Chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance announces impending retirement

Chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance announces impending retirement

OTTAWA — Gen. Jonathan Vance, who led the military through a major pivot after the war in Afghanistan, announced Wednesday he is stepping down as chief of the defence staff.

The country’s top soldier said his retirement will be official “in the months to come” after the government has found a successor.

The surprise announcement was made in a letter posted to social media, in which Vance told the members of the Armed Forces that they remain an inspiration to him and says he has given them his all.

“Until I relinquish command I will continue to serve you and Canadians with the same energy and effort I always have,” he wrote.

Vance, 56, is among the longest-serving chiefs of defence staff in Canadian history.

There had been persistent reports the Liberals were going to recommend him to become NATO’s top military official in the fall.

Defence sources, not authorized to speak publicly, told The Canadian Press the government informed Vance recently that wouldn’t be the case.

He was first appointed to the job by the previous Conservative government in July 2015.

Over the next five years, he oversaw the Forces as it struggled to find a new focus after years of combat in Afghanistan sapped its mental and physical strength.

His first act as chief of the defence staff was to launch Operation Honour, the military’s effort to stamp out sexual misconduct and one of many steps taken in an effort to modernize the Forces’ demographics.

Vance’s tenure also saw more involvement for the military in domestic affairs, including an increased role assisting in floods and wildfires, and most recently as support to long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19.

Under his watch, Canadians also took command of a NATO battle group in Latvia and a NATO training mission in Iraq, as well as making a year-long contribution to UN peacekeeping efforts in Mali.

“With almost 40 years of service, Gen. Vance has devoted his life to this country and we thank him for his dedication and leadership,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

Trudeau said he has initiated the search for Vance’s successor.

There has been ongoing turmoil in the top ranks of the military for close to three years.

In March, Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier announced his surprise retirement after less than a year as vice-chief of the defence staff.

He was the sixth vice-chief under Vance, and had been seen as someone who could replace him.

Lanthier had replaced former lieutenant-general Paul Wynnyk, who resigned abruptly following a dispute with Vance.

Wynnyk had been one of the top officers tapped to fill the post while the Mark Norman affair played out.

Vance suspended vice-admiral Mark Norman in January 2017 due to an RCMP investigation into whether Norman had leaked cabinet secrets about a shipbuilding project.

The vice-admiral was charged, but the charges were later dropped. Vance tried to reinstate Norman, but the admiral retired instead.

Vance had been heavily criticized for how he handled the case, with the suggestion at the time he was acting under political pressure to suspend Norman. He denied that allegation.

The scandal around Norman was one of several blemishes on Vance’s reputation.

Last year, he issued a lengthy apology to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan after making the decision to exclude them from a rededication ceremony for the Kandahar war memorial.

The military had given them no notice of the ceremony, nor were they invited to attend.

A new, public, ceremony was subsequently arranged.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owner found

Father and son found miniature horse while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Paula Law took the oath of office on Oct. 19 with Lacombe County Manager Tim Timmons. Photo courtesy Lacombe County.
Lacombe County re-elects Paula Law as Reeve

This will be Law’s eighth term as Reeve and tenth year on the county council

Rieley Kay owns both Moe’s Pizza and Cilantro and Chive which are businesses located in downtown Lacombe. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
City of Lacombe announces updated plans for downtown redevelopment

The plan would see $1.7 million spent on the downtown over the next 10 years

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read