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Chief of the Defence Staff
Chef d'état-major de la défense
Walter Natynczyk.png
General Walter Natynczyk CMM MSC CD
Type Commissioned officer
Command Her Majesty's Canadian Forces
Status Currently constituted
Abbreviation CDS
Next (higher) Commander-in-Chief
Next (lower) Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff
Army slip-on Gen.png
The army epaulette for the rank of general and position of CDS

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) (French: Chef d'état-major de la défense) is the second most senior member of the Canadian Forces, and heads the Armed Forces Council, having primary responsibility for command, control, and administration of the forces, as well as military strategy, plans, and requirements.


Rank and command

The Chief of the Defence Staff follows in rank only the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces, who appoints the CDS and is the person from whom the CDS receives his or her orders.[1] In practice, though, the Commander-in-Chief – the Canadian monarch, represented by the Governor General – typically acts only on the advice of his or her ministers of the Crown, meaning the CDS normally reports directly to the Minister of National Defence.[1]

The position evolved out of that of the Chief of the General Staff, which existed until the unification in 1964 of the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Air Force.[2] Since its creation, the CDS has been charged with four main priorities, each having multiple sub-priorities: The first is to conduct operations, which includes the successful implementation of domestic and international operations, protection of the forces through a culture of risk management, and ensuring that recruitment is at a level required to sustain the operational forces at full potential to meet their commitments.[3] Secondly, the CDS is expected to expand the regular and reserve forces to meet international and domestic obligations, which means the management of the Canadian Forces Recruiting Group so as to streamline the enlistment process of new forces members.[3] The third task is to implement the national defence strategy as outlined by the Queen-in-Council, requiring both the acquisition of new equipment and the strengthening of diplomatic relations via the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and North American Aerospace Defence Command."[3] Lastly, the CDS must enhance the forces' programme delivery while optimising the use of resources.[3]

The CDS is also the chair of the Canadian Forces Decorations Advisory Committee, which reviews and recommends to the Governor General members of the forces eligible to receive decorations for valour, bravery, and meritorious service, as well as Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendations.[4] This committee mirrors that for the Order of Military Merit, of which the CDS is ex-officio a member and the Principal Commander.[5] Separately, the CDS presents the Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation (French: Mention élogieuse du Chef d'état-major de la Défense) – in the form of a gold bar pin that bears three equilaterally spaced maple leaves – to recognise deeds or activities beyond the normal demands of duty,[6] as well as the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service, which is given by the CDS on behalf of the entire forces.[7]

Chiefs of Defence Staff



Name Rank Year Branch Home province Appointed by Notes
Frank Robert Miller Air Chief Marshal[8] 1964–1966 Royal Canadian Air Force British Columbia BC Georges Vanier [9]
Jean-Victor Allard General 1966–1969 Canadian Army Quebec QC Georges Vanier [10]
Frederick Ralph Sharp General 1969–1972 Air Command Saskatchewan SK Roland Michener [11]
Jacques Alfred Dextraze General 1972–1977 Land Force Command Quebec QC Jules Léger [12]
Robert Hilborn Falls Admiral 1977–1980 Maritime Command Ontario ON Jules Léger [13]


Name Rank Year Branch Home province Appointed by Notes
Ramsey Muir Withers General 1980–1983 Land Force Command Ontario ON Edward Schreyer [14]
Gérard Charles Édouard Thériault General 1983–1986 Air Command Quebec QC Edward Schreyer [15]
Paul David Manson General 1986–1989 Air Command British Columbia BC Jeanne Sauvé [16]
John de Chastelain General 1989–1993 Land Force Command Alberta AB Jeanne Sauvé [17]
John Rogers Anderson Admiral 1993 Maritime Command British Columbia BC Ray Hnatyshyn [18]
John de Chastelain General 1994–1995 Land Force Command Alberta AB Ray Hnatyshyn [17]
Joseph Édouard Jean Boyle General 1996 Air Command Ontario ON Roméo LeBlanc [19]
Larry Murray (Acting) Vice-Admiral 1996 – 1997 Maritime Command Ontario ON Roméo LeBlanc [20]
Maurice Baril General 1997–2001 Land Force Command Quebec QC Roméo LeBlanc [21]


Name Rank Year Branch Home province Appointed by Notes
Raymond Henault General 2001–2005 Air Command Manitoba MB Adrienne Clarkson [22]
Rick Hillier General 2005–2008 Land Force Command Newfoundland and Labrador NL Adrienne Clarkson [23]
Walter Natynczyk General 2008–present Land Force Command Manitoba MB Michaëlle Jean [24]


  1. ^ a b Department of National Defence. "CDS Home > Responsibilities > CDS - Responsibilities". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 22 September 2009.  
  2. ^ Canadian Army (1949-1964), "Fonds of the Chief of the General Staff", in Department of National Defence, Histories > DHH Historical Research Centre > Research > DHH Archive Database > Reports > Miscellaneous Reports/Documents > DHH Archival Database Extract, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 40, 97/10,, retrieved 22 September 2009  
  3. ^ a b c d "Chief of the Defence Staff > Priorities > About the CDS - Defence Priorities for 2009-2010". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 22 September 2009.  
  4. ^ Department of National Defence (2007), Honours & Recognition for the Men and Women of the Canadian Forces, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 105,  
  5. ^ Office of the Governor General of Caanda. "Honours > National Orders > Order of Military Merit". Queen's Printer for Caanda. Retrieved 22 September 2009.  
  6. ^ Department of National Defence 2007, p. 66
  7. ^ Department of National Defence 2007, p. 80
  8. ^ This rank was used during the existence of the Royal Canadian Air Force and replaced with the rank of general in 1968 with the unification of the Canadian Forces. See Category:Canadian Forces Air Command generals for such officers. Miller was one of only two Canadian Air Chief Marshals, the other being Lloyd Samuel Breadner
  9. ^ Legault, Albert (1992). A Diplomacy of Hope: Canada and Disarmament. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 0773509550.  
  10. ^ "General Jean-Victor Allard". Virtual Museum of Canada. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  11. ^ Preston, Richard (1991). To Serve Canada. University of Ottawa Press. ISBN 0776603272.  
  12. ^ Horn, Bernd (2007). Loyal service: Perspectives on French-Canadian Military Leaders. Dundurn Press Ltd.. ISBN 1550026933.  
  13. ^ Martell, Paul (1974). World Military Leaders. Bowker. ISBN 0835207854.  
  14. ^ "General Ramsey M. Withers". Conference of Defence Associations. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  15. ^ Marsh, James (2006). The Canadian Encyclopedia. Hurtig Publishers. ISBN 0888303300.  
  16. ^ "Gen. Paul D. MANSON". Canadian Who's Who 1997. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  17. ^ a b Bernd, Horn (2001). Warrior Chiefs: Perspectives on Senior Canadian Military Leaders. Dundurn Press Ltd.. ISBN 1550023519.  
  18. ^ "Admiral John R. ANDERSON". Canadian Who's Who 1997. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  19. ^ "General Joseph Édouard Jean BOYLE". Canadian Who's Who 1997. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  20. ^ "Vice-Admiral Larry MURRAY". Canadian Who's Who 1997. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  21. ^ "Assumption of Command of Lieutenant-General J.M.G. Baril". Governor General. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  22. ^ "NATO Biographies: Chairman of the Military Committee, General Raymond Henault". NATO. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  23. ^ "CBC News In Depth: Gen. Rick Hillier". CBC. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  
  24. ^ "New top soldier a 'gentleman's general'". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 21 March 2009.  

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