CDS Message to the Defence Team

November 25, 2021 - Defence Stories

Message from CDS

This message is available in video format.

To all members of the Canadian Armed Forces and wider Defence Team – Hello, Bonjour, Kwey.

This message is sent to you from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people, who have been stewards of these lands for millennia. I recognize that their culture and presence have nurtured and continue to nurture this territory to this day.

I was asked to continue to serve as Chief of the Defence Staff, and I have agreed to do so.

I take on this substantive role with my eyes wide open, knowing the rough road that lies ahead and the challenges that come with this position — particularly as we work to reconcile the troubling elements of the CAF’s past and present, in order to build a better institution, all in the face of a deteriorating global security environment. 

There will be no ceremony given the circumstances. We don’t need one. Instead, we need to focus on the important work that lies ahead, for all of us. This appointment changes nothing in my approach.

Still, I wanted to take a moment to connect with you and to reaffirm my commitment to you – the incredible people who put on the uniform every day, and the many outstanding public servants who are part of the broader Defence Team family.

I am truly inspired by your selfless service to Canadians at home and around the world. 

The world is more dangerous today than it has been at any other time since the Cold War. We continue to face a number of threats and challenges, both foreign and domestic. Both internal and external. To our country, there are those who seek to cause harm to us and to damage our institutions and their effectiveness.

The Canadian Armed Forces will continue to work with our allies and trusted international partners to counter aggression and destabilizing forces around the world – in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Indo-Pacific region, and in our own continental waters. Global crises, like the situation that unfolded in Afghanistan last summer, will continue to demand our attention – we must be ready.

Here at home, challenges such as climate change are altering the way we prepare for and conduct operations — and the type of operations we carry out. Hundreds of you are now supporting emergency flood relief efforts in British Columbia — at the end of a busy year in which many of you were deployed to help fight wildfires in B.C. and Manitoba, to support forest-fire evacuations in remote communities in Ontario and to mitigate flooding in Yukon.

And all this work has been done in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic — which we all know has not been kind to the CAF. We have all experienced the pandemic’s negative impact on our personal lives and our operational readiness.

At the same time, we continue to grapple with a crisis of confidence in leadership emerging from a failure to evolve our internal culture.

This culture change is — along with continuing to deliver operationally, while rebuilding our readiness and modernizing the CAF — the core of reconstitution efforts that will drive our priorities going forward.

There are positive aspects of our culture – the desire for one to be part of something bigger, the willingness to put oneself into harm’s way to protect others and the selflessness of putting aside one’s own needs for the good of the country that we must retain and indeed celebrate.

It is the exclusionary aspects inherent in parts of our culture that we are addressing to ensure current and future members are safe, valued and able to focus on their most important task, protecting Canada and Canadians. We must retain, and be able to attract, talent from all segments of Canadian society. Canadians must see themselves in their armed forces – our future depends on it. 

At the heart of everything we do is our people.

You are key to our operational effectiveness. And if we are to succeed as an organization — to be the military Canada needs and deserves — every member of the Canadian Armed Forces and broader Defence Team must feel welcomed, supported, empowered and inspired to bring their very best to the table each and every day.

I acknowledge that for many of you, this has not been your experience.

I recognize that our failure to adequately address misconduct within the CAF has resulted in significant harm to survivors, and eroded trust in the Chain of Command.

I also recognize the demoralizing effect that this is having on people at all levels of our organization.

We can, must, and will do better.

My promise to you is this: On my watch, we will approach this transformation of our culture with openness, humility, compassion and a determination to learn and improve. We must seek to improve our institution every day.

This is our challenge. This is our opportunity for a better, brighter future.

There will be mistakes and missteps along the way – that invariably comes with change. But moving forward is imperative. The status quo is not an option.

We all have a role to play, and we all must ensure our professional conduct aligns with the CAF’s core values and principles — first and foremost, respect for the worth and dignity of every individual.

Those who choose not to — those who will not uphold these values and principles — have no place in our armed forces.

I am deeply thankful to everyone working to effect real change, who offer their time, who continue to engage, and who have pushed for this change by helping us understand their diverse perspectives and lived experiences.

The last nine months have been difficult. They have been fraught with unrelenting operational demands, uncertainty and crises; making them some of the most challenging days of my career.

I have struggled to find balance, and there have been missteps as I pushed myself to listen, learn and consult broadly, before acting — sure of one thing, above all else: That I don’t have all the answers.

But together, we will change the direction of this institution. We will not reach the end of this journey on my watch, but we have begun, and we will continue.

A life of service can be immensely rewarding — but it is never easy. Never easy on those of us who wear the uniform — and those who support us at home.

Our loved ones, families and families of choice know, feel and experience the stress that service to Canada can create.

Many of you have spoken to me about the challenges of affordable housing for you and your families, stress compounded by rising cost of living and our operational tempo.

I know my own family has felt the stress and worry that comes with service — I know they often wondered if I would return from deployments, and if so if I would return whole and healthy.

To my own family: It is clear that my taking on this role adds to the burden you have borne over the years — but this is one more mission for us, and likely my final one. I thank you for your love and your own service to our country behind the scenes.

And to the outstanding people of the Canadian Armed Forces and broader Defence Team: Canada needs you now, more than ever.

As we confront these challenges, we must rise above the toxicity of our times and remember why we serve. We must always be there for Canada and Canadians.

As we challenge ourselves, as we struggle, learn and grow, I ask each of you to continue to do what so many of you do each and every day.

Take care of yourselves and continue to look out for one another.

Continue to carry out your duties to the very best of your abilities. Continue to defend Canada and Canadians. And continue to take well-deserved pride in your service. These will be sources of stability in times of great change. You are amongst the very best sailors, soldiers, aviators and public servants in the world.

Serve ethically, morally and professionally.

Serve with humility, an open heart and an open mind.

Serving alongside you — including now, as your Chief of the Defence Staff — is one of the greatest honours of my life.

For this, and for everything else you and your families sacrifice to keep the CAF strong and our country safe, you have my enduring gratitude.

Thank you. Merci. Miigwetch.


General Wayne Eyre

Chief of the Defence Staff

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