In the wake of Canada’s recent federal election, a new Minister of National Defence, Anita Anand, was appointed 26 October 2021. Shortly after her appointment, Minister Anand announced that members of the Canadian Forces, alleged to have committed criminal offences of a sexual nature, will now be investigated by civil law enforcement and prosecuted by civilian prosecutors before civil courts of criminal jurisdiction. However, non-criminal sexual misconduct, and criminal offences of a non-sexual nature will continue to be investigated by military authorities (including the Military Police) and prosecuted within the Code of Service Discipline. This led to a joint statement by the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) and the Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP), indicating their support for the initiative. Arguably, that joint statement – which appears to try to reassure Canadians of the professionalism of the Military Police and the Canadian Military Prosecution Service while appearing to accept the Minister’s lack of confidence in the same – raises as many questions as it answers. Nor have Canadians heard from the Judge Advocate General, Rear Admiral Geneviève Bernatchez, on any of these issues over the past 6 months.
More recently, Minister Anand has indicated that, in preparation for an anticipated report by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Louise Arbour, she will also examine the potential ‘civilianization’ of the offices of Director of Military Prosecutions and Director Defence Counsel Services. It is likely that the Minister will make more similar announcements as her tenure progresses.
The new Minister of National Defence appears intent on demonstrating that she will be the ‘new broom’ that sweeps clean the military justice system in Canada. But what does this really mean for the Canadian Forces? What is the potential impact of these changes? How much of what has been said amounts to political posturing rather than meaningful change or improvement? What are the principles upon which such changes might be based?
Join us at 0900 hrs ET on Monday, 6 December 2021, for a discussion of these issues.
For those who may be interested in recent commentary on some of these issues, here are some recent blog posts by Global Military Justice Reform contributor, Rory Fowler: