Admiral McDonald’s Flag Hoist Signal

January 14, 2021 – Defence Stories

CDS Message

It is the greatest privilege of my career to address you as your Chief of the Defence Staff. Upon assuming the Watch, I offer tremendous thanks and appreciation to General Vance – wishing him fair winds and following seas. I am humbled and honoured to relieve such a great leader and mentor, to become Canada’s twentieth Chief of the Defence Staff and have the responsibility to build on the enormous momentum towards a bright future that is his legacy. I am also thrilled to once again share a Watch with CPO1 Gilles Grégoire, your CAF CWO.

To the incredible members of the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence, teammates all, you need know that you, who have dedicated yourselves to the service of Canada, are forefront in my mind. I’m so proud to count myself amongst your strength. I’m so proud of you. Your professionalism is what enables us to achieve our important operational objectives. Your ingenuity and creativity allow us to address the complex problems we face. Your integrity shines through and inspires Canadians. Not surprisingly, you have as a result become a beacon of hope when times are difficult. You are Canada at its best when Canada’s best are needed at home or abroad.

You are also family. We are family. It’s one of the great strength of who we are. In the navy, there’s a gender-neutral term for colleagues held so close as to feel like family: shipmate. Obviously as an old salt, I consider you all – sailors, soldiers, aviators, Special Forces operators, and civilians alike – to be my shipmates even though I’ll try to use the term “teammates” instead going forward to avoid you suffering from any “sea-sickness.”

Teammates, this is a time of change, not only in your leadership, but in the world around us. COVID-19 continues to impact our daily routines at work as well as at home. Vaccine roll-out is underway, including for CAF members. Meanwhile, the world is an ever-more complex and demanding place in which Canada has found increasing need for the Forces, at home and abroad. And so, as we scan the horizon for what is next, I want you to know that it is also a time of continuity. Our course was charted in Strong, Secure, Engaged, and in its pursuit our mission is to keep steady.

As a “go-to, no-fail” Force, we will work with our whole-of-government partners to defend Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests at home and abroad. Ever ready, we will answer the call when our fellow Canadians are endangered by the forces of nature or other threat. We will work with our neighbours to the south to modernize NORAD and enhance our continent’s defence. And we will be amongst the key instruments through which Canada remains engaged in the world to promote security and stability alongside our allies and partners. The strategic environment is indeed complex and dynamic, but through your service and routine sacrifices – and those of your families - we will continue to provide the Government of Canada options and will always be ready to produce the required outcomes when called.

Therefore, as we move forward with implementing our Defence policy, you will have the equipment that you need to accomplish the important work you do. So I share your excitement about our clear progress in acquiring new ships, aircraft, vehicles, weapons systems, C4ISR technology, and more. Investment and innovation will continue to set the conditions for future success.

All of this can only be made possible if you are set up for success. We cannot focus solely on outcomes for outcomes’ sake. How we act matters as much, if not more, than what we accomplish. And we need to show our work here. To these ends, I promise you that we will be unwavering in our commitment to growing an inclusive and diverse workplace, and to identifying and eliminating racism, discrimination, and hateful conduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in our ranks.

Creating the culture that we seek is no small task. This culture change will take a concerted effort – by each and every one of us. It will require active leadership and continuous engagement at all levels. It will require that we help one another as we listen, learn, and act. This is not at odds with our thirst for operational excellence. It is a pre-requisite. It is mutually reinforcing – making this work with respect to who we are and how we do things perhaps what excites me most amongst the great things we are doing to ensure our readiness and success today and tomorrow.

People are obviously at the heart of our business. That’s why my prime directive has always been people first, mission always. In addition to being an underpinning to our current Defence policy, it is just how I was raised in this family of ours. So I am committed to continuing to prioritize providing you and your families with the support systems that you need and which SSE has outlined – from recruitment to retention to transition out of service. After all, we need remember always that our strength comes from the combined might of our individual members and the families that love and support them – as well as the impressive extended Forces’ family.

Teammates, the sacred responsibility that I have undertaken is to advocate for, empower, and lead you. I look forward to navigating through these interesting and exciting waters with you. We got this.

Yours aye,

Admiral Art McDonald
Chief of the Defence Staff

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