General Wayne Eyre has been named head of the Canadian military, taking command as the Forces struggle with a sexual misconduct crisis that has rattled the top ranks.
Defence Minister Anita Anand said Thursday that Admiral Art McDonald had been fired from the top job and remained on administrative leave. Adm. McDonald stepped aside in February as he faced a sexual misconduct allegation, and Gen. Eyre has served as the acting chief of the defence staff since then.
Rory Fowler, a lawyer acting for Adm. McDonald, said his client was told of his termination after the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement announcing Gen. Eyre’s appointment. Adm. McDonald’s next step will be to resign from the military, Mr. Fowler added, adding that his client has had a “rough nine months.”
Several other high-ranking members of the Canadian Armed Forces have faced similar sexual misconduct allegations, which have been seen as both a stain on the military and a black eye for the government. Former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour is conducting an external review of the matter inside both the Department of National Defence and the Forces, with the goal of making recommendations for setting up an external reporting mechanism.
Speaking on Parliament Hill, Ms. Anand said she has had numerous conversations with Gen. Eyre about changing the culture of the military.
“I look forward to working very hard with Gen. Eyre on this most important priority, not just for the Canadian Armed Forces but for the Canadian population at large,” she said.
The chief of the defence staff is responsible for the command, control and administration of the Forces, as well as military strategy, plans and requirements. The chief of the defence staff is appointed by the governor-general on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and can be terminated with or without cause.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Gen. 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.”
Mr. Trudeau also praised Gen. Eyre’s service to his country throughout his career. Over the past year, his experience has played a vital role in providing strong leadership and helping Canadians across the country who face increasingly difficult challenges, he added.
“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,” he said in a statement.
On Thursday, the federal cabinet signed two orders in council: One promoted Gen. Eyre to his new role, while the other demoted Adm. McDonald.
First appointed to the top job almost a year ago, Adm. McDonald was sidelined just a few weeks later. He stepped aside last winter when it came to light that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service was investigating him for an act of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place aboard a warship in 2010.
In August, the military police announced they would not be laying charges. That prompted Adm. McDonald to issue a statement saying he would be retaking the reins of the Forces. But cabinet responded with an order placing him on administrative leave.
Thursday’s demotion order says Adm. McDonald made written submissions early this month outlining to cabinet and the Privy Council Office why he should be allowed to keep his job.
But the submissions were not persuasive. The order says Adm. McDonald “no longer has the confidence” of the government and that’s why the government, acting on the advice of Mr. Trudeau, “terminates the at-pleasure appointment of Admiral Arthur McDonald as Chief of the Defence Staff.”
Mr. Fowler said Adm. McDonald “is going to inform the new Chief of the Defence Staff of his intention to seek voluntary release,” adding that he has a statutory right to do so after 36 years of service.
Conservative MP Dan Albas said Gen. Eyre has a “big job” and that his party wishes him success “given the enormity of the challenge” the military is facing.
NDP defence critic Lindsay Mathyssen also welcomed Gen. Eyre’s appointment and said he has shown he understands the problems troubling the Forces.
“The ongoing issues will need to be met immediately,” Ms. Mathyssen said. “I hope Gen. Eyre will bring the dedication needed to meaningfully address them.”
With files from Bill Curry
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