Raison d'être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d’être

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces support a strategic vision for defence in which Canada is:

  • Strong at home, with a military ready and able to defend its sovereignty, and to assist in times of natural disaster, support search and rescue, or respond to other emergencies;
  • Secure in North America, active in a renewed defence partnership in NORAD and with the United States; and
  • Engaged in the world, with Defence doing its part in Canadian contributions to a more stable and peaceful world.

The National Defence Act (NDA) establishes DND and the CAF as separate entities, operating within an integrated National Defence Headquarters, as they pursue their primary responsibility of providing defence for Canada and Canadians.

Mandate and role

This raison d’être forms the mandate that is the responsibility of the Minister of National Defence. The Minister presides over the department as established by the NDA.

The department has an essential relationship with Veteran’s Affairs Canada (VAC), as demonstrated by the Minister of Veterans Affairs’ dual role as Associate Minister of National Defence. The position is provided for in the NDA. The Associate Minister is responsible for defence files, as mandated by the Prime Minister, with the specific priority of ensuring a seamless transition for CAF members leaving the military.

The Minister of National Defence is advised by the Deputy Minister (DM), who is appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The DM is the Minister’s most senior civilian advisor, and is authorized under the law to carry out, on the Minister’s behalf, many aspects of the management and direction of the department. The DM is responsible for policy advice, departmental management, interdepartmental coordination, international defence relations, public service renewal, federal-provincial relations, and portfolio management. Under the Financial Administration Act, the DM is designated as an Accounting Officer with the responsibility of ensuring financial oversight and the prudent management of allocated resources, and is accountable before Parliamentary Committees to provide explanations on matters for which the DM is responsible.

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the primary provider of military advice to the Government, has direct responsibility for the command, control and administration of the CAF, morale and welfare and personnel support programs for members and their families, and is appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The CDS advises the Minister on issues such as current and future military requirements, force capabilities, possible courses of action and the consequences of undertaking (or failing to undertake) various military activities. The CDS is also responsible for maintaining international military relations with Canada’s allies and partners. The CDS is accountable to the Minister 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 is also the advisor to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on major military developments and issues.

For more general information about the department, see the Supplementary informationFootnote viii section of this report. For more information on the department’s organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister’s mandate letterFootnote ix.

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