John de Chastelain
John de Chastelain
John de Chastelain – soldier, statesman, peace negotiator – is an example of the Canadian military’s proud evolution to the role of international peacekeeper and peacemaker.
The son of a Scottish oil engineer father and an American-born mother, John de Chastelain was born in Romania in 1937 and brought up in Scotland and England. He began his military career in 1955 when his family moved to Canada and he joined the Canadian Army as a private in the Calgary Highlanders.
He rose quickly through the ranks, serving in numerous posts in Canada, Germany and Cyprus. His appointments included a three-year term as Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada between 1977 and 1980 and the position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Personnel at National Defence Headquarters between 1986 and 1988. He became Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in 1988 and was promoted the following year to general and appointed Chief of the Defence Staff.
While serving as Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. de Chastelain played a key role in the Oka Crisis, the two-month stand-off in 1990 between members of the Mohawk Nation and the Canadian army over attempts to turn Mohawk burial lands into a recreational area. General de Chastelain was involved in the negotiations that led to a resolution of the confrontation and to the destruction of weapons by the Mohawk Warriors.
His accomplishments were acknowledged in 1993 when he was appointed Canada's ambassador to the United States, a post usually reserved for high-ranking diplomats. A year later he was once again named Chief of the Defence Staff, a position he held for another two years before retiring from the military. His diplomatic and negotiating skills were soon put to the test again, however, when he was asked in December 1995 to join the international body making recommendations on the decommissioning of paramilitary arms in Northern Ireland. He was subsequently appointed one of the three international chairmen who presided over the political talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998. For the past four years he has been Chairman of the Decommissioning Commission tasked with disarming the para-militaries as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
Gen. de Chastelain has worked with a number of service clubs, including the Boy Scouts of Canada. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Officer of the Order of Canada, the Vimy Award, the Commendation Medal of Merit and Honour (Greece), and Commander of the Order of St. John.
John de Chastelain and his wife MaryAnn make their home in Ottawa, though he is still based in Ireland while he continues his work with the Commission. The de Chastelains have two children, Duncan and Amanda.