Monday, May 8, 2017

CBA: 'Parliament must decide what military justice system is best for Canada'.

Earlier this week, on the eve of his retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces, one year ahead of schedule, the Judge Advocate General, Major-General Blaise Cathcart provided back-to-back interviews to  The Lawyers’ DailyIn the interviews published on May 7, 2017 Cathcart lays bare his views and attitude engendered by his unrestrained support for the status quo.

In his first interview, Q&A with Maj.-Gen. Blaise Cathcart, Cathcart takes robust aim at the Canadian Bar Association (CBA)’s Report on the Court Martial Review which criticizes him for having “directed the Deputy JAG for Military Justice to conduct a comprehensive review” of the Court Martial System.  [His second interview will be addressed in a separate post.] 

In its March 2017 report, the CBA considers the scope of the JAG-ordered in-house Review as too narrow and limited as “the court martial system represents only a portion of the Canadian Military Justice System.”  Agree.

        The CBA recommends instead that a fulsome review of the military justice system be the subject of an Open and Comprehensive Parliamentary ReviewThis, the CBA adds, “would ensure better and more transparent consideration of how any reforms would be implemented." It adds:

An open and transparent review process would assist in ensuring public support and demonstrating respect for the rule of law, the disciplinary needs of the Canadian Forces and the individual rights of Canadians subject to the Code of Service Discipline. . . . We also believe that fundamental questions underpinning discussions of military discipline and military justice must be debated in an open and public forum. 
A joint Parliamentary committee would possess the necessary resources and competence to review these issues fully and share any findings with the Canadian public.
            In its Report, the CBA is also rightly critical of the fact that most of the provisions of Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act, S.C. 2013, c. 24 (Formerly Bill C-15), which was given Royal Assent on June 19, 2013, has yet to come into force, particularly on such critical issues such as the introduction of:  a) intermittent sentences (s. 24), summary trials (ss. 35 and 36), Division 7.1 sentencing, which includes new principles for sentencing, provisions on victim impact statements and absolute discharges, restitution, parole eligibility (s. 62), criminal records (s.75) and extended limitation periods for civil claims (s. 99). 

            Forthrightly, the CBA writes that reasons for this four-year delay should be explained to the public:
The JAG should disclose reasons for the delay in implementation of the legislation, and any plans for coming into force of these important provisions of the Act.
          An explanation for this four-year odyssey is now being provided by MGen Cathcart in his exit interview with The Laywers' Daily:
Bill C-15’s amendments to the military justice system are not by themselves complex, but working out their consequential impacts, and creating the requisite policy language for regulatory drafters, turned out to be more complex than we anticipated.  [My emphasis]
          According to Cathcart, the drafting of supporting regulations should be completed by early 2018! ! !
 I’m told that if things go to plan it should be with the drafters, and they start work at it, at the end of this year. ... And hopefully it will be done in early 2018.

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