Gen. Wayne Eyre becomes permanent chief of the defence staff

Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre arrives on Parliament Hill prior to a cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Gen. Wayne Eyre has been appointed as the Canadian Armed Forces’ new chief of the defence staff, after holding the position of “acting” defence chief for almost a year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Thursday in a press release, congratulating the military leader and noting that Eyre will continue overseeing culture change within the Forces spurred by allegations of sexual misconduct.

“General Eyre will continue working hard to build and oversee cultural change in the Canadian Armed Forces, and to gain trust and confidence of survivors of sexual misconduct. I know he will keep leading our Armed Forces with distinction and professionalism as they continue to protect Canadians and their values at home and abroad,” said Trudeau.

Defence Minister Anita Anand also acknowledged the new appointment on Twitter.

Eyre took over from Admiral Art McDonald, who stepped aside as defence chief in February while military police investigated an allegation of sexual misconduct levied against him. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service announced in August that there was not enough evidence to lay charges against McDonald.

Since then, the former military commander has participated in a host of media interviews stating he wants his job back after being “exonerated.”

McDonald also wrote a letter to senior officers in the fall slamming the Liberal government for not reinstating him following the outcome of the investigation.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Anand said the letter was “shocking” and “unacceptable” and that the governor general has officially signed an order terminating McDonald.

Eyre has appeared before House of Commons committees studying the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the military, acknowledging the need to modernize the reporting structure for victims of misconduct.

“We have to learn why previous approaches did not work and learn from that and incorporate those into our plan going forward,” he said during a March committee meeting, adding that the Forces needs to move from a “duty to report” to a “duty to respond.”

He was promoted from the rank of lieutenant-general to general in August, around the same time the government put McDonald on administrative leave.

The revolving door of senior officers stepping down or stepping aside has stirred up criticism not only of the leadership within the military, but of the federal government and, specifically, former Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

His successor has committed to bringing about justice for victims, and create a safe and respectful environment while in the role.

“I’m going to be reading the past reports regarding misconduct in the Armed Forces as well as the recent independent review of the military justice system. I will be asking the department for an analysis of the recommendations that have already been implemented as well as the ones that have not been,” Anand said, when she was sworn into the position this fall.

“I also hope to hear from a many of our women and men in uniform as possible and I plan to be consulting directly with them across the country.”

Retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour is leading an external review to present “concrete recommendations” to establish a more independent reporting structure for victims of sexual misconduct.

It’s not unlike the mandate of the review led by Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps in 2015.

On Nov. 4, Anand said the department was adopting one of Arbour’s early recommendations to move the investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct cases to the civilian justice system.

Arbour is expected to release her final report in the spring.