Message from the Director of Military Prosecutions
As the Commanding Officer of the Canadian Military Prosecution Service, I am honoured to present publicly the Director of Military Prosecutions Annual Report for the 2020/21 reporting period. It is my seventh and final Annual Report as I will release from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in September 2021.
The CAF has been faced with unprecedented challenges in this reporting period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, failures of leadership, and further victimization of CAF members and non-members by those in uniform who choose to disrespect the rights of others and disregard the Rule of Law.
In March 2020, courts martial and appeals were understandably disrupted for health and safety reasons. This resulted in the significant delays of trials and impeded the goal of ensuring that justice is done fairly and expeditiously. With input and sincere efforts by independent Military Justice System participants, courts martial and appeals got back on track earlier than many of our civilian counterparts in the civilian criminal and civil justice systems. Fortunately, these challenges have contributed to improved uses of technology and efficiencies to reduce delay within the court martial and appeal processes as well as making trials and appeals more available to the public.
This reporting period has publicly exposed remarkable failures of leadership at all levels within the CAF. These failures have existed for years. Military leaders wield great power for good reason. Used appropriately, that power is effective in fulfilling the responsibilities and obligations of a functional and professional armed force. Allegations related to failures of leadership to respect the Rule of Law and exercise self-discipline erodes trust in the institution and dangerously undermines operational effectiveness and national and international security.
As a military prosecution service, we have had to remain focussed on prosecuting cases, seeking to protect the rights of individuals, and upholding the Rule of Law in accordance with the Charter of Rights regardless of the rank of a suspect or accused. No one is above the law. While public interest continues to factor into our prosecutorial decision making, political partisan sentiment will never influence our quasi-judicial duties. Since the creation of the CMPS in 1999 this fundamental principle has been reinforced daily within our military prosecution service, in keeping with the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 decision in Cawthorne. Under our watch, military prosecutors are not and will not be unlawfully influenced by the senior chain of command or persons in power with partisan interests. We have fought hard for our prosecutorial independence and Canadians can have confidence that we will fulfill our duties independently and ethically.
Public sentiment and discourse has intensified this reporting period with respect to sexual misconduct and victimization. Since 2014, support to victims throughout the military justice process has been a priority for the Canadian Military Prosecution Service. Fully accepting Madame Justice Deschamps’ report of 2015, we quickly updated our prosecution policies to better support victims, significantly augmented our training to include trauma informed prosecution perspectives, and intensified our communications efforts with victims throughout the court martial process. Recognizing early that the legislative and regulatory process might be slow to implement the protections of the Victims’ Bill of Rights, we immediately incorporated them into our own prosecution policies and practices. Support to victims in both the military and civilian systems still has a long way to go, but military prosecutors will continue to provide support without waiting for legislative and regulatory top-cover.
In closing, I want to say that it has been a privilege to have served as your Director of Military Prosecutions for almost seven years. I have been fortunate to have had an extremely strong and dedicated team of military prosecutors and civilian support staff. They understand and implement our independent mandate to promote discipline, efficiency and morale of the CAF through open and fair processes. I have also been supported by an extremely professional Judge Advocate General who recognizes that her duties as the Superintendent of the administration of military justice include steadfast protection of the independence of military prosecutors from unlawful influence. Rear Admiral Bernatchez’s support has been crucial to ensuring that our service remains legitimate and consistent with the expectations and values of Canadians. Despite this level of cooperation, however, legislative changes must be made to crystallize the independence of the Canadian Military Prosecution Service. We hope to work closely with Mr. Justice Fish in establishing a way forward to make this happen in a military context.
ORDO PER JUSTITIA
Colonel Bruce MacGregor, CD, Q.C.
Director of Military Prosecutions
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