Thursday, April 6, 2017

Time for a full-scale parliamentary review of Canada's National Defence Act

Over the years, attempts to modernize the National Defence Act (NDA) to bring it more in line with globally accepted standards of justice, or even with our own domestic civilian penal system, have been serially resisted by the Canadian military legal establishment. Several of the reforms that have been made are the result of pressures that were initiated from outside, not least the judiciary, but not from within the DND or the military itself.

Yet, Principle 20 of the Draft Principles Governing the Administration of Justice Through Military Tribunals published by the United Nations during its 62nd Session (Doc E/CN.4/2006/58 (2006)) provides:
Codes of military justice should be subject to periodic systematic review, conducted in an independent and transparent manner, so as to ensure that the authority of military tribunals corresponds to strict functional necessity, without encroaching on the jurisdiction that can and should belong to ordinary civil courts.
It is now necessary to bring the military justice system more in line with contemporary Canadian as well as international legal doctrine and principles in order to not only prevent it from falling further behind global standards of justice, but also to ensure that all members of the CAF benefit from the very fundamental rights and freedoms they defend.

This can only be accomplished by conducting a full-scale parliamentary review of the NDA. Such a measure has now been proposed by the Canadian Bar Association in its March 31, 2017 report on the CF Court Martial Review.

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