Monday, January 25, 2016

Justice (ret) Létourneau: Canadian military penal system -- antiquated and unfair

In an OPINION PIECE published in Hill Times, the Canadian Parliamentary Precinct weekly, the Honorable Gilles Létourneau, Q.C. writes that the Canadian military penal system is both antiquated and unfair. He goes on to write, 

"At a time when winds of change and reform are blowing around the world on military justice systems, including the systems of most of our major allies, with a view to improving the fairness of what have now become antiquated and unfair systems, especially in peace time, it appears now that the Canadian penal military justice system is running against the tide to the detriment of both our entrenched values and the members of the military who, like police officers, are Canadian citizens in uniform. Yet members of the military are subjected to a treatment different from the one afforded to police officers whose role is the enforcement of criminal law for the better protection of the public.
The consequences of this differential treatment for members of the military are too numerous to enumerate at this stage. However chief among them is the loss of a jury trial constitutionally afforded to all Canadian citizens but them. The time has come for the Canadian Parliament to assume its legislative responsibilities with respect to penal military justice. The enforcement of criminal law at least for crimes committed in Canada in peacetime should be left to civilian authorities and tribunals who have better resources and greater expertise and solid bonds of independence and impartiality from political influence and the executive.

Parliament should set up a Committee of independent experts to review the penal military justice system and the Act so as to foster discipline in the military in a manner that is respectful of the constitutional rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter, the fundamental principles of justice both developed at common law and under the Charter as well as the values cherished by Canadians."

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