Friday, March 13, 2015

Crossed sabres in Ottawa

The late Chief Justice
Edmond P. Blanchard
Court Martial Appeal Court
of Canada
Documents made available on the web by Global News reveal a 2011 effort by the Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces to call into question public remarks by now-retired Justice Gilles Létourneau. Justice Létourneau, who served on the Federal Court of Appeal and the Court Martial Appeal Court, has been an articulate, respected voice for military justice reform, and responded firmly to a letter the JAG sent to the late Edmond P. Blanchard, who was at the time Chief Justice of the Court Martial Appeal Court. According to the Global News account:
Clayton Ruby, CM
Clayton Ruby, a constitutional and criminal lawyer who has worked on some military cases, described the letter and conclusion from [Brig.-Gen. (as he then was) Blaise B.] Cathcart as “crazy,” agreeing he should have addressed his concerns in the open, rather than covertly collecting notes at public appearances. 
“He knows that’s the law,” Ruby said, suggesting Cathcart was seeking a blanket ruling that Letourneau not sit on military cases. “A judge has every right to be critical of the judicial system … We do not live in a country where a government spies on the judiciary and then tries to take steps against judges.” 
The ability to speak out without threat of reprisal, Ruby said, is a vital part of being a judge. 
“Nobody but a judge gets the perspective on the system a judge has. It doesn’t mean it’s the right perspective, but it’s the perspective that nobody else can share.”
Chief Justice Blanchard's terse response to the JAG's complaint explained that the way to address concerns about a judge's impartiality and objectivity is to raise the matter at the outset of the hearing in a case (by motion to recuse). Justice Létourneau is, with fellow Global Military Justice Reform contributor Col. (ret) Michel W. Drapeau, co-author of the leading treatise on Canadian military justice, Military Justice in Action: Annotated National Defence Legislation, the second edition of which was recently published by Carswell.

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