DAOD 5040-3, Unaccounted-for Military Fatalities from Past Operations

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Operating Principles
  3. Consequences
  4. Responsibility
  5. References

1. Introduction

Date of Issue: 2015-06-25

Application: This DAOD is a directive that applies to employees of the Department of National Defence (DND employees) and an order that applies to officers and non-commissioned members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF members).

Approval Authority: Chief of Military Personnel (CMP)

Enquiries: Director History and Heritage (DHH)

2. Operating Principles


2.1 A person who died while in the military service of Canada but for whom there is no known or maintainable grave is an “unaccounted-for military fatality”. Canada has nearly 27,000 unaccounted-for military fatalities. The graves for such fatalities may not be maintainable due to inaccessibility, for example, there may be no access to the crash site of an aircraft on a mountain or a shipwreck in the ocean.


2.2 This DAOD applies to any unaccounted-for military fatality as a result of service in the CAF or a former service of Canada since 1867. For direction on contemporary casualties, see DAOD 5018-0, Injured Members and Military Casualties.

DND and CAF Commitment

2.3 The DND and the CAF are committed to ensuring dignity for Canada’s unaccounted-for military fatalities and for providing closure for their families through:

  1. efforts to identify newly-discovered human remains believed to be those of such fatalities and for whom a death certificate has been issued; and
  2. provision of an interment ceremony and a marked grave.

National and International Obligations

2.4 The human remains of unaccounted-for military fatalities are discovered from time to time in and outside of Canada. The responsibility as to the identification, treatment and interment, when possible, of such remains is governed by national and international laws, agreements and protocols, including the:

  1. Geneva Conventions Act, Schedule V (Protocol I), articles 32 to 34;
  2. Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission, December 1918; and
  3. Statement by the Imperial War Graves Commission, October 1945.

2.5 The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is an international organization which maintains gravesites and memorials for military fatalities of the First World War and Second World War. As a member of the CWGC, Canada has an obligation in respect of the human remains of unaccounted-for military fatalities during these armed conflicts.

Place of Interment

2.6 The majority of remains of Canada’s unaccounted-for military fatalities are recovered and interred outside of Canada.

Note – Until July 1970, Canada interred the human remains of military fatalities, if they died in a place other than Canada or the United States, in a cemetery near the place of fighting or place of death. Current regulations concerning the place of interment are set out in QR&O Chapter 24, Casualties and Funerals. Additional details are set out in CFAO 24-5, Funerals, Burials and Graves Registration.

2.7 The remains of Canadian and other Commonwealth unaccounted-for military fatalities recovered in Canada can be interred in Canada or the United States.

Action on the Discovery of Human Remains

2.8 The following table sets out actions required when human remains are discovered:

Who does it? Action
A DND employee or CAF member who discovers or is advised of the discovery of the possible human remains in Canada of an unaccounted-for military fatality
  • Reports the discovery to:
    • the local coroner’s, medical examiner’s, or similar office; or
    • the local police; and
    • their supervisor or commanding officer.

Note – It is a criminal offence under section 182 of the Criminal Code to improperly interfere with a dead human body or remains.

Commander of a command
  • Contacts:
    • the local coroner’s, medical examiner’s, or similar office; or
    • the local police; and
    • the DHH.
  • liaise with local police services to ensure the site of the newly-discovered human remains is safeguarded.
  • Provides guidance on actions required on the discovery of possible human remains of an unaccounted-for military fatality.
  • Coordinates the DND and the CAF activities in recovering, storing, identifying and interring the human remains.

Note – If the integrity of the resting site is in danger of disturbance through construction, diving or other activity, the human remains should be recovered before confirmation of their identity.

  • Coordinates participation of the family of a military fatality in genetic testing and their notification once the human remains are identified.
  • Provides the interface as appropriate with:
    • the family of the military fatality;
    • Veterans Affairs Canada;
    • the CWGC;
    • foreign military forces;
    • local, national and international authorities; and
    • CAF members.
  • Creates the final report for applicable officials, members of the family of the military fatality and case records.
Defence attaché
  • Initiates contact between the local authorities, the CWGC (or other grave registration groups as appropriate) and the DHH.
  • Facilitates, in coordination with the DHH, the planning of burial of human remains in their country of accreditation.

3. Consequences

Consequences of Non-Compliance

3.1 Non-compliance with this DAOD may have consequences for both the DND and the CAF as institutions, and for DND employees and CAF members as individuals. Suspected non-compliance may be investigated. The nature and severity of the consequences resulting from actual non-compliance will be commensurate with the circumstances of the non-compliance.

Note – In respect of the compliance of DND employees, see the Treasury Board Framework for the Management of Compliance for additional information.

4. Responsibility


4.1 The CMP is responsible for executing legal and moral obligations in respect of Canada’s unaccounted-for military fatalities.

5. References

Acts, Regulations, Central Agency Policies and Policy DAOD

Other References

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