Thomas J. Lawson

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Thomas J. Lawson CMM, CD
Born (1957-11-02) 2 November 1957 (age 58)
Etobicoke, Ontario
Allegiance  Canada
Service/branch  Royal Canadian Air Force
Years of service 1975 – 2015
Rank General
Commands held 412 Transport Squadron
CFB Trenton
Royal Military College of Canada
Chief of the Defence Staff
Battles/wars Military intervention against ISIL
Awards Order of Military Merit
Canadian Forces Decoration
Legion of Merit (U.S.)
Spouse(s) Kelly Lawson

General Thomas James Lawson CMMCD (born 2 November 1957) is a retired Royal Canadian Air Force general. Lawson was Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces from October 2012 to July 2015. He previously served as Deputy Commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command.


Thomas James Lawson was born on 2 November 1957 in Etobicoke, Ontario.[1][2] In 1979, Lawson graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (major in Electrical Engineering).[3] In 1981, Lawson completed wings and fighter training and was posted to 421 Squadron at CFB Baden-Soellingen where he flew the CF-104 Starfighter. He returned to Royal Military College in 1985 to complete a Master of Science in Engineering (Electrical Engineering) and then served as a lecturer with the Electrical Engineering department staff.[3]

In 1988, Lawson was promoted to Major and was posted to Montgomery, Alabama to attend the United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College.[3] While posted in Alabama, he completed a Master of Public Administration at Auburn University. In 1991, he was posted to CFB Cold Lake and completed CF-18 Hornet training and returned to CFB Baden-Soellingen to fly operationally with 421 and 439 Squadrons. After the base closed, Lawson returned to CFB Cold Lake, joining 410 Squadron as a CF-18 instructor, where he was in charge of the annual Fighter Weapons Instructor Course.[3]

Lawson was posted in 1996 to National Defence Headquarters as a career manager and promoted to lieutenant-colonel.[3] In 1998, he was appointed commanding officer of 412 Squadron, where he flew the CC-144 Challenger until 2000. Lawson was placed in charge of career management for Air Command and he completed the United States Air Force Air War College.[3]

In 2003, Lawson was promoted to colonel and held various staff positions with the Air Force before joining the CF Transformation Team in 2005 and leading the stand up of the Strategic Joint Staff.[3] In 2006, Lawson was posted to CFB Trenton and completed a year in command of that base before being promoted to Brigadier-General in May 2007 and appointed Commandant of his alma-mater, the Royal Military College of Canada.[3]

Lawson was promoted to major-general and appointed Assistant Chief of the Air Staff in September, 2009. In this role, he said the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II's stealth could help defend Canadian sovereignty, as Russian bombers would be faced with an "undetectable threshold".[4] Lawson was again promoted in July, 2011, to lieutenant-general and, on August 15, 2011, was appointed deputy commander of NORAD and posted to Colorado Springs.[5]

On August 27, 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of Lawson as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), replacing General Walter Natynczyk. In April 2015, a report on sexual misconduct in the forces by retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps was publicly released.[6] In a June interview with Peter Mansbridge, Lawson said that sexual misconduct is an issue in the military because "we're biologically wired in a certain way and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable thing to press themselves and their desires on others. It's not the way it should be."[7] Opposition parties and individuals on social media called for Lawson's resignation. Lawson later defended his statement, saying it was an "awkward characterization,"[6] but, nonetheless, announced in March, 2015, his intention to step down as Chief of the Defence Staff.[6][8]

On July 17, 2015, Lawson was replaced as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces by Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance.[9]

Medals and Decorations[edit]

General Thomas J. Lawson Has received the following Orders and Decorations.

Order of Military Merit (Canada) ribbon (CMM).jpg Special Service Medal Ribbon.png
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png CD-ribbon and 2 bars.png Us legion of merit officer rib.png

Ribbon Description Notes
Order of Military Merit (Canada) ribbon (CMM).jpg Order of Military Merit (CMM)
  • Commander 2010
  • Officer 2006
  • [10]
Special Service Medal Ribbon.png Special Service Medal
  • With "NATO" Bar
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2012
  • Canadian Version of this Medal
CD-ribbon and 2 bars.png Canadian Forces Decoration
  • 2 Clasps
Us legion of merit officer rib.png Legion of Merit (USA)
  • Degree of Commander


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
J P A Deschamps
Assistant Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
J Y Blondin
Preceded by
J M Duval
Deputy Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command
15 August 2011 – August 2012
Succeeded by
J. A. J. Parent
Preceded by
W J Natynczyk
Chief of the Defence Staff
October 2012 – July 2015
Succeeded by
Jonathan Vance