Thursday, September 24, 2020

The time has come to appoint a new Chief Military Judge (Canada)

This past Monday, 21 September 2020, marks six months since the former Chief Military Judge, Colonel Mario Dutil, retired when he reached 60 years of age, the ‘compulsory retirement age’ (CRA) for members of the Canadian Forces – even military judges.  Since that time, the Deputy Chief Military Judge, Lieutenant-Colonel Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil, has been the de jure Acting Chief Military Judge by virtue of section 165.29 of the National Defence Act

That role was not ‘new’ to Lieutenant-Colonel d’Auteuil; he had filled it for the better part of two years while Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP) attempted, unsuccessfully, to prosecute the former Chief Military Judge, including an unsuccessful application for judicial review when the Deputy Chief Military Judge declined, for compelling reasons, to assign a military judge to preside over that problematic court martial. 

Members of the Canadian Forces have been waiting for six months for the Governor in Council to appoint a new Chief Military Judge. 

Four months after the Chief Military Judge retired, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Jonathan Vance, announced his intention to retire, once the Governor in Council named his successor. There was speculation that the CDS’ successor might be announced before the Throne Speech of 23 September 2020; however, that did not happen. 

During the past six months, the Governor in Council has not been inactive. They have appointed several Superior Court and even Federal Court judges. They have enacted regulations. The government even found the time to prorogue Parliament in order to deliver a Speech from the Throne that, frankly, was a little lacklustre and vague about specifics, even when measured against past Speeches from the Throne. 

As I discuss in this linked Blog article: What does this ongoing delay in the appointment of a new Chief Military Judge say about the current government’s commitment to the Rule of Law in the administration of military justice? And, in light of the current 'crisis' in the Code of Service Discipline regarding judicial independence, what might the continued vacancy in this position signal regarding the dialogues between the military judiciary, the leadership of the Canadian Forces, and the political decision-makers who are responsible both for appointing military judges and for enacting any legislative amendments to the Code of Service Discipline?

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