Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Canadian military families are 'left behind'

Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights
obliges the State to carry out a full investigation on the
contentious death of a soldier. In Canada, the military conducts
  its own inquiry where military families are denied standing
In Canada, military families are denied a fundamental right to have the non-battle death of their son or daughter investigated in an open and impartial manner. Despite having a 'direct and substantial interest' in the investigation of such contentious death, these families have no right to standing before the military board of inquiry convened by the military authorities. However, spouses and parents may be 'summoned' to appear before the BOI. They also have no right to receive a copy of the final report prepared by the BOI.

When a Canadian soldier dies from a sudden death, the military  normally conducts an in camera BOI pursuant to section 45 of the National Defence Act.  Customarily present on a BOI panel are a military President and several CF officers, including a military Public Affairs officer. Upon completion of the BOI, a separate confidential report is prepared and reviewed at successive levels of command until approved by the Chief of the Defence Staff [CDS]. The report is not made public. Families may obtain a redacted copy via the Freedom of Information legislation once it has been approved by the CDS - a process that normally takes years.

By way of contrast, in the United Kingdom, such deaths in England and Wales are investigated by Coroners through the medium of inquests. [R v. Secretary of State for Defence and another [2010] UKSC 29] which involves the relatives of the deceased.

For the benefit of the deceased's family and society as a whole, a Coroner's inquest should be conducted each time a soldier suffers a sudden death in Canada, whether connected to a military installation or not. This would not prevent the military from having its own BOI to investigate any other incident connected with the service.

For further discussion see BEHIND THE TIMES a book published by the Hon. Gilles Létourneau and Prof. Michel W. Drapeau in March 2017.

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