Members of the Canadian Forces expect, are entitled to and deserve a modernand equitable system of justice that Canadians would be proud of. However, the Canadian military ‘justice’ system is in desperate need of reform. Suggestions for much-needed modernization and enhanced fairness of the military justice system have so far been met with an indifferent reception from the lawmakers.
Such matters as sexual assaults in the military, mistreatment of military families and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders [PTSD] sufferers, in camera military Boards of inquiry instead of public Coroners’ inquests, a broken military grievance system, the lack of military police competence, the lack of independence with the principal actors in the military criminal justice system (namely, the Director of Military Prosecutions and the Director of Defence Services Counsel or the occasional hues and cries from the public, driven principally by media reports, might all appear ab initio to be forceful agents for real change, In reality, however, such clamouring simply not led parliamentarians to make legislative changes that would contemporize the military justice system.
Ironically, however, when Parliament did act, the military was able to delay the implementation of many of such reforms.
For instance, as of April 4, 2017, only 62 of the 134 sections of Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act, S.C. 2013, c. 24 (46%) which were enacted into law in June 2013 have now been put in force. Pending provisions covering areas such as extensions of limitation periods for civil claims from six months to two years; summary trials; criminal records; the scope of sentencing principles, absolute discharge; intermittent sentences; restitution and victim impact statements aimed at rendering fairer our military justice system has simply been side-tracked despite the express will of Parliament.
This is more or less, like we say in the French language, a “pied de nez” [Thumbing its nose] to Parliament. A fact that has not escaped the Canadian Bar Association. On March 31, 2017 the CBA deplored such conduct which effectively thumbs its nose at the mock of the parliamentary process:
“Parliament passed this legislation almost four years ago. . . The reasons for this delay and overlap should be explained to the public. The JAG should disclose reasons for the delay in implementation of the legislation, and any plans for the coming into force of these important provisions of the Act.” [My emphasis]