March 2020 - Assistant Deputy Minister (Public Affairs) - Chris Henderson

Archived content

This page was proactively published to meet the requirements of the Access to Information Act. It is a historical record which was valid when published, but may now contain information which is out of date.


  • Appointed in October 2017.
  • Head of Communications for the department.
  • Over the previous 10 years, held senior leadership positions at Canada Border Services Agency, the Privy Council Office, and Coast Guard in program areas and in strategic communications.
  • Had a distinguished 20-year career with the Royal Canadian Navy.


  • Provide communications advice, guidance, services and products in support of the Government and its defence priorities
  • We focus on:
    • understanding the views of Canadians and defence stakeholders through public opinion research and consultations;
    • developing and implementing strategic communications plans and products;
    • leading defence internal and external communications channels;
    • monitoring and responding to the media;
    • implementing strategic marketing and advertising related to recruitment.

Key facts

Total Employees:

  • 283 civilian and military


  • $32.4M (2019-20)

Primary location(s):

  • National Defence Headquarters (Pearkes Building)
  • National Defence Headquarters (Carling) by March 2020

Has a decentralized model in DND and CAF, with slightly more than 55% of public affairs resources residing and reporting to other senior leaders.

Key Partners


  • All Defence Team


  • Central agencies
  • Various Other Government Departments (including, Global Affairs Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, etc.)
  • North American Aerospace Defence Command
  • Defence and security experts community, incl. academia
  • Defence industry
  • NATO, Five-Eyes Partners,
  • United Nations Diversity partners and stakeholders

Top issues for Assistant Deputy Minister (Public Affairs)

Communicating About Personnel

Care for CAF personnel and their families is a major institutional priority. Public affairs challenges include:

  • transition to civilian life;
  • mental health;
  • issues related to sexual misconduct, diversity and inclusion, and hateful conduct; and,
  • institutional progress milestones do not resonate as loudly as examples of individual failures; negative attention will persist.

Communicating About Operations

  • Stakeholders and media focus on each CAF operation separately, and not as one part of a larger contribution. This results in limited coverage that does not capture the reality of the CAF presence in operations domestically and internationally.
  • The sum of contributions can be better communicated with routine media briefings on operations.
  • Adversaries create disinformation and leverage misinformation to disrupt CAF operations. Detecting and correcting is difficult to achieve within legitimate government restraints.

Recruitment, Advertising and Attractions

  • Support for the CAF is high, but familiarity with CAF operations and career opportunities is low, especially among those in the younger age group.
  • In an economy with low unemployment, the CAF faces significant competition in attracting qualified and motivated applicants in the 18 to 34 range.
  • To increase applications from women and individuals with diverse backgrounds, DND/CAF is working to overcome traditional perceptions of the military as a non-inclusive work environment.

Perception of Procurement

  • Defence procurement is a highly complex process, involving many internal and external stakeholders.
  • Ongoing public affairs issues:
    • Major procurement projects with complex histories, such as the Interim Fighter Capability, the Future Fighter Capability, and the Canadian Surface Combatant;
    • Some negative perceptions of the procurement system (including equipment requirements and number of steps/approvals);
    • Deviations from initial cost and scheduling estimates that occur with complex projects.

Perception of Defence Spending

  • Defence spending is a significant portion of federal program spending.
  • Most of defence spending is on personnel and procurement.
  • Ongoing communications challenges include:
    • Negative perceptions of stewardship, transparency and favouring certain companies;
    • Spending on capital projects;
    • Spending relative to GDP (NATO 2% guideline) and percentage of spending on equipment (NATO 20% guideline often mentioned in media).

Back to top

Page details

Date modified: