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Politics Turmoil continues at Canadian Armed Forces with appointment of new No. 2

Canadian Army Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier, left, addresses Ukrainian soldiers as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, stands by during military drills in base Honcharivske, Chernihiv region, Ukraine, Dec. 3, 2018.

Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press

The fallout from the failed prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman continues at the Canadian Armed Forces with the promotion of the head of the army, Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier, into the position of vice-chief of the defence staff.

Lt.-Gen. Lanthier will replace Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, who recently announced his retirement as the Canadian military’s second-in-command behind Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance. Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk is leaving the position over an aborted plan to bring back Vice-Adm. Norman into the No. 2 spot in the chain of command after the Crown dropped a charge of breach of trust against him.

The moves highlight the ongoing turmoil in the upper ranks of the forces in recent years, with Lt.-Gen. Lanthier becoming the fifth person in the position since 2016. The vice-chief of the defence staff (VCDS) is effectively the chief operating officer at National Defence headquarters.

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“The VCDS position is supposed to be the critical resource steward,” said defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “And it’s hard to do that effectively, no matter how good the people you’re putting into those positions are, if you’re having people that aren’t staying even two years.”

The Conservatives criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the “unprecedented chaos” in the Canadian Armed Forces, with Conservative MP Erin O’Toole saying the military deserves “stability and respect.”

Lt.-Gen. Lanthier had been the commander of the Canadian Army for slightly less than a year. He has been deployed during his career in the former Yugoslavia, Haiti and Afghanistan, where he served from 2011 to 2012.

He will be replaced as the head of the army by Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, who has served in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and the United States. Domestically, he has overseen operations in relation to floods in Manitoba, forest fires in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and the 2016 evacuation of Fort McMurray in Alberta.

Lt.-Gen. Eyre was only a few months into his position of commander of military personnel, which is the Forces’ top human-resources officer.

Vice-Adm. Norman, who is in the process of retiring from the military, was VCDS from 2016 to 2017. He was suspended in January, 2017, and charged last year with a single count of breach of trust for allegedly leaking government secrets related to a naval ship contract.

In early May, the Crown prosecutor said information provided by Vice-Adm. Norman’s defence team led to a decision to stay the charge, telling the court that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.

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By that point, Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk had taken over as VCDS, agreeing to serve in the position until 2020. But, when charges against Vice-Adm. Norman were dropped, Gen. Vance asked Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk to step aside so Vice-Adm. Norman could return to that post.

In a letter that became public this week, Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk said that he had agreed to stay, but will retire even though Vice-Adm. Norman is leaving the military.

“After much thought and consultation with my wife, I agreed to continue to serve away from my family and beyond maximum pensionable time,” he wrote to Gen. Vance, “giving you my word that I would not seek outside employment until retiring in 2020.”

According to the letter, Gen. Vance asked Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk to resign and make way for Vice-Adm. Norman.

“You advised that my continued service as the VCDS was no longer in the best interests of the [military], that you intended to restore Vice-Admiral Norman to the position,” Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk wrote.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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