Monday, December 20, 2021

An Armed Forces Inspector General: an idea whose time has come in Canada

1992–1993,Canada deployed the Airborne Regiment to a United Nations–backed humanitarian mission to Somalia. In 1993, soldiers tortured and killed a teenager named Shidane AroneThese and other violent abuses shocked Canadians and damaged the country’s international reputation.

1995-1997: Commission of Inquiry - Deployment to Somalia 

            These abuses led to a Royal Commission of Inquiry [established by Order in Council, P.C. 1995-44, 20 March 1995] that revealed serious failures of leadership at the highest levels of the Canadian Armed Forces [CAF] and the disbandment of the CAR. The Inquiry was headed by the Honorable Mr. Justice Gilles Létourneau, then judge of the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada which held public hearings from late 1995 until the fall of 1996.

 Study Paper “Controlling Misconduct in the Military 

            A comprehensive study paper was prepared by Professor Martin L. Friedland for the Commission of Inquiry titled “Controlling Misconduct in the Military”. It was published in June 1997. In Chapter 7:  Civil Control, Integration, and Oversight, Dr. Friedland wrote that the 1994 report of the Joint Committee on Canada’s Defence Policy had already concluded unanimously that Parliament’s role should be strengthened:

“. . .whatever our individual views on particular issues of defence policy or operations, there was one matter on which we agreed almost from the beginning – that there is a need to strengthen the role of Parliament and development of defence policy.”

Dr. Friedland went on to state that: 

“Parliament should receive more reports on military matters. There are [now] no annua reports to Parliament by the military or the department. . . .What type of governmental structure could provide  [an] effective review? The conclusion is reached that two types of review is desirable. One is a body  internal to the military, comparable to the U.S. inspector General of the army. . . . The other type of   review should be by a civilian body outside the military that reports to Parliament. . . [at 125]                                                                          

Commission of Inquiry's Final Report recommended creation of Office of Inspector General

         The Commission of Inquiry’s 2,000 page long final report titled: “Dishonored Legacy: the lessons of the Somalia Affair. [Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of the Canadian Forces to Somalia.] was also published in 1997. The report contained 157 recommendations, the majority of which were aimed at transforming the military justice system.  

One of its key recommendations aimed at ensuring both the oversight and accountability of the military. This was outlined in Volume 2 of the Report (pages 399-406): as a matter of high priority, the National Defence Act needed to be amended to establish an independent Office of the Inspector General with the following comprehensive powers, to:


·         Bring reports of wrongdoing to the attention of superiors;

·         Conduct periodic reviews of appointment to key leadership positions to ensure that the proper criteria are being applied and that such appointments are as competitive as possible;

·         Receive and investigate complaints about officer misconduct and about possible injustices to CAF members;

·         Correct or assist in correcting injustices to CAF members;

·         Inspect all relevant documents, conduct interviews as may be necessary, review minor disciplinary proceedings and administrative processes and make recommendations flowing from recommendations;

·         Evaluate systemic problems in the military justice system;

·         Conduct investigations into officer misconduct, such as failure to investigate, failure to take corrective action, personal misconduct, waste and abuse, and possible injustice to individuals;

·         Protect those who report wrongdoing from reprisals; and

·         Protect individuals from abuse of authority and improper personnel actions, including racial harassment

1998.  Negative reaction of the Canadian military to the proposed IG appointment. An article published by David J. Bercuson in the Canadian Military Journal (Volume 9, No3, 2009) summed up the reaction of the Canadian military to these recommendations:

The initial reaction of the Canadian Forces on the whole was predictable; it resisted change. It resented civilians telling it what it ought to do. [at 37]

The Department of National Defence rejected the Commission of Inquiry's recommendation for an IG.  Instead, the office of the Ombudsman was created with a reporting structure directly to the Minister of National Defence was created and in 1998 the first Ombudsman was appointed. The office of the Ombudsman was set up to resolve complaints of unfairness and maladministration in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. The office operates consistent with the principles of ombudsmanry: fairness, independence, impartiality, and confidentiality. However, the office of the Ombudsman does not exist in legislation. Instead, its exists by way of Ministerial Directives that can be withdrawn or modified at any time. The Ombudsman is also reliant on the Deputy Minister of National Defence for financial and human resources authorities. 

Twenty-years later the Canadian military accepts the concept of an IG. In response to the recent several allegations made against the most senior military leaders combined with a number of incidents of ineffective chain of command and high-profile resignations, at the behest of the senior military cadre, the Canadian Defence Academy prepared a Concept Paper dated April 12, 2021 whose purpose is to establish an Office of the IG.  The paper recommended that the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) recommend to the Minister of National Defence the creation of an Office of the IG.

Most strangely, the concept paper proposes to appoint a retired Lieutenant-General or a former CDS as the Inspector General who would be “responsive to the CDS”. This proposal was the subject of a recent critical review by military analyst, David Pugliese, of the National Post who writes

“. . . it would be a major mistake to have the military involved in any way in the office of an inspector general. The appointee needs to be seen and perceived as being totally independent and impartial

 “The appointee needs to be a ‘real civilian,’ not someone from the armed forces or public service. .The Inspector General should not report to the CDS, the DM or the Minister. . . The IG should be  an officer of Parliament, such as the Auditor General or Privacy Commissioner.”  

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