Minister of National Defence (Canada)

The minister of national defence (MND; French: ministre de la défense nationale) is a minister of the Crown in the Cabinet of Canada responsible for the management and direction of all matters relating to the national defence of Canada.[6]

Minister of National Defence
Ministre de la Défense nationale
Harjit Sajjan

since 4 November 2015
Department of National Defence
Canadian Armed Forces
StyleThe Honourable
Member of
Reports to
AppointerMonarch (represented by the governor general);[3]
on the advice of the prime minister[4]
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
Inaugural holderGeorge Perry Graham
Formation1 January 1923
SalaryCA$269,800 (2019)[5]

The Department of National Defence is headed by the deputy minister of national defence (the department's senior civil servant), while the Canadian Armed Forces are headed by the chief of the defence staff (the senior serving military officer).[7] Both are responsible to the minister of national defence. The Queen (represented by the governor general of Canada) is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces and has final authority on all orders and laws for the "defence of the realm".[8][9]

The minister is responsible, through the tenets of responsible government, to Parliament for "the management and direction of the Canadian Forces". Any orders and instructions for the Canadian Armed Forces are issued by or through the chief of the defence staff.[10] The Department of National Defence exists to aid the minister in carrying out his responsibilities, and acts as the civilian support system for the Canadian Forces.[11][12]

The current minister of national defence is Harjit Sajjan. The parliamentary secretary, who represents the minister when he is away from the House of Commons, is Anita Vandenbeld.


On 1 January 1923, the National Defence Act, 1922 came into effect, merging the Department of Militia and Defence, the Department of the Naval Service, and the Air Board to form the Department of National Defence. The ministerial heads of the former departments, the minister of militia and defence, the minister of the naval service, and the minister of aviation were merged to form a new position, the minister of national defence.

During the Second World War, the minister of national defence was assisted by two subordinate ministers. The minister of national defence for air was an additional minister in the Department of National Defence responsible for the Royal Canadian Air Force; while the minister of national defence for naval services was another minister in the Department of National Defence responsible for the Royal Canadian Navy. The air and naval post was reincorporated into the portfolio of the minister of national defence following the Second World War.

The Defence Portfolio

The Defence Portfolio is a collection of organizations and agencies that report to the minister of national defence. Although deputy heads for individual agencies direct and oversee the activities of their agency, the minister is accountable to Parliament its activities.[13] The Defence Portfolio includes:[14]

The minister of national defence is also the designated lead minister for search and rescue (LMSAR) within the federal government.



No. Portrait Name Term of office Political party Ministry
1 George Perry Graham January 1, 1923April 27, 1923 Liberal 12 (King)
2 Edward Mortimer Macdonald April 28, 1923
(Acting until Aug.17)
June 28, 1926 Liberal
3 Hugh Guthrie June 29, 1926
(Acting until Jul.13)
September 25, 1926 Conservative (historical) 13 (Meighen)
VACANT September 25, 1926September 30, 1926 14 (King)
James Robb
October 1, 1926October 7, 1926 Liberal
4 James Ralston
(1st time)
October 8, 1926August 7, 1930 Liberal
5 Donald Matheson Sutherland August 7, 1930November 16, 1934 Conservative (historical) 15 (Bennett)
6 Grote Stirling November 17, 1934October 23, 1935 Conservative (historical)
7 Ian Alistair Mackenzie October 24, 1935September 18, 1939 Liberal 16 (King)
8 Norman McLeod Rogers September 19, 1939June 10, 1940 Liberal
Charles Power
June 11, 1940July 4, 1940 Liberal
(4) James Ralston
(2nd time)
July 5, 1940November 1, 1944 Liberal
9 Andrew McNaughton November 2, 1944August 20, 1945 Military
10 Douglas Abbott August 21, 1945December 9, 1946 Liberal
11 Brooke Claxton December 10, 1946November 15, 1948 Liberal
November 15, 1948June 30, 1954 17 (St. Laurent)
12 Ralph Campney July 1, 1954June 20, 1957 Liberal
13 George Pearkes June 21, 1957October 10, 1960 Progressive Conservative 18 (Diefenbaker)
14 Douglas Harkness October 11, 1960February 3, 1963 Progressive Conservative
VACANT February 4, 1963February 11, 1963
15 Gordon Churchill February 12, 1963April 21, 1963 Progressive Conservative
16 Paul Hellyer April 22, 1963September 18, 1967 Liberal 19 (Pearson)
17 Léo Cadieux September 18, 1967April 19, 1968 Liberal
April 20, 1968September 16, 1970 20 (P. E. Trudeau)
Charles Drury
(1st time; Acting)
September 17, 1970September 23, 1970 Liberal
18 Donald Macdonald September 24, 1970January 27, 1972 Liberal
19 Edgar Benson January 28, 1972August 31, 1972 Liberal
Jean-Eudes Dubé
September 1, 1972September 6, 1972 Liberal
Charles Drury
(2nd time; Acting)
September 7, 1972November 26, 1972 Liberal
20 James Richardson November 27, 1972October 12, 1976 Liberal
21 Barney Danson October 13, 1976
(Acting until Nov.3)
June 3, 1979 Liberal
22 Allan McKinnon June 4, 1979March 2, 1980 Progressive Conservative 21 (Clark)
23 Gilles Lamontagne March 3, 1980August 11, 1983 Liberal 22 (P. E. Trudeau)
24 Jean–Jacques Blais August 12, 1983June 29, 1984 Liberal
June 30, 1984September 16, 1984 23 (Turner)
25 Robert Coates September 17, 1984February 11, 1985 Progressive Conservative 24 (Mulroney)
26 Erik Nielsen February 12, 1985
(Acting until Feb.26)
June 29, 1986 Progressive Conservative
27 Perrin Beatty June 30, 1986January 29, 1989 Progressive Conservative
28 Bill McKnight January 30, 1989April 20, 1991 Progressive Conservative
29 Marcel Masse April 21, 1991January 3, 1993 Progressive Conservative
30 Kim Campbell January 4, 1993June 24, 1993 Progressive Conservative
31 Tom Siddon June 25, 1993November 3, 1993 Progressive Conservative 25 (Campbell)
32 David Collenette November 4, 1993October 4, 1996 Liberal 26 (Chrétien)
33 Doug Young October 5, 1996June 10, 1997 Liberal
34 Art Eggleton June 11, 1997June 25, 2002 Liberal
35 John McCallum June 26, 2002December 11, 2003 Liberal
36 David Pratt December 12, 2003July 19, 2004 Liberal 27 (Martin)
37 Bill Graham July 20, 2004February 5, 2006 Liberal
38 Gordon O'Connor February 6, 2006August 14, 2007 Conservative 28 (Harper)
39 Peter MacKay August 14, 2007July 15, 2013 Conservative
40 Rob Nicholson July 15, 2013February 9, 2015 Conservative
41 Jason Kenney February 9, 2015November 4, 2015 Conservative
42 Harjit Sajjan November 4, 2015Incumbent Liberal 29 (J. Trudeau)

Ministers with military experience

Name Rank Branch Position (if applicable) / Unit(s)
James Ralston Colonel Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) Commanding Officer, 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Battalion, CEF
Donald Matheson Sutherland Lieutenant Colonel CEF Officer Commanding, 52nd Battalion (New Ontario) and A Company 1st Battalion, Major, A Squadron 24th Regiment Grey's Horse
Andrew McNaughton General CEF / Canadian Militia / Permanent Active Militia Commanding Officer, 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles and Canadian Corps
Ralph Campney Lieutenant CEF / Canadian Army / Royal Flying Corps No.5 Stationary or General Hospital (Queen's), Commissioned Officer, 19th Canadian Infantry Battalion
Norman McLeod Rogers Lieutenant CEF 6th Nova Scotia Mounted Rifles|
Charles Gavan Power Acting Major CEF Canadian Corps
Brooke Claxton Battery Sergeant-Major Victoria Rifles of Canada
George Pearkes Major General CEF / Canadian Militia and Canadian Army Commanding Officer, Canadian Corps
Douglas Harkness Lieutenant Colonel Canadian Army Royal Canadian Artillery
Gordon Churchill Lieutenant Colonel CEF Vickers Machine Gunner, Commanding Officer Fort Garry Horse and 1st Canadian Carrier Regiment (Canadian Corps)
Paul Hellyer Gunner Canadian Army Royal Canadian Artillery
Charles Drury Brigadier General Canadian Army Commanding Officer, 4th Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery, General Staff Officer of the 2nd Canadian Division and acting commander of the Royal Artillery 4th Canadian Division
Edgar Benson Sergeant Canadian Corps (Canadian Army) 1st Survey Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
Barney Danson Lieutenant Canadian Army The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
James Armstrong Richardson Pilot Officer RCAF Consolidated Liberator anti-submarine patrol squadron of the (No. 10 Squadron RCAF)
Allan McKinnon Major Canadian Army Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery and Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
Erik Nielsen Pilot Officer (RAF) / Adjutant (RCAF) Royal Flying Corps / RCAF 101 Squadron and 126 Squadron; RCAF Legal Officer
Gilles Lamontagne Flight Lieutenant RCAF bomber pilot No. 425 Bomber Squadron
Gordon O'Connor Brigadier General Canadian Army Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
Harjit Sajjan Lieutenant Colonel Canadian Army The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own), Royal Canadian Armoured Corps

Bill Graham was enrolled under the University Naval Training Division of the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and received commission as Sub Lieutenant in 1960. Graham did not serve in the Navy following his commission and thus does not have military experience.

See also


  1. "The Canadian Parliamentary system - Our Procedure - House of Commons". Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  2. "Review of the Responsibilities and Accountabilities of Ministers and Senior Officials" (PDF).
  3. "Constitutional Duties". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  4. "House of Commons Procedure and Practice - 1. Parliamentary Institutions - Canadian Parliamentary Institutions". Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  5. "Indemnities, Salaries and Allowances". Library of Parliament. April 11, 2018. Archived from the original on June 1, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  6. "Laws Defining Responsibilities and Authorities of National Defence". Department of National Defence. March 25, 2010. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  7. "About DND - What is the relationship between DND and the Canadian Forces?". Department of National Defence. February 1, 2012. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  8. Lagassé, Philippe (December 2013). "The Crown's Powers of Command-in Chief: Interpreting Section 15 of Canada's Constitution Act, 1867" (PDF). Review of Constitutional Studies. 18 (2): 189–220.
  9. Federal Court of Canada (21 January 2008), In the Matter of Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh v. the Attorney-General of Canada (PDF), T-1809-06; 38, Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 5, 2008 FC 69, retrieved 7 February 2008
  10. National Defence Act. Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen as represented by the Minister of Justice. 2011. pp. 8, 12.
  11. "FAQ - What is the relationship between DND and the CF?". Department of National Defence. February 13, 2012. Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  12. "Civilians Supporting the Army". Department of National Defence. August 5, 2011. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  13. "Defence Portfolio". National Defence. 2013-02-19. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  14. "The Defence Portfolio". Department of National Defence. August 5, 2011. Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.