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NATO’s Viceroy: The Commander-in-Chief’s Interview with David Lloyd Johnston

On July 22nd, 2021, the NATO Association of Canada was proud to host David Johnston, the 28th Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada for an exclusive conversation on the Canadian Constitution, national security and foreign policy. Joined by David Collenette, a former Minister of National Defence and Chair of the Association, as well as interns Morgane Holley and Arjun Singh, Johnston shared his thoughts – in English and French – on the role of the Crown in government, his tenure as viceroy, perspectives on Canada’s current security challenges and his role in NATO, particularly during the Afghanistan War.

Watch our exclusive conversation with David Johnston here!

Meet the Speakers

The Right Honourable Professor David Lloyd Johnston, P.C, C.C, C.M.M, C.O.M, C.D, F.R.S.C(hon), F.R.C.P.S.C(hon) is a lawyer, academic and author who served as the 28th Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada.

Johnston was born in Sudbury in 1941 and attended school in Sault Ste. Marie – where he excelled at hockey and was a prospective NHL player. He then went on to Harvard University – where he received a Bachelor of Arts (AB) magna cum laude in 1963 while also captaining the Varsity Hockey Team. He was twice selected to the All-America hockey team during that time. Thereafter, he attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge and Queen’s University at Kingston, taking a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from both institutions in 1965 and 1966.

Over his six-decade-long career, Johnston became an expert at public policy, business law and information technology law. He served as a professor of law at Queen’s University at Kingston and thereafter at the University of Toronto (where he received tenure) and the University of Western Ontario. In 1979, he was named the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University where he served until 1994, thereafter becoming the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waterloo, where he led its significant growth as a global fount for research and innovation.

It was in 1979 that he moderated the first of many Leaders’ Debates during Canadian Federal and Provincial Elections – between Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent. He did the same in 1984, between John Turner and Brian Mulroney. After those moderations and during his academic career, he served as the Chair and commissioner on several public commissions on the environment and climate change, technology, online learning and political ethics – most notably, the Oliphant Commission – among others.

In 2010, Johnston was appointed Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the 28th since Canadian Confederation. He embarked on his first foreign trip to Afghanistan, to visit Canadian soldiers in Kandahar: the first of many such visits to Canadian troops in the country. Over his seven years of service, he presided over several notable developments – including the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada inquiring into the Indigenous Residential Schools system, the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017, and two Canadian Federal Elections (2011 and 2015). For exemplary service, his tenure was extended by two years in 2015, making him one of the longest-serving viceroys in Canadian history since Georges Vanier. He retired in 2017 and has led the Rideau Hall Foundation to continue his service to Canada, as well as served as the Honorary Colonel of the Royal Canadian Regiment. Johnston is an Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit, Order of Merit of the Police Forces, among others, and has received over 30 doctorates honoris causa.

The Honourable David Michael Collenette, P.C., is a former politician and business advisor who is the Chairman of the NATO Association of Canada.

Collenette was born in England and immigrated to Canada – graduating from York University’s Glendon College with a Bachelor and Master of Arts. In 1974, he was first elected as the Member of Parliament for York East with the Liberal Party, serving until 1979, and again from 1980 to 1984. In his second term, he was deputized to the United Kingdom to represent Canada during negotiations for constitutional patriation, culminating in the Constitution Act of 1982. Thereafter, he was appointed the Minister of State for Multiculturalism by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and continued service in the cabinet of Prime Minister John Turner. Following the 1984 Federal Election, he worked as an advisor to several Canadian firms on government relations.

In 1993, he was re-elected to parliament as the Member for Don Valley East and, until 1996, served as the 32nd Minister of National Defence and 17th Minister of Veterans Affairs in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. In 1997, he was appointed Minister of Transport and, in 2002, as Minister responsible for Crown Corporations. He retired from the Cabinet in 2003 and federal politics in 2004, respectively.

Since leaving politics, Collenette has continued his business advisory work as a Senior Consultant for Hill & Knowlton, and taught courses at Glendon College. He served as the City of Ottawa Transportation Task Force Committee and as a Special Advisor to the Government of Ontario on High-Speed Rail from 2015 to 2018.

Morgane L. Holley is the Programme Editor for Society, Culture and Security at the NATO Association of Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University in World Religions and Art History, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in international relations from York University’s Glendon College. She has worked for the Embassy of the French Republic to the United States at Washington D.C., the French-American Chamber of Commerce and IPBio Reserve Betary in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where she worked on conservation efforts for Atlantic forests. She speaks English, French and Italian, and has lived in six countries.

Arjun Singh is a project coordinator with the NATO Association of Canada, formerly serving as the Programme Editor for NATO Operations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Toronto where he specialized in political science, while also obtaining a major in international relations and minors in American studies and history. Previously, he has worked for the U.S. Department of State, the Parliament of India, the G7 & G20 Research Groups and Elections Canada. He currently writes on international security and the politics of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Watch our exclusive conversation with David Johnston here!


  • NATO Association of Canada

    The NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) strives to educate and engage Canadians about NATO and its goals of peace, prosperity and security. The NAOC ensures Canada has an informed citizenry able to participate in discussions about its role on the world stage.

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NATO Association of Canada
The NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) strives to educate and engage Canadians about NATO and its goals of peace, prosperity and security. The NAOC ensures Canada has an informed citizenry able to participate in discussions about its role on the world stage.