Saturday, September 18, 2021

Canadian military justice system in trouble again

Canadian news media have reason to again turn their attentions to the Canadian military justice system. Global Television's Mercedes Stephenson, Marc-André Cossette and Amanda Connolly addressed "whether retired Gen[eral] Jonathan Vance broke code of service rules with an allegedly inappropriate relationship has officially ended with no charges, despite him currently facing a separate criminal charge of obstruction of justice in connection with the probe."

The Global news team asked the Defence Department "why the probe into any possible military service violations ended on Aug. 6 with no charges," and a military police spokesperson spoke from the report of the Third Independent Review of the military justice system by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish. Justice Fish warned it was "legally impossible" under the current rules to try someone of Vance's rank in the military system.

Retired Chief Military Judge Colonel Mario Dutil was alleged to have had an inappropriate relationship and was charged. What followed was a series of circumstances that made the Canadian military's Judge Advocate General organization appear to be hopelessly chaotic and incompetent as they unsuccessfully tried to subject the Colonel to a court martial. He was charged on 25 January 2018; in February 2018, Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Poland was appointed Special Prosecutor, and four months later, in June 2018, Lt-Col Poland advanced additional charges against Dutil. The Deputy Chief Military Judge, Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Vincent d'Auteuil recused himself as the presiding judge in the court martial and refused to assign the matter to another judge.

Now-retired Colonel Bruce MacGregor, formerly Director of Military Prosecution, applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the Deputy Chief Military Judge's refusal to reassign the court martial to another military judge, but the Federal Court determined that Lt-Col d'Auteuil's position was reasonable and declined to accede to the application of the Director of Military Prosecution.

The case collapsed.

Colonel MacGregor later said "All members of the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless of rank or appointment, are held to the same, highest standard of conduct. In this specific case, alleged wrongdoing was reported and investigated by proper authorities, charges were laid and moved forward in accordance with the law."  

But they were moved forward unsuccessfully.

On 21 July 2011, Lt-Col d'Auteuil presided over previous court martial in which Brigadier-General J.B.D. Ménard was charged with an offence under section 129 of the National Defence Act, conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, for an inappropriate relationship while the Canadian commander in Afghanistan. He was fined $7,000 and reduced in rank to colonel.

Launching a court martial against Brig-Gen Ménard and the subsequent inability to address the conduct of two other senior officers does not conform to Colonel MacGregor's statement that "All members of the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless of rank or appointment, are held to the same, highest standard of conduct." 

This suggests that it may be time to quickly relegate the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, Military Police's investigatory arm, and the Canadian military justice system to the dustbin of history and take a different approach to military justice. Those in charge are simply unable to meet their taxpayer-financed responsibilities for which they are staffed, funded and equipped to manage.

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