Discussion Board

Related Links

Please find below, comments submitted to the Court Martial Comprehensive Review.

Please Note: With consideration given to the number, size, and substance of the comments submitted, all comments may not be posted.

Previous Weeks(s)

Week 4: October 30 - November 5

Yvan Martineau - 1-Nov-2016

"En fait mes commentaires sont sur tous les sujets donnés. J'ai bien lu les différents sujets et ai quand même gardé mon idée principale. Je crois que les cours martiales de la façon dont elles fonctionnent présentement sont juste et equitable. En premier lieu je mentionnerais que les FAC sont une entité particulière et à ce titre il est normale que certaines activités dont les cours martials, soient différentes qu'au niveau civil mais tout en respectant les lois canadiennes. De plus, il me semble que nous sommes transparent à tout les niveaux. Un inculpé peut prendre un avocat civil s'il le veut, nous avons tous les paliers d'appel désiré. Il faut s'adapter certe mais il ne faut pas détruire ce que nous sommes. Nous ne sommes pas des employeurs, journaliers dans des domaines communs au Canada. Nous devons défendre le Canada, ici et à l'étranger. nous devons compter l'un sur l'autre et sur une discipline et exemple qui n'est pas reflété chez ces mêmes employés, outre les personnes de loi tel policier etc. Donc je dis, ajustons-nous mais restons unique."

Week 3: October 23-29

Yannick Godbout - 24-Oct-2016

"Bonjour, Un système de justice doit être crédible aux yeux de sa population afin que la perception soit positive et qu'il y règne un sentiment de justice et d'équité. J'aimerais vous faire part de mes observations au sujet de la problématique reliée à la crédibilité des procès sommaires. Mes propos sont tirés de diverses discussions que j'ai eues avec des accusés des témoins et plusieurs autres intervenants au cours de mes 26 années de services. Les compétences et l'expérience des officiers présidants et aussi celle des personnes autorisées à porter des accusations sont souvent remise en question. Le système de justice militaire est souvent comparé au système civil et lorsqu'on compare l'expérience requise pour évoluer en tant que qu'Officier Présidant (juge) ou encore la personne autorisé à porter des accusations (procureur) on se rend compte rapidement que l'un n'a rien à voir avec l'autre en ce qui a trait à l'éducation, l'expérience et les connaissances. À cause de ces manquements et dans la plupart des cas, l'administration de la justice ne peut se faire sans avis juridique d'un spécialiste en droit militaire. Tout comme les lois civiles, la loi sur la Défense nationale comporte une quantité innombrable de particularité et est sujette aux interprétations que seul un membre expressément formé est en mesure d'en connaitre toute la profondeur. Ce manque de connaissance et d'expérience démontre qu'il y a apparence d'incompétence, car les officiers présidants et les personnes autorisées à déposer des accusations sont dans l'obligation de faire une demande d'avis juridique. Ceci démontre dès le départ, un manque de confiance de l'autorité juridique envers les principaux acteurs des procès sommaire. Ce manque de confiance, malheureusement, sème inévitablement le même doute dans l'esprit des membres de la troupe. Pour que les Officiers présidant et le personnel autorisé à faire le dépôt d'accusation puissent avoir pleine crédibilité, ils doivent eux même avoir être en mesure d'administré la justice de façon équitable sans être influencé par qui que ce soit. Je n'ai pas de solution concrète mais je me permets de suggérer d'alléger la justice militaire pour les commandants de façon à ce qu'elle soit administrée plus simplement ou de simplement avoir du personnel spécifiquement formé afin de leur donner cette profondeur tant recherché pour que la crédibilité des procès sommaire ne soit plus remise en doute. "

Marc Pelletier - 25-Oct-2016

"I think that the system in place is fair and covers all military offence that could be dealt with. The only point that may be of contention is the sentencing that seems in most case be too lenient and does not provide the appropriate level of deterrence to maintain discipline as intended. Too often, the case gets dismissed at a court martial and all of the effort put in to try and maintain discipline is wasted, there must be in place a mean to retry an individual for the same incident if new evidence is presented. there should be a look at all of the other countries system and see were it would become more efficient to incorporate part of their system into ours."

Martin Gagnon - 26-Oct-2016

"À première vue, il semble évident qu'un juge militaire de par son expérience, semble plus habilité à juger une cause impliquant un militaire mais je crois qu'il en est rien. Je crois que les juges civils, ont une connaissance suffisamment approfondie pour présider ces cas. Il faut comprendre que chaque cas est unique et que l'expérience des juges civils, qui président statistiquement plus de cas que les juges militaires, pourraient jouer en leur faveur. Le fait d'assigner des juges civils à nos cours martiales, amèneraient une certaine transparence aux yeux du public. Dans les cas plus ''militarisés'' tel qu'un militaire qui manque à son devoir en temps de conflit armé, il n'y a rien qui empêche le juge civil de demander un ''expert en la matière'' de l'assister et cette personne pourrait être désignée par le Juge-Avocat Général. A la question: ''Doit-on demander aux cours martiales de se déployer?'', je crois que non. Je crois, pour l'avoir vécu en mission, qu'il est préférable pour le mis en cause et aussi le reste du personnel participant au déploiement, que le processus de cour martiale soit fait au Canada, suivant le rapatriement du mis en cause. Je comprends que tous les mises en cause sont innocents jusqu'à preuve du contraire mais je crois qu'advenant le cas où un membre doit être jugé pour un incident, cela pourrait devenir une distraction et un danger pour les opérations et ses collègues."

Martin Gagnon - 26-Oct-2016

"Est-ce que le Directeur des Poursuites Militaires (DPM) doit être absolument militaire? Non et encore une fois au risque de me répéter, le fait que le DPM soit civil pourrait apporter une transparence complète aux yeux du public et de la population militaire. En exemple, si nous regardons les derniers cas publicisés de militaires de haut grade qui ont été jugés, nous pouvons nous percevoir que les punitions semblent avoir été ''légère'' par rapport au citoyen/militaire moyen. Nous pouvons aussi faire l'analyse de ce qui se passe dans les autres organisations du MDN, tel que la Direction Générale - Autorité des griefs des Forces canadiennes. Cet organisme est un exemple parfaitement représentatif du fait que du personnel civil qualifié peut travailler dans un environnement militaire et y comprendre tous les enjeux. Il n'y a rien qui empêche nos avocats militaires de faire de même et aider le DPM Civil à comprendre et appliquer les règles et politiques en vigueur. Ce que nous gagnerions dans tout çà ; de la transparence."

Pruneau - 27-Oct-2016

"a. Il est nécessaire pour le système de justice militaire d'avoir la capacité de traiter les cas rapidement. Puisque tout est basé sur l'effet dissuasif par le biais d'exemple lors de sentence, l'impact d'une cour martiale conduite des années après l'infraction ne peut être efficace. La cour n'a peut-être pas à se déployer en terrain hostile mais doit être capable de procéder au jugement de façon rapide. Ceci peut se faire au Canada alors que les troupes sont toujours en théâtre mais les résultats de la cour doivent être connus des troupes au combat rapidement pour obtenir l'effet recherché.

b. D'un côté jurisprudence, il est de notre point de vue qu'une cour civile aurait de la difficulté à bien comprendre le contexte militaire. Les acteurs au sein d'un tribunal pour une cause militaire doivent être conscient des impératifs militaires qui ne s'apprennent pas dans les livres ni en une semaine. La compréhension contexte militaire se développe au fil d'une carrière tels que les avocats et juges militaires se développent présentement. Le poids du devoir militaire doit être bien compris lors du jugement de la cour à l'opposé à un civil n'ayant aucune responsabilité pour le pays. Les avocats et juges militaires partagent, ou doivent partager, les mêmes valeurs militaires.

c. Il serait difficile de concevoir que les membres ou la chaîne de commandement devrait defrayer le coûts d'une cour martiale, d'attribution d'avocats (incluant la poursuite et la défense) pour assurer le jugement lors d'une infraction. Le fait d'avoir un système nécessaire payé par les fonds publics permet de le rendre utilisable et impartial. L'éventualité de devoir choisir entre des fonds d'entraînement ou des fonds attribués à la justice militaire pour un commandant pourrait faire que ce dernier choisirait de ne pas aller de l'avant avec une recommendation de cour martiale même lorsque ceci serait la bonne décision."

Week 2: October 16-22

Bobbie Garnet Bees - 16-Oct-2016

"The National Defence Act must be amended so that child sexual assaults (military dependant and cadets) are removed from the jurisdictions of the military justice system. The National Defence Act must be amended so that the military police and the CFNIS are only able to act as first responders when military dependants are found to have been sexually abused and/or sexually assaulted in or on any defence establishment, ship, aircraft or other materiel of the Canadian Forces. This should hold true whether or not the perpetrator is a civilian, another military dependant, a civilian employee of DND or a member of the Canadian Forces subject to the Code of Service Discipline. Any sexual abuse or assault of a military dependant or cadet should immediately be handed off to the outside civilian authorities having jurisdiction. The Military Police / CFNIS must be made available to these outside civilian authorities to act as a resource when these civilian authorities need to navigate the military hierarchy. "

Ms Murphy-Critch - 16-Oct-2016

"I was sexually harassed and touched in a sexual manner by my PO2 when I was an OS. I was told that if I told that my career progression would stop, but if I let it happen, I could fly through the ranks. I didn't tell anyone but my boyfriend at the time. He ended up calling my Chief on my ship and told him. This was in 2003 and this stuck with me until 2010. My career came to screeching halt so fast, because the person who assaulted me was well known and well liked so no one would give me a chance or the benefit of the doubt. I was given my AB and LS on time, and it took a long time to get my MS. He on the other hand, was given a stayed conviction and is now a CPO2. He got nothing and I got all the looks, the snickers, the feeling of inadequacy, and ended up leaving my boyfriend partially because of this. Sexual Harassment and Sexual assault should not be taken lightly because it stays with the victim long after the courts pass their judgement. I think there should be harsher penalties for these types of offenders. This is the first time I have put my experience on paper, and even after 13 years, it still hurts! Thanks for your time."

Sonny Sergerie - 18-Oct-2016

"Un juge militaire est il mieux placé qu'un juge civil, ou inversement, pour instruire le procès d'une infraction militaire? À mon humble avis, la loi étant la loi, sa mise en application ne devrait pas différer et l'instruction d'un procès par un juge ne devrait pas tenir compte de sa vocation, c.-à-d. militaire ou civil; surtout que les juges militaires doivent posséder les mêmes qualifications de base que les juges civils. L'a où je vois la différence est sur la « capacité » ou la « compréhension » d'un juge civil avec pas ou peu d'expérience ou de connaissance du système militaire sur [.les obligations exceptionnelles qui incombent aux militaires, l'importance de la discipline pour des forces armées et le cadre complexe dans lequel les infractions militaires sont commises.]. De plus, les défis reliés avec l'administration de la justice à l'extérieur du Canada ou dans des lieux dangereux ne sont pas à négliger, sans mentionner les coûts faramineux que cela pourrait représenter si les FAC voulaient investir un juge civil dans de telles conditions. Bref, après mûre réflexion, et une étude rapide du système actuel (avec les informations fournies), il est de mon avis qu'un juge militaire est en meilleure position qu'un juge civil pour instruire le procès d'une infraction militaire et que le statu quo devrait prévaloir."

Sean Ivanko - 20-Oct-2016

"I would like to provide input on the Courts Martial System from a perspective of Officer Commanding (previous position).  I sincerely believe in the essential nature of military justice and its role in maintaining good order and discipline.  My personal experience with the Courts Martial system through soldiers under my command having elected courts martial undermined my confidence in the system.  The common belief amongst soldiers is that whenever given an opportunity to elect courts martial to take that option as it has a far higher chance of a finding of not-guilty based off a technicality.  One example was a soldier had a straight-forward AWOL charge yet it included Disobeying a Lawful Command.  The finding was one of not-guilty with the reasoning that the Section Commander (MCpl) said: “report to work” over the phone and not “report to work now”.  This undermined the chain of command and made a mockery of military justice in the eyes of the Squadron, many of whom attended the proceedings.  While I don’t question the legal voracity of the decision, it did not support military justice nor did it achieve specific or general deterrence (quite the opposite).  I have a very simple test when considering military justice: if this action were to be repeated, would the organization thrive? I can undoubtedly assert that if everyone showed up 4 hours late for work and disregarded direction from a superior with no repercussions, the organization would in fact not thrive.

Furthermore, it did not respect the timely nature critical to military justice.  The process often takes up to a year to start the trial, and the level of local effort required to set up the trial is quite onerous (though it is widely recognized the level of effort is highly dependent upon the personal proclivities of the presiding judge), and is also a rather expensive proposition for the taxpayer (why can’t it be done by teleconference?).  The net result was for the unit to recommended to all charge layers to avoid any electable offence. 

In short, I have throughout my career heard a prevailing opinion amongst the junior NCMs that Courts Martial has the best probability of non-guilty, the legal decisions rendered are often very surprising to the chain of command (and have even surprised local LEGADs), and are extremely resource intensive."

Week 1: October 11-15

Eugene R. Fidell - 11-Oct-2016

"Hello/bonjour. Bravo on this initiative. Some initial thoughts: 1. Is military justice sufficiently special as a body of jurisprudence that a separate appeal court (I know, I know, the judges are drawn from other courts in Canada; they do have day jobs) is warranted? 2. How about an across the board rule that any offense that can be tried in a Canadian civilian court must be tried there? 3. How about instituting a service-connection/nexus requirement for subject matter jurisdiction, à la O'Callahan v. Parker and Relford v. Commandant, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks? 4. The comments form requires a province to be selected. (I've arbitrarily inserted Ontario.) You may want to add another option for comments outside Canada. Gene Fidell."

François Lareau - 11-Oct-2016

"A fundamental question at the beginning of a review of courts martial is to ask ourselves if it It would be beneficial for all if courts martial proceedings should be published and accessible to all.

I believe it is a must.  There is no excuse with the Internet.  You can describe and talk about courts martial, cite provisions of the NDA but there is nothing like a transcript.

Only the JAG library has transcripts of all courts martial.  As far as I know, it is not open to civilians.

It is dificult for a civilian to get a copy of a transcript.  Recently, I was informed that the proper route to get a copy is not  to make a request under the Access to Information Act (ATI Act) since it is considered a published document under that Act (I can send you the letter if you want).  If it is a published document, then steps and procedure have to be developed and established to make the transcrips accessible.  My definition of justice is that of Aristotle justice is equality -- no equality no justice."

Luc Lacombe - 11-Oct-2016

"Les miltaires ont un statu et un engagement unique au sein de de notre société. Tous les membres ont le devoir de servir leur pays, d'être des ambassadeurs et de favorisé un sentiment de justesse et de sécurité dans leur environnement. Nous sommes très peu de citoyens qui avons l'autorité, dans des circonstances précises selon les règles d'engagement a avoir le droit d'utiliserla force létale pour rétablir la paix et la stabilité. Nous sommes exposés à faire le sacrifice ultime dans certains cas. Donc, rien de ce que je viens de décrire est semblable au reste de la population canadienne. Ceci dit, nous nous attendons à avoir un comprotement irréprochable de nos soldats et advenant un déli militaire criminelle ou disciplinaire, qu'il soit commun ou pas au reste des lois civils, le militaire qui commet un infraction devrait être jugé par un régime de droit militaire. Ce régime doit être clairement défini et il devrait être relativement rapide dans son exécution. En s'engageant volontairement, un militaire, de facto, accepte d'être jugé de façon militaire et ce, peut importe l'infraction. À mon avis, si nous nous engageons dans une équivalence au civil, nous nous exposons à une réforme qui mettera en péril l'application des lois militaires ainsi que son application."

Maurice V. Poitras - 12-Oct-2016

"Hello,

I would like to make the following two comments concerning my experience with Military Court Martials (which isn’t all that extensive).

The first pertains to the fact that for certain offenses, some minor in nature, a Presiding Officer over a Summary Trial has no choice but to offer the option of Trial by Court Martial to an accused. I have seen several cases in the past where soldiers elected trial by court martial knowing full well (because of previous similar cases) that the system was over-booked and that the chances of their case ever making it to Court Martial within the one-year time period would be very slim. Most of these cases were eventually dropped, thereby making the option of Trial by Court Martial much more favorable to an accused, even knowing that the possible punishment may be more severe.

Rather than have cases dropped, I was wondering if it would be possible to put in place a system whereby all cases submitted to Trial by Court Martial are given an initial review with the more serious offenses maintained at that level while the more minor offenses are returned for Summary Trial (that the Summary Trial is deemed the more appropriate venue for the trial). Another option would be to get rid of the backlog of cases so that all cases submitted to Court Martial are actually tried within the timeline and none fall through.

My second comment concerns the punishments/sentences given during a Court Martial. On at least one occasion I have personally referred a case to Trial by Court Martial because I did not feel that my powers of punishment as a Presiding Officer were sufficient. However rather than obtained a harsher penalty, the accused after being found guilty was given a much lighter sentence than the maximum sentence I could have given him had I proceeded with the Summary Trial (if memory serves, my max powers of punishment included a fine of 1/3 month’s salary or about 1300$, while he in fact received a fine of 400$). Other Presiding Officers I know have had very similar experiences.

Perhaps it’s a question of sensitizing Court prosecutors of the issue and having them do a better job of explaining to the judge why the case was brought up to the Court Martial level in the first place.  I know we hold databases for comparison cases which a Presiding Officer can use as a reference when considering sentencing, perhaps we should also hold something at the Court Martial level  (and include Summary Trial results). The large variation in punishments for similar crimes definitely tarnishes the system, especially when soldiers tried for similar offenses during a Summary Trial get the max penalty, while others who elected Trial by Court Martial get a much smaller punishment.

For your consideration."

Week 5: November 6 - November 12

Sue O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime - 3-Nov-2016

 Fairness for all victims: Addressing the gap in the rights of victims of crime within the Canadian military justice system

The Judge Advocate General has launched a comprehensive review of the Canadian Armed Forces' court martial system. The Court Martial Comprehensive Review Team is engaging with Canadians on several key areas including, for example, the special needs of specific groups, such as victims of crime, within the military justice system.

The OFOVC welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the review with the aim to ensure that the victims within the military justice system have access to the same rights and entitlements that are in place for all other victims of crime in Canada....

Read more about Fairness for all victims: Addressing the gap in the rights of victims of crime within the Canadian military justice system

Trent Doucette - 7-Nov-2016

"As a retired CWO, I saw the summary trial process evolve from a time where there was no investigation and you were guilty before you were marched in to a fairer but more labour intensive process. I truly believe that the summary trial process has a much greater ability to correct minor infractions than the administrative process of remedial measures. What is happening now is that supervisors are so busy, it is much easier to fill out an IC for , let's say, being 15 minute late than it is to charge the person, start an investigation, set up and conduct a summary trial, and if the member is given extra work and drill, task your staff to work in the evenings supervising this Pte through the work and drill time given. A Pte doesn't care that he had to sign a piece of paper nor does he see the career ramifications. March him up in front of his peers and most will correct their deficiencies. The summary trial process needs to be streamlined, no! t to where it was, but to a place where responsible supervisors will use it again. If not, the trend to remedial measures will continue to the detriment of our members and the maintaining of discipline throughout the CAF. To do this, you could differentiate in the DAOD which infractions fall under a summary trial and which ones can be dealt with by remedial measures. For example, issues with dress, AWOL, insubordination, or any infraction that falls under the NDA should only be dealt with via summary trial or court martial. Do not give supervisors the option as they will take the easy way if they are busy. Good luck with the review, Trent Doucette CWO Retired"

Michael McCluskey - 7-Nov-2016

"The military justice system absorbs an inappropriately large amount of time from the CoC. This could be avoided by streamlining the powers of the CO. The powers of punishment for the CO should be limited to detain soldiers for up to 5 days, fine soldiers a percentage of their pay (up to 10%) and release. Release should require a minimum of two prior convictions within the past three years. The distinction between court martial and summary trial is unnecessary. Simply put the CO should have more power to maintain good order and discipline within his unit and his Coy Comds should not act as Presiding Officers at all. Instead, they should be the default assisting officer. There is no benefit to the current differential between Coy Comd powers of punishment and the CO's. It is the CO who is ultimately responsible for his or her Unit. Provide the CO with the tools to control the Unit including release."

Holly MacDougall - 7-Nov-2016

"All justice systems should be dynamic. I applaud the JAG's ongoing efforts to review the military justice system to ensure its' continuing relevance to its' primary purpose - to provide a process that will ensure the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale in the military - and compliance with Canadian law. Compliance with Canadian law has been continuously validated by the Supreme Court of Canada as recently as July 2016. With respect to the continuing relevance of the military justice system, the fundamental purpose of discipline, efficiency and morale in a military force is to promote its operational effectiveness. Certain attributes are required to meet this objective. Both prosecutors and judges must possess an understanding of the necessity for, the role of and the specific requirements of discipline. This does not necessarily mean that these positions must be staffed by military officers but absent any compelling reason to do otherwise, it is a reasonable approach. Furthermore, if the Canadian Forces continue to be deployed extraterritorially, then the whole of the military justice system (summary trials and courts martial) should be capable of holding trials in situ, if for no other reason than practical imperatives such as foreign witnesses unwilling or unable to travel to Canada to testify. To do otherwise risks the erosion of discipline with a consequential negative impact on o! perational effectiveness because of an inability to deal with offences that have disciplinary implications. This portability and deployability capacity can only be guaranteed by having military judges, military prosecutors and military defence counsel."

Hendrik Venter - 7-Nov-2016

"It seems to me a degree of protection for victims during the course of military justice proceedings is very important, for the same reasons that the federal government decided to implement such protections in the civilian criminal justice system. Victims must be treated fairly and with compassion, and must be given regular information about the proceeding so that they can effectively exercise their rights to witness (and hopefully in future participate) in the process. They should also have a right to have their experiences and representations considered during sentencing."

Bruce MacGregor - 8-Nov-2016

Socrates is purported to have stated the fateful words at his trial, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. A similar principle might be apt for the Canadian Military Justice System (MJS). Without regular reviews and in-depth reflections, the effectiveness and utility of the MJS could diminish and lose its responsiveness to the men and women in uniform whom it is primarily intended to serve. For this reason, I welcome the Court Martial Comprehensive Review (CMCR) and the opportunity to make public comment.

Before offering specific comments concerning ways to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and legitimacy of the court martial system, I will provide a few observations as background to my comments. This will also provide the readers a better context in which to assess my personal perspectives on the CMCR.

General observations concerning the legitimacy of the Canadian court martial system

The court martial system forms part of the MJS. In the context of a comprehensive review of this system, a few key facts relating directly to its legitimacy should be borne in mind and communicated to the Canadian public.

It is important for all to know or remember that neither the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) nor the Judge Advocate General (JAG) created the MJS. It is Parliament that has set its structures and institutions (such as the system of courts martial), as well as the roles and functions of the various actors within the MJS. It has done so in the National Defence Act (NDA).

Regulations made pursuant to the NDA, either by the Governor in Council or the Minister of National Defence (MND), provide further details.

The actors within the MJS include notably: various members of the military chain of command, such as commanding officers, the JAG, the military police, military judges, the Director of Defence Counsel Services (DDCS) and the DMP.

In addition to parliamentary and governmental elected officials, it was highly credible and serious experts and institutions, outside of the CAF, which played a crucial role in shaping the MJS to what it is today.This should provide a certain measure of reassurance as to the legitimacy, wisdom, and purpose of the system.It should also convey the importance that any change to the current system be not impressionistic, or simply based on a cursory comparison with other possible models.Rather, it should be evidence-based and be of at least equal rigour and credibility than the findings that led the system to what it is today.

For instance, the current organisation of the MJS is a direct result of the recommendations that the external Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and Military Police Investigation Services (SAG) made to the MND in 1997, in three reports.The then retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), the late Right Honourable Brian Dickson, chaired the SAG.Chief Justice Dickson was one of Canada’s most renowned legal minds and one of the architects of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter).

In 1998, Parliament chose to implement almost all of the recommendations that the SAG made in Bill C-25.

While the SAG recommended adjustments to the MJS, including for the purpose of ensuring that it complies with the Charter, its first report (known as the First Dickson Report) clearly stated that: “We are convinced that the entire military justice system should remain in the hands of the military”.

Also, the 1992 decision of the SCC in the case of Généreux concerning the independence of courts martial informed the recommendations of the SAG. Importantly, the SCC in that decision stated that: “Recourse to the ordinary criminal courts would, as a general rule, be inadequate to serve the particular disciplinary needs of the military. There is thus a need for separate tribunals to enforce special disciplinary standards in the military.” This explained and confirmed the rationale for military tribunals whose existence the Charter specifically recognizes at paragraph 11(f).

Interestingly, another primary architect of the Charter, the Honourable Barry Strayer, as Chief Justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court (CMAC) in 1996, stated in the Reddick decision: “That decision (Généreux) has confirmed the basic legitimacy of a separate system of military justice. It has recognized that such a system is generally subject to the requirements of the Charter, albeit that those requirements may mandate somewhat different results in the military context. Thus military justice is not treated as a serious exception to the system of fundamental justice generally guaranteed to Canadians by the Charter. Through decisions such as Généreux itself and through numerous legislative and administrative changes the system has been modified to improve the independence of members of a court martial and the conduct of trials.”

The MJS is indeed designed to be capable of adaptation and evolution.

This takes place, for instance, through action and civilian review and scrutiny by the courts. These include the CMAC which is a court of appeal set up under the NDA but staffed by civilian judges of the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal and provincial Superior Courts from across Canada.

For example, in the 2008 case of Trépanier, the CMAC declared unconstitutional the provisions of the NDA that enabled the DMP to select the type of court martial that would try an accused in a given case. The court based this conclusion on the right of the accused to full answer and defence, as protected under the Charter. The effect of striking down this provision was significant – declaring the court martial selection process unconstitutional meant that no court martial could be convened. In response, Parliament adopted amendments to the NDA setting in place a system complying with the Trépanier decision.

Also, the NDA itself, on the recommendation of the SAG in 1997, provides for review mechanisms. For one thing, Parliament gave the JAG superintendence of the administration of the MJS. The NDA also specifically mandates the JAG to conduct “regular reviews of the administration of military justice”, which is precisely what this CMCR is.

Furthermore, the NDA (also pursuant to recommendations that the SAG made), provides for an independent periodic review of the Code of Service Discipline. The first such independent review was conducted in 2003 by another former Chief Justice of the SCC, the late Right Honourable Antonio Lamer. The second independent review was conducted in 2011 by the former Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Honourable Patrick Lesage. Chief Justice Lamer stated that: “I am pleased to report that as a result of the changes made by Bill C-25, Canada has developed a very sound and fair military justice framework in which Canadians can have trust and confidence. (…) Notwithstanding my belief that Bill C-25 created a much more fair military justice system, there remain areas that can be improved.” Chief Justice Lesage had similarly remarked: “Although there are some areas where the military justice system and the grievance system can benefit from improvements, overall the system is operating well.”

Ultimately, it rightfully belongs to Parliament and the Government of Canada to set the institutions that will govern how the CAF maintain its discipline, guided in doing so by the rulings of courts, most notably that of the SCC.

The changes that the SAG recommended and that Parliament put in place through Bill C-25 included the creation of the DMP, independent from the chain of command, but part of the CAF, and only subject to directions from the JAG (themselves subject to the requirement of being made public). As Chief Justice Lamer pointed out in his 2003 report: “Bill C-25 created the DMP in order to establish prosecutorial independence” and “Because the DMP is outside of the chain of command, conflicts of interest in the convening of courts martial are avoided”.

The CMAC confirmed in the 2014 case of Wehmeier that the “the role played by the DMP is similar to that exercised by the Attorney General” and that the DMP enjoyed the same scope of prosecutorial discretion, subject to the same “principles articulated in the jurisprudence (…) with regard to the nature of the role of the prosecutor, prosecutorial discretion and the circumstances, which may warrant the review of a prosecutorial decision”, than those that apply to the Attorney General.  

The Supreme Court, in its 2016 decision of Cawthorne, confirmed that every prosecutor (which includes the DMP) “has a constitutional obligation to act independently of partisan concerns and other improper motives”. This also means that the same legal standards governing the decisions civilian prosecutors make, along with the legal remedies available in case of violation, would also apply to the DMP. This directly relates to the legitimacy of the system.

In its 2015 Moriarity decision, the SCC concluded “that Parliament’s objective in creating the military justice system was to provide processes that would assure the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale of the military.” The court martial system is an integral part of those processes. The decision of Moriarity also confirms a broad understanding of what discipline entails.  “Criminal or fraudulent conduct, even when committed in circumstances that are not directly related to military duties, may have an impact on the standard of discipline, efficiency and morale. (…) The fact that the offence has occurred outside a military context does not make it irrational to conclude that the prosecution of the offence is related to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military.”

In 2016, in the Cawthorne decision, the SCC overruled the CMAC decision in the adjoining case of Gagnon that included the proposition that the Charter requires that “the military justice system must be independent of the chain of command”. It also rejected the idea that the Charter would prevent the MND to perform a role in the MJS, including making prosecutorial decisions related to appeals on behalf of the Crown. This decision should also contribute to the ongoing perception, amongst Canadians, of the legitimacy of the court martial system that Parliament adopted.

Of course, other countries have different systems and various ways to deal with military discipline. Some are very similar, others very different than the ways Canadians have chosen, through their institutions, to organize themselves. Other models could also work to deal with military discipline in Canada. This is true also for every single institution that we have. For instance, the entire civilian justice system could take a more inquisitorial nature, as is the case in most continental European and many other countries. The key is to not change for change sake, but rather make changes that could demonstrably lead to improvements.

With this backdrop in mind, I offer the following comments.

Comment 1: The court martial system would benefit from a comprehensive performance measurement system

At present, such a system does not exist. Its absence makes it very difficult to create evidence-based measures to identify specific aspects of the system requiring improvement, design appropriate remedies, and to monitor their subsequent success.

Performance measurement will necessarily entail confirming what Canadians want the MJS to accomplish. At present, the purpose of the MJS is clear. The SCC confirmed that Parliament created the court martial system as part of the “processes that would assure the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale of the military”. Until Parliament changes the purpose of the MJS, the performance measurement system should measure how well the CM system contributes to this purpose.

In addition to identifying areas of improvement and a means to track effectiveness of changes, such a performance measurement system would also offer a base to adequately compare the MJS with other justice systems (civilian in Canada, civilian and/or military abroad).

Conversely, its absence in the MJS (and in other systems) makes any comparison and attempt to import features, a guessing game.

Measuring performance simply based on the number of cases heard at CM, for example, is incomplete. A robust performance measurement system would need to consider factors such as population, criminality and recidivism rates, clearance rates, delays, judicial vacancies, access to legal representation, effect on the discipline, morale and effectiveness of the CAF, etc.

Also, when it comes to measuring the performance of the prosecutors, one must consider the time spent not only at CM, but also on other functions prior, related and leading to CM, such as pre-charge screening, post-charge review, resolution negotiations, contact with witnesses and victims, preparing for and pleading appeals, etc.

Designing such a performance measurement system that is world-class would likely require the involvement of specialists who are not necessarily lawyers, such as criminologists and statisticians. This initiative, however, would not require legislative amendments.

But, even in the absence of a performance measurement system, and without hard scientific data, I will offer the following comments that nevertheless benefit from the previous critical thinking of highly reputable sources, as well as from direct empirical observations.

Comment 2: the CMCR should factor in recommendations previously made to improve the court martial system

If the CMCR does not wait for recommendations made in the course of previous reviews to come into force prior to issuing its report, it should at least factor them into its current review.

The review of the CM system should cover the aspects and the features Parliament already intended for the system to have, and consider the recommendations already made by previous external reviews.

These include those conducted by Chief Justices Lamer and Lesage. Some of those recommendations have already been approved by Parliament but are not yet brought into force.

Other recommended changes aimed at improving the CM system, including for victims’ rights, have already been the object of detailed analysis and were reflected in proposed legislative amendments to the NDA (i.e., Bill C-71).

Examples of changes recommended by previous reviews and/or legislative initiatives that I would consider an improvement to the court martial system include: 

  • Legislative amendments to clarify the requisite elements of an offence under s.129 NDA. The difficulty in interpreting this provision have led to confusion and a situation where the chain of command is deprived of this disciplinary tool in a manner which, respectfully, Parliament did not intend. While clarification can be obtained through judicial decisions (something that the DMP is actively pursuing, see recent CMAC factum for example), legislative clarifications would have immediate beneficial effects.
  • Experience of prosecutors: In his 2011 report Chief Justice Lesage generally agreed with the recommendations that another “External Review of the Canadian Military Prosecution Service" made in its March 2008 report ("Bronson Prosecution Report") concerning the experience of military prosecutors. The Bronson Prosecution Report noted that: “it must be recognized that the position of a military prosecutor is a very specialized one that encompasses the acquiring of a considerable amount of knowledge and expertise with respect to advocacy skills, the rules of evidence, substantive criminal law and the Charter of Rights.” The current practice of the Office of the JAG (OJAG) usually aligns with the recommendation that the Bronson Prosecution Report made that “the initial appointment to the position of (regional military prosecutor) should be for a minimum of five years.”
    My experience confirms the wisdom of this approach, which in my view should be formalized. I also see the wisdom of the Bronson Prosecution Report recommendation that “the military prosecutors be encouraged to stay as long as possible in the RMP position. They should be permitted to spend their career as military prosecutors if they so wish”.
    I also recognize, however, the challenges that this recommendation presents. For instance, given its small size, career progression opportunities uniquely within the Canadian Military Prosecution Service would be more limited than within the broader OJAG from whence prosecutors come. This could act as an obstacle to attracting interesting and interested candidates. Also, being exposed, as legal advisor, to various facets of the CAF’s “business” enhances the quality of military prosecutors.
    Therefore, I am of the view that it would be beneficial to the efficiency of the prosecution function to have a formalized system to manage the career of legal officers posted as prosecutors. Such a system could, for instance, provide that legal officers selected to be military prosecutors would act in that capacity for five years. Following that period, the individual would be posted elsewhere within the establishment of the OJAG (or that of the Canadian Forces Military Law Centre, within the Canadian Defence Academy), with a possibility for rejoining the prosecution team after a set period of time, if that is something that the DMP and the individual wish. This would entail setting out the details concerning selection of candidates from the OJAG, considering the needs of other Divisions within the OJAG, something that I am convinced is within the realm of the feasible. This would not require legislative or regulatory amendments.
  • Sentencing regime: legislative amendments could define the purpose and principles of sentencing within the MJS. This would increase the alignment between sentencing and the purpose of the MJS, in a manner that is transparent to Canadians. Also, sentencing options could be increased to include absolute discharges and restitution orders, for instance.  It would also be possible to consider the possibility of having military panels, at general courts martial, offering recommendations to the military judge charged with determining the sentence.  Without taking away the responsibility to impose the sentence from the military judges, it would provide a way to ensure that the perspective of the military community affected by the offence is publicly communicated and taken into account.
  • Military Rules of Evidence: Regulations made under the NDA provide for the rules of evidence that apply at CM.  These rules reflected the state of the law of evidence at the time they were adopted.  They offered an easily accessible, one-stop reference, for counsel and military judges at CM, at a time where legal officers did not necessarily perform those functions continuously or for a significant period of time.  For example, in the course of a 5-year posting as a legal advisor to a CAF formation, a legal officer could have been called upon to prosecute, defend or even act as judge at court martial, and only for a limited number of times, in addition to their various other primary functions.  Today, on the other hand, military judges are totally independent from the OJAG and are exclusively employed as judges, and military prosecutors and defence counsel, posted on the DMP’s or DDCS’ establishment, are exclusively employed in that role for the duration of their posting and consequently gain significant experience in criminal law.  As Chief Justice Lesage pointed out in his report: “These rules have not been regularly updated and have not kept pace with the common law evolution of the law of evidence. Today's Military Judges are well-trained and knowledgeable in law and procedure, as are counsel who appear before them. The Military Rules of Evidence are, in my view, no longer necessary for court martial proceedings. The common law rules of evidence as well as the Canada Evidence Act and, where appropriate, other provincial and federal evidence statutes, along with judicial decisions well known to Military Judges and counsel, should provide ample guidance for court martial proceedings. That is all the direction required.” I agree.
  • Victim and Community Impact Statements: Legislative amendments would be necessary to ensure that, at sentencing, military judges consider the views of the victims and that of the community affected by the actions of an offender. At present, admitting such evidence is left to the discretion of the military judges.

Comment 3: ensuring better legal representation and support for victims of service offences

Providing legal representation to victims would better guarantee their rights and protect their interests in the course of specific CM that directly relate to them, for instance when an accused applies to have access to the victim’s medical records. Providing for such access to counsel would facilitate the work of prosecutors and the courts.  Such access, through public funding, might be more extensive than what the civilian justice systems provide (as does, similarly, the MJS provide greater access to fully- funded defence counsel services to accused than what exists in the rest of Canada).  This would likely require Treasury Board regulations and appropriate funding.

The MJS could also provide for ways to integrate victims’ views in the course of policy development (for example, policies that apply to the military police, OJAG, DMP, CM court practice, etc.). This could be through consultation with victims’ advocacy groups. Legislative or regulatory amendments would not necessarily be required to achieve this.

Some of the features that could assist victims, additional to those that currently exist, lie outside of the MJS, and could be beyond the scope of what the CM system can do.  Providing those additional resources, complementary to the CM system, could however be the responsibility of the Military Personnel Command (which comprises, amongst others, the Canadian Forces Health Services) and/or other Commands.  Arrangements could also be made between the CAF and civilian institutions (public or private) that currently offer victim support services.  The fact that some of those services may currently exist in some civilian jurisdictions and not in the CAF, however, should not be viewed as an argument in favour of systematically diverting trials of service accused towards the civilian justice system in specific instances.  Instead, the solution would lie in establishing those features within the CAF, or at least establishing ways to ensure that victims have access to the same level of support whether a case is heard at CM or before a civilian tribunal.  Transferring all trials to the civilian justice system, while it may alleviate the need to expend DND funds to support victims, may not necessarily translate into actual better support to the victims than what the CAF could have provided had it had the resources.  It may also not adequately respond to the needs to maintain the discipline, effectiveness and morale of the CAF, something Parliament saw as important.  It would also simply transfer the resource burden onto the civilian system.  Without data, it is impossible to quantify the financial implications, and the effect for the victims.

I, again, thank the CMCR for providing me the opportunity to offer comment on this important initiative.  As always, I stand ready to discuss the issues related to the MJS with a view to improving its effectiveness and maintaining its utility for the men and women in uniform and to all Canadians.

Date modified: