Thomas J. Lawson

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Thomas J. Lawson
General Lawson speaking to press
Born (1957-11-02) 2 November 1957 (age 63)
Etobicoke, Ontario
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Royal Canadian Air Force
Years of service1975–2015
RankCanadian RCAF (shoulder) OF-9.svg General
Commands held
Battles/warsMilitary intervention against ISIL
Spouse(s)Kelly Lawson
ChildrenBenjamin, Neil, Jack

General Thomas James Lawson CMM, CD (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, majoring in Electrical Engineering.[3] In 1981, Lawson completed wings and fighter training. He was then 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, specializing in 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. He then 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 2014, General Lawson asked retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps to carry out a study into the allegations of sexual misconduct in the Forces. In April 2015, this report was released to the public.[6] In a June interview with Peter Mansbridge, Lawson said that sexual misconduct is an issue 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] While public reaction to his interview was mixed, some opposition party members and individuals on social media called for Lawson's resignation. Lawson later defended his statement, saying it was an "awkward characterization".[6]

On July 17, 2015, Lawson was replaced as Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces by Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance.[8]

Medals and decorations[edit]

Lawson'S personal awards and decorations include the following:

CAN Order of Military Merit Commander and Officer.png Special Service Medal Ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png
CD-ribbon and 2 bars.png US Legion of Merit Commander ribbon.png Legion Honneur Commandeur ribbon.svg

Ribbon Description Notes
CAN Order of Military Merit Commander and Officer.png Order of Military Merit (CMM)
  • Appointed Commander (CMM) on 18 February 2011[9]
  • Appointed Officer (OMM) on 31 May 2007[9]
Special Service Medal
  • with NATO-OTAN Clasp
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • Decoration awarded in 2012[10]
  • Canadian version
Canadian Forces Decoration (CD)
  • with two Clasp for 32 years of services
US Legion of Merit Commander ribbon.png Legion of Merit (USA)
  • Decoration awarded 4 June 2015[11]
  • Commander level
  • United States United States award
Legion Honneur Commandeur ribbon.svg Legion of Honour (French Republic)
  • Decoration awarded in 2016[12]
  • Commandeur level
  • France France award


  1. ^ "How old is Canada's new top general? He's 54" CBC News 30 August 2012
  2. ^ "Canada's top general talks future of the Canadian Forces". Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "NORAD – Biography – T. J. Lawson, CMM, CD CANADIAN FORCES" (PDF).
  4. ^ Duggan, Evan. "New stealth fighter project highlights Russia, China as future threats." Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, 28 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Change of Office ceremony for NORAD Deputy Commander". Norad. Archived from the original on 2011-08-18.
  6. ^ a b "Military sexual misconduct due to 'biological wiring,' Gen. Tom Lawson tells CBC News". CBC. June 17, 2015. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  7. ^ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (June 16, 2015), Military Sexual Misconduct Due To 'Biological Wiring', Gen. Tom Lawson Says, Huffington Post, retrieved October 28, 2015
  8. ^ "PM takes part in Chief of the Defence Staff Change of Command Ceremony". Prime Minister of Canada. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Order of Military Merit List". The Governor General of Canada.
  10. ^ "The Queen Diamond Jubilee Medal List". The Governor General of Canada.
  11. ^ "ARCHIVED — Vol. 147, No. 17 — April 27, 2013". 2013-04-27. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  12. ^ Government of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada (January 30, 2016). "Canada Gazette – GOVERNMENT HOUSE".

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