The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Chief of the Defence Staff Change of Command Ceremony

Ottawa, Monday, October 29, 2012


As commander-in-chief, I have the great privilege of meeting regularly with members of the Canadian Forces, and of honouring their service to our country.

I call it a privilege because these are women and men of the highest calibre—and that is particularly true of the outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter Natyncyzk.

Today, with this change of command ceremony, I am pleased to recognize the outstanding contributions that General Natyncyzk and his wife, Leslie, have made to Canada during the past four years.

And I am equally pleased to extend a warm welcome to our incoming chief of Defence Staff, General Thomas Lawson.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this leadership position to the Canadian Forces, and indeed to Canada itself.

Just as the principle of duty with honour acts as the “centre of gravity” for the military profession in Canada, so, too, is the CDS the centre of gravity for the men and women who comprise the Canadian Forces.

Since taking up this role in July 2008, General Natyncyzk has shown extraordinary leadership, vision and humanity.

He understands that in addition to leading the Canadian Forces as an institution, the Chief of the Defence Staff is also a leader of people—and in this, he grasps an essential truth of the Canadian military.

That is to say, the Canadian Forces is more than an organization. It is in fact a unique family. And, as in any family, role models are vitally important, and great leadership derives from the heart as well as the head.

General Natyncyzk knows this—as does Leslie, who has offered such genuine support to the families and loved ones of our servicemen and women.

General Walt, in your many speeches to the brave, to the ill and injured, to medal recipients and to their families, I would often hear you say “I’m proud to be your Chief of Defence”.  I believe I speak for all when I say the Canadian Forces are grateful to have had you as CDS. 

To both you and Leslie, I offer my deepest thanks for your service to Canada. It has been an honour for me and my wife, Sharon,  to work closely with you during the past two years.

My predecessor Vincent Massey once said, “The defence of our way of life is more than a technique. It is a calling.” And together, you have truly answered the call to service.

General Lawson, as you prepare to take on this new responsibility, I would also like to thank you for your long and distinguished service to Canada.

Having held numerous important roles with the Air Force and most recently as deputy commander of NORAD, you have time and again demonstrated an ability to lead and to take on new and complex challenges successfully.

It is no secret that our world today is marked by rapid and profound change on many levels, and the military sphere is no exception. Today’s Canadian Forces must operate with the integration, dynamism and speed that characterize the 21st century, all while staying true to that which we seek to defend: our democratic values as Canadians.

I have seen up close the dedication of Canadian Forces members to our ideals. It never fails to make me proud to serve as commander-in-chief.

General Lawson, as the newly-appointed Chief of the Defence Staff, you are called to command one of the most professional militaries known today, and you inherit the lead role in defending Canada’s values while contributing to international peace and security. You embody the depth of our commitment to the common good.

Thank you for answering the call to service. I wish you and Kelly the very best in your new command position.