Thursday, May 7, 2015

From French Canada. Opinion Leader "Actualité" weighs in with a restricted jurisdiction for military tribunals

The Canadian periodical L’Actualité published in May 2014 a 16-page exposé on the  rampant number of sexual assaults in the Canadian Military.  See article in French

This article  was seminal in riveting national attention to this matter and bringing the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson, before a parliamentary committee examining this issue.  In response to significant public and political pressure, General Lawson ordered an External Review of  Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Military which was conducted by retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps. Deschamps' Final Report was released at the end of April 2015.

As an encore, l’Actualité has just published an Opinion Piece in which the authors are asking rhetorically whether a 'Soldier accused of sexual assault should be tried by a court martial or a civilian criminal court like any other Canada.'  The authors affirmed that this is exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada will need to decide when it hears the case of Moriarity on May 12th. 

The authors add that this very question is now part of an important “débat de société” [public debate] throughout civil society in Canada. For emphasis, they also list a number of allies, including Germany, Netherlands, France, Belgium and Austria, which have abolished military tribunals in peacetime.

The Opinion Piece closes by noting that in her Final Report retired Justice Deschamps has concluded that, at present, a large majority of victims of sexual assaults do not report their assailants to the military justice system because they simply do not trust or have confidence in this in-house  judicial process.  Toa ddress this  most serious problem,  Justice Deschamps recommends that a victim of sexual assault should be given  the choice to direct their complaints to the civilian versus the military criminal justice system. This recommendation was not accepted by the Chief of the Defence Staff during his national press conference last Thursday. In fact, despite the gravity of the situation and the quality and depth of the External Review Report, the Chief of the Defence Staff boldly elected to not accept 80 percent of the recommendations. 

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