Friday, February 19, 2016

Canada's military summary trials are frozen in time

In recent years, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and various rulings on its applicability to summary trials have caused some countries, for example the United Kingdom and Ireland, to completely overhaul the summary trials process. These judicial rulings have brought the summary trial process into compliance with the ECHR which held that no one may be deprived of his liberty, except by a competent and impartial tribunal, and that the accused may, on a criminal charge, declare his right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal as established by law. Given that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms is analogous in values and terms to the ECHR, we know of only one reason why similar reforms could not have already been incorporated in Canada’s military justice system: continuing military recalcitrance to democratic reforms and its tacit acceptance by the political class.

In an article published in the Parliamentary Precint weekly "HILL TIMES" the authors Michel Drapeau and Joshua Juneau argue that the Canadian military summary trials are ancient, outdated, and unfair—and they are insulated from judicial scrutiny.

The authors conclude that immediate reform is necessary to this system of “justice,” not only to strengthen the Canadian military justice system, but to bring it in line with traditional Charter-protected rights and values, and to catch up to the modernizations that have already swept across Europe and beyond.

Meanwhile, however, summary trials have more or less remained frozen in time.

Summary trials are an anachronism of a bygone era, which remains incongruous and discordant with the important reforms in Canadian law brought upon by the enactment of the Canadian Bill of Rights, 1960; the Canadian Human Rights Act, 1997; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982; and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, 2015.

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