DAOD 5516-2, Conscientious Objection
Table of Contents
Date of Issue: 2015-04-02
Application: This DAOD is an order that applies to officers and non-commissioned members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF members).
Supersession: DAOD 5049-2, Conscientious Objection
Approval Authority: Chief of Military Personnel (CMP)
Enquiries: Director Human Rights and Diversity (DHRD)
2. Operating Principles
2.1 Enrolment in the CAF is voluntary and CAF members must be prepared to perform any lawful duty to defend Canada, its interests and values, while contributing to international peace and security.
2.2 A conscientious objector is a person who claims the right to refuse to perform military duties on the grounds of having a conscientious objection. A CAF member who has a conscientious objection remains liable to perform any lawful duty, but may request a voluntary release from the CAF on the basis of their objection.
2.3 A conscientious objection is a sincerely held objection, on grounds of freedom of conscience or religion, to participation in:
- war or other armed conflict; or
- carrying and use of weapons as a requirement of service in the CAF.
Suitability for enrolment
2.4 The commanding officer (CO) of a Canadian Forces recruiting centre (CFRC) must ensure that a person who applies to enrol in the CAF is questioned to determine if they have a conscientious objection as set out in paragraph 2.3. If the person indicates to recruiting authorities that they have a conscientious objection, they are not suitable for enrolment in the CAF.
2.5 The only exception to the application of paragraph 2.4 is for a person applying to enrol in the chaplain military occupation. Such a person may be enrolled in the CAF despite having a conscientious objection to carry and use weapons as provided for in subparagraph 2.3b.
Eligibility for Voluntary Release
2.6 A CAF member may make an application to request a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection.
2.7 Conscientious objection cannot be used as a basis for a request for a religious or spiritual accommodation, nor can it be used to support a request for a compassionate posting or an occupation transfer. Similarly, a CAF member who requests a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection is not eligible for a component transfer or sub-component transfer.
2.8 An objection founded on any of the following bases does not qualify as a conscientious objection and will not entitle a CAF member to a voluntary release in accordance with this DAOD:
- the participation of the CAF member in a particular armed conflict or operation;
- the involvement of Canada in a particular armed conflict or operation;
- a domestic or international policy of the Government of Canada;
- personal expediency; or
- the political beliefs of the CAF member.
2.9 A CAF member, whose request for a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection is approved, is normally released under item 4(c) of the Table to QR&O article 15.01, Release of Officers and Non-Commissioned Members, unless a release under a more appropriate item is approved by the applicable release authority.
2.10 If it is determined that a request of a CAF member for voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection does not satisfy the criteria in paragraph 2.3, the CO must deny the request or recommend the denial of the request to the applicable release authority. If the request is denied, the CAF member must be informed of the reasons for the denial.
Note – Under QR&O subparagraph 15.01(3)(a), the Governor General is the authority to approve the release of a commissioned officer. For the purposes of this DAOD, “applicable release authority” refers to an officer who has been delegated as an authority to initiate the release of a commissioned officer under either of the following delegation instruments:
- CDS Designated Release Authority – Regular Force, dated 16 January 2015; or
- CDS Designated Release Authority – Reserve Force, dated 16 January 2015.
2.11 If a request for a voluntary release under item 4(c) of the Table to QR&O article 15.01 “on the basis of a conscientious objection” is denied, a CAF member may make a request for a voluntary release under item 4(c) “in other circumstances”.
Performance of Duties
2.12 A CAF member who requests a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection remains liable to perform any lawful duty until released from the CAF. However, to the extent that the requirements of service allow, while their request for release is under review and, if approved, until released, the CAF member must not be assigned duties that conflict directly with their stated objection. A CAF member seeking release is required to perform all assigned duties in an impartial, loyal and effective manner.
2.13 If a CAF member, whose request for a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection is denied, refuses to perform a lawful duty assigned by the chain of command, that refusal may constitute misconduct or a performance deficiency. In such circumstances, the CO may be required to initiate remedial measures in accordance with DAOD 5019-4, Remedial Measures, or take other administrative or disciplinary action against the CAF member. If the assessment of the CO does not support the conscientious objection release request but the CO concludes that a release for reasons of misconduct or performance deficiency under a release item other than 4(c) of the Table to QR&O article 15.01 is appropriate, the CO must initiate an administrative review in accordance with DAOD 5019-2, Administrative Review, and provide a recommendation for a compulsory release.
2.14 A CAF member on training who requests a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection must immediately cease training and be placed in the local or regional holding organization until a decision on their request for voluntary release is made.
2.15 A CAF member who has incurred obligatory service as a result of subsidized education, training, or a recruitment allowance remains subject to:
- QR&O article 15.07, Voluntary Release After Subsidized Education or Training;
- QR&O article 15.071, Voluntary Release After Receiving a Recruitment Allowance;
- DAOD 5049-1, Obligatory Service;
- CFAO 15-2, Release – Regular Force;
- CFAO 49-10, Terms of Service – Officers – Primary Reserve; and
- other applicable provisions of the QR&O, orders and instructions.
2.16 If a CAF member who is subject to obligatory service under QR&O article 15.07 or 15.071 requests a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection, the applicable release authority must forward the application to the CMP for submission to the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) for a determination of the request under QR&O paragraph 15.07(2) or 15.071(2), as applicable.
2.17 When forwarding an application for a voluntary release on the basis of a conscientious objection in accordance with paragraph 2.16, officers at each level of the chain of command must provide their assessment as to whether the CAF member satisfies the criteria in paragraph 2.3 and, if the release on the basis of the objection is supported, include their opinion as to whether:
- the conscientious objection of the CAF member constitutes “special and unforeseen circumstances” such that the release should be approved prior to the completion of the minimum period of service determined by the CDS pursuant to the QR&Os; and
- there are compassionate reasons why the CAF member should not be required to refund:
- all or a portion of the cost incurred by the public for the CAF member to attend courses; or
- the portion of the recruitment allowance received, calculated in accordance with the formula in QR&O paragraph 15.071(2).
3.1 A CO must process an application for release on the basis of a conscientious objection as expeditiously as possible. Once a determination has been made that a CAF member satisfies the criteria in paragraph 2.3 and release under item 4(c) of the Table to QR&O article 15.01 is approved by a CO with authority to approve release or recommended by an officer with authority to initiate the release, there is no requirement for any period of notice prior to the release. However, time must be provided for the completion of normal release administration procedures.
Serving on Operations
3.2 If an application for release on the basis of a conscientious objection is submitted while the CAF member is serving on an operation, the final determination of the request can be delayed until completion of the operation.
Factors to be Considered When Assessing a Conscientious Objection Release Request
3.3 While assessing the information provided by a CAF member in support of a request for release on the basis of a conscientious objection, the following factors must be considered when determining if the CAF member is making a bona fide objection that satisfies the criteria in paragraph 2.3, as applicable to the CAF member:
- the nature of the objection;
- the general credibility of the CAF member;
- the credibility of any persons corroborating the information provided by the CAF member or providing first-hand information about the CAF member’s beliefs, behaviour and conduct;
- the timing and circumstances of the request for release;
- the effects of family background and upbringing;
- the nature and effects of study, training and education in religious or moral doctrine;
- religious affiliation, relevant teachings of the religion and adherence to such tenets;
- the circumstances and influences which solidified or changed the CAF member’s beliefs; and
- the degree of consistency between the CAF member’s asserted beliefs and the CAF member’s behaviour and conduct.
3.4 The following table outlines the process relating to a conscientious objection release request:
|Applicable release authority||
CAF Member Decision Recourse
3.5 A CAF member who is not satisfied with the disposition of their request for voluntary release based on a conscientious objection may submit:
- an application for a voluntary release under the provisions of the Table to QR&O article 15.01, using the applicable release application form for the Regular Force or Reserve Force;
- a grievance in accordance with QR&O Chapter 7, Grievances;
- in the case of a discriminatory practice, a complaint in accordance with DAOD 5516-1, Human Rights Complaints; and
- a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman for the DND and the CAF in accordance with DAOD 5047-1, Office of the Ombudsman.
3.6 If a CAF member grieves a denial of their request for voluntary release based on a conscientious objection, the CO must assign duties that do not conflict directly with the conscientious objection of the CAF member while the grievance is being considered.
3.7 The following flowchart is a visual representation of the conscientious objection process applicable to a CAF member described in sections 2 and 3:
Consequences of Non-Compliance
4.1 Non-compliance with this DAOD may have consequences for the CAF as an institution and for CAF members as individuals. Suspected non-compliance will be investigated. The nature and severity of the consequences resulting from actual non-compliance will be commensurate with the circumstances of the non-compliance. Consequences of non-compliance may include one or more of the following:
- the application of specific consequences as set out in applicable laws, codes of conduct, and CAF policies and instructions; and
- other administrative or disciplinary action, or both.
4.2 The DHRD is responsible for notifying the CMP of any non-compliance with this DAOD.
Acts, Regulations, Central Agency Policies and Policy DAOD
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Canadian Human Rights Act
- QR&O Chapter 7, Grievances
- QR&O article 15.01, Release of Officers and Non-Commissioned Members
- QR&O article 15.07, Voluntary Release After Subsidized Education or Training
- QR&O article 15.071, Voluntary Release After Receiving a Recruitment Allowance
- QR&O article 15.18, Voluntary Release – Officers
- QR&O article 15.33, Release on Request – Non-Commissioned Members
- DAOD 5516-0, Human Rights
- DAOD 2017-0, Military Grievances
- DAOD 2017-1, Military Grievance Process
- DAOD 5019-2, Administrative Review
- DAOD 5019-4, Remedial Measures
- DAOD 5047-1, Office of the Ombudsman
- DAOD 5049-1, Obligatory Service
- DAOD 5516-1, Human Rights Complaints
- CFAO 15-2, Release – Regular Force
- CFAO 49-10, Terms of Service – Officers – Primary Reserve
- CDS Designated Release Authorities – Regular Force, dated 16 January 2015
- CDS Designated Release Authorities – Reserve Force, dated 16 January 2015
- A-PM-245-001/FP-001, Military Human Resources Records Procedures
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