In Canada, Bill C-15: An Act to Amend the National Defence Act was tabled by the Conservative Government more than five (5) years ago. It received Royal Assent in 2013. We have been critical of many elements of the Bill, but specifically section 29.14 which permits the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as Final Authority in the grievance process to delegate his function to subordinate officers. In fact, as early as July 2012 we raised specific concerns about section 29.14 (which has since become law), writing as follows:
“Given the mounting number of grievances by CF members and the current state of disrepair of the CF grievance system, the last thing the CF leadership ought to do is to further distance itself from the grievances submitted by the rank and file by adopting an ‘out of sight out of mind’ stance.
“In the Armed Forces, the submission of a grievance is last resort imbued with significant career risks. When a CF member decides to ‘cross the rubicon’ and submit a written grievance to his commanding officer, he or she holds the honest belief that the issues giving rise to the complaint are grave and serious enough to merit such a step, and will receive the personal attention of their superiors.
“On the other hand, an effective commanding general ought to be in tune with, and sensitive to, grievances and complaints submitted by his subordinates, and not be insulated by layers of bureaucracy.
“The delegation by the CDS of his powers as the final authority in the CF grievance system [to a Colonel identified as the "Grievance Authority"] is a retrograde step and a recipe for poor morale … In short, the CDS should become more engaged, not more dissociated with, the plight of the grievors’ so that he may provide inspired and informed leadership to people he directs to be in harm’s way.”
The chicken has come home to roost.
Since the passage of Bill C-15, many important grievances have been sent to the CDS’ delegated authority of choice, the said Grievance Authority, with embarrassing consequences.
More than ever before, CF members are turning to the Federal Court of Canada to have their grievances reviewed. Of those which were determined by Grievance Authority, 80% have been deemed “unreasonable” in the past year. This is a troubling statistic. Of these 80% of cases, the court has remanded each of them to be re-determined by a different Final Authority than the Grievance Authority. Some have been sent back under order that the CDS personally determine the grievance; See Federal Court cases Bossé 2015 FC 1143, Flaman 2015 FC 1242, Simms 2016 FC 770 and Hamilton 2016 FC 930.
It is clear that the CDS should not have delegated his authority as Final Authority in the grievance process. Time to go back to square one.
Is anyone listening?