (or failing to undertake) various military activities.
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. The 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 Chief of the Defence Staff is the senior serving military advisor to the Government of Canada.
General Jonathan H. (Jon) Vance was born on 3 January 1964 in Kingston, Ontario and grew up in a military family. He started uniformed life at the age of 13 as an army cadet in Lahr, Germany. General Vance joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1982 and was commissioned as an infantry officer into The Royal Canadian Regiment in 1986 following his graduation from Royal Roads Military College (RRMC). General Vance has served in Canada, Germany and on UN Peacekeeping operations with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, The Royal Canadian Regiment, and has commanded at all levels within the field force from platoon commander to brigade commander and in combat operations as a Joint Task Force Commander.
His early command and staff experiences included commanding Combat Support Company and The Duke’s Company in 1RCR, and serving on the VCDS strategic planning staff as a major and lieutenant-colonel. From 2001 until 2003 General Vance commanded Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment in Gagetown, New Brunswick. He commanded 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Edmonton from 2006 to 2008 and subsequently deployed as Commander Joint Task Force Afghanistan and Task Force Kandahar in 2009 and again in 2010.
Following his tours in Afghanistan, General Vance served in Army headquarters as Chief of Staff Land Strategy and as Director of the Strategic Joint Staff in National Defence Headquarters. He completed a tour as Deputy Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples in July 2014 before assuming the position as Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command in September of the same year.
General Vance was promoted to his current rank and formally appointed as the Canadian Armed Forces Chief of the Defence Staff in July 2015.
General Vance is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Staff School, the UK Combined Arms Tactics Course, the Canadian Army Staff College, the Canadian Forces Command and Staff Course, the Advanced Military Studies Course and the Coalition Forces Land Component Command Course. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Military and Strategic Studies from Royal Roads Military College, and a Master of Arts Degree in War Studies from RMC. His decorations include the Order of Military Merit in the rank of Commander, the Meritorious Service Cross with bar and a Mentioned-in-Dispatches. In 2011, he was awarded the Vimy Award for his contributions to Canadian defence and security and, in 2013, was appointed a Distinguished Fellow of New Westminster College.
The Armed Forces Council is the senior military body of the Canadian Forces. It meets regularly to advise the Chief of the Defence Staff on broad military matters pertaining to the command, control, and administration of the Canadian Forces and to help the CDS make decisions.
The Armed Forces Council is chaired by the CDS, generally meets at least once per month, and includes the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, the Environmental Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military advisors.
General Thomas J. Lawson
Chief of the Defence Staff
A.B. , CMM, CD
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
M.A.G. , CMM, CD
Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy
CMM, MSC, CD
Commander Canadian Army
Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force
CMM, MSM, CD
Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command
Chief Military Personnel
Chief - Reserves and Cadets
Judge Advocate General
Chief of Defence Intelligence
Chief Warrant Officer West
MMM, MSM, CD