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Gen. Jonathan Vance stepping down from role as Canada’s top soldier

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, retires
WATCH: Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, retires

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance is resigning his position as the country’s top soldier.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Vance announced the decision and said he has notified the government that he will relinquish command “in the months to come.”

“Until I relinquish command, I will continue to serve you and Canadians with the same energy and effort I always have,” Vance said in the statement.

“In the meantime remember, you mean everything to Canada, you are more important to the success of this nation that most will ever know, and I am so very proud to be counted among your ranks.”

Canada’s top soldier Gen. Jonathan Vance resigns
Canada’s top soldier Gen. Jonathan Vance resigns

The decision comes after the Liberal government declined to nominate Vance for the position of chairman of the Military Committee of NATO, which is the alliance’s top military officer, sources say.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Vance for his service in a statement released shortly after the tweet, and said the process to appoint his replacement is getting underway.

“In his five years as Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance has served with distinction during a challenging period, leading the Canadian Armed Forces as they served at home and around the world, from Mali to Ukraine to Iraq,” said Trudeau in the statement.

“He has also worked with the Forces to make them more inclusive and representative of the country they defend and the Canadians they protect. With almost 40 years of service, General Vance has devoted his life to this country and we thank him for his dedication and leadership.”

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Vance’s statement did not include mention of “retirement.”

Trudeau’s, on the other hand, referenced the term in various forms several times.

READ MORE: Canada ‘very fortunate’ to have Vance as defence chief, minister says

Vance has been chief of defence staff since July 2015, when he was appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government shortly before that fall election.

He is the longest-serving top soldier in the position.

During his time in the office, he has been responsible for the military response to the fight against ISIS as well as Operation Honour, which was formed in response to a damning report that found an endemic culture of sexual misconduct throughout the Canadian military.

Canadian military’s second in command abruptly quits
Canadian military’s second in command abruptly quits

He has also overseen efforts to recruit more women and LGBTQ2 Canadians into the military, as well as the military’s response to the government’s 2017 defence policy review and its as yet unsuccessful attempts to procure a new fleet of military fighter jets.

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The military has also launched training and deterrence missions in Ukraine and eastern Europe, which remain ongoing, as well as responses to several recent tragedies involving the deaths of military members in a helicopter crash and a Snowbird crash earlier this year.

But his leadership has also faced criticism at times, including questions on his handling of the high-profile court case against his former colleague, retired Vice. Adm. Mark Norman.

Norman had been charged with breach of trust but the case was dropped in 2018.

Vance’s tenure has more recently seen the focus put squarely on efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with the military stepping in to work in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec that were decimated by the rapid spread of the deadly virus.

With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson.