Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named the head of the navy as Canada’s new top soldier.
The announcement comes as the Canadian military continues to play a major role in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, from stepping in as the virus ravaged long-term care homes in the spring to supporting the logistical rollout and distribution of highly coveted and limited vaccines supplies.
“In his new role as Chief, Vice-Adm. McDonald will oversee the work of the Canadian Armed Forces, including on vaccine rollout through Operation Vector,” said Trudeau in a press conference outside his home at Rideau Cottage on Wednesday.
“I know that Vice-Adm. McDonald’s leadership and expertise will be invaluable as the Armed Forces continue to work around the clock to keep Canadians safe.”
McDonald, originally from Cape Breton, took over as commander of the Royal Canadian Navy in 2019.
He takes over command of the military at a time when the force is grappling with deep-rooted discrimination and sexual harassment, as documented in numerous fact-finding reports in recent years.
An October report put military culture in the crosshairs with Vance asserting there needs to be a “cultural change” through all ranks of the Canadian Forces to stamp out sexual misconduct.
“Ultimately, our goal is to foster a culture in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” Vance said at the time.
“To achieve our goal, we must cultivate a command climate across the institution where sexual misconduct is never minimized, ignored or excused. This is how we build a safer work environment and ensure trust in each other and in the chain of command.”
The report urged a new approach is needed to get long-term results that will tackle the deep systemic challenges at the heart of military culture.
Among those are a climate perceived as “permissive” of sexual misconduct, traditional concepts of masculinity and the behaviour expected of a “male warrior,” a male-dominated workforce and a climate that “can be hostile and, at times, predatory towards women and LGBTQ2 persons.”