Vance's appointment had been expected for a several weeks. He replaces Gen. Tom Lawson, who announced earlier this year he would step down as Canada's top general by September. Lawson, a former fighter pilot, has held the position since October, 2012.
Vance is currently commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, which has made him at times the public face for updates on Canada's mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
He has served as deputy commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Naples in Italy and chief of staff land strategy for the Canadian Army, as well as holding senior positions at National Defence Headquarters. He also twice led the Canadian task force in Kandahar, Afghanistan — in 2009 and again in 2010.
Harper made the announcement with Defence Minister Jason Kenney and Vance at his office on Parliament Hill Monday morning.
"Gen. Vance has served the Canadian Forces for 33 years and is taking over, obviously, … an important institution at an important time, when we're part of the international coalition against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and also leading important missions to Eastern Europe to reassure our friends and allies there," Harper said.
"I'm sure Gen. Vance will do a tremendous job for this vital national institution."
Harper said the transition would occur "in a couple months time" and thanked Lawson for his service as CDS and his years in the Canadian Armed Forces.