Communiqué - Judge Advocate General Annual Report 2014-15

I am pleased to present my report on the administration of military justice in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for the period from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015.

The aim of Canada’s military justice system is to promote the operational effectiveness of the CAF by contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale, and to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society in a manner that is consistent with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Achieving this aim is critical to the CAF’s success, as discipline is the foundation of a professional armed force. Discipline has been well described by Mr. Justice Michael Gibson of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, who (as a military judge) stated: “discipline is that quality that every Canadian Forces member must have that allows him or her to put the interests of Canada and of the Canadian Forces before personal interests.” The Supreme Court of Canada noted this unique need for discipline when it stated that “the safety and well-being of Canadians depends considerably on the willingness and readiness of a force of men and women to defend against threats to the nation’s security … As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs.1

As the superintendent of the administration of military justice in the CAF, I am committed to ensuring that Canada’s military justice system reflects Canadian values and the rule of law, and continues to serve Canada’s interests. To this end, I am pleased to report on the dedication of my team within the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) which has worked tirelessly to help bring about positive results for the military justice system over the reporting period. For example, significant progress was made in developing the complex regulatory amendments required to implement the remaining provisions of Bill C-15, the Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act. Additionally, significant efforts have been made to validate the accuracy of our existing summary trial data, which forms a critical part of the information used in my ongoing reviews of the administration of military justice. Improvements to the manner in which data will be collected and maintained in the future are also being implemented.

In April 2014, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) commissioned an independent external review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the CAF, including definitions, policies, procedures, training, and incident reporting. Madame Marie Deschamps, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, conducted this review as the External Review Authority (ERA). On 27 March 2015, the ERA submitted her final report to the CDS. As a senior leader in the CAF, I strongly echo the comments of the CDS that all allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior must be treated seriously at all levels of the CAF. While the ERA’s mandate excluded issues related to the military justice system, as superintendent of the administration of military justice in the CAF, I am committed to ensuring that those findings and recommendations that touch upon the military justice system are carefully reviewed. I will work closely with the CAF Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct to ensure that any changes to military justice legislation, policies and practices are consistent with the approaches being developed by that team.

While the focus of this report is on the administration of military justice, I am proud to also recognize the work that has been done by all members of the Office of the JAG to support the CAF, by delivering operationally focused, solution oriented legal advice and services across the full spectrum of military law. By way of example, during this reporting period the Office of the JAG provided support to numerous operations, including operations IMPACT and REASSURANCE, to more than 35 operational exercises in Canada and abroad, and to more than a dozen Boards of Inquiry.

The Office of the JAG was also extremely fortunate during this reporting period to have expanded our family. Indeed, we and the Colonel Commandant of the Legal Branch, Sir Graham Day, had the pleasure of welcoming Mr John Hoyles, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Bar Association, into the JAG family as the new Honorary Colonel of the Legal Branch. Mr Hoyles brings invaluable knowledge and insight to our organization, and we are fortunate to have the services of such an esteemed lawyer and respected Canadian figure. In conjunction with the ceremony formalizing this appointment, the Office of the JAG also marked Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s gracious consent to serve as the first Colonel-in-Chief of the CAF Legal Branch with the presentation of a new portrait photograph from Her Majesty by Mr Kevin Stewart MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen of Canada.

As I reflect on the administration of military justice during the reporting period, I am reminded of the observations of the late Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer and of the Honourable Patrick LeSage, retired Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Ontario, who respectively found in 2003 and 2011 that Canada’s military justice system is sound and one in which Canadians can have trust and confidence. Canada’s military justice system has continued to evolve, exemplifying virtues of fairness and effectiveness in its important contributions to Canadian military success and security. I, and all Canadians, have every reason to be proud of this system, and of the Office of the JAG’s efforts to support the principled development and operation of the military justice system.


Footnote

1 R. v. Généreux, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 259 at 293.

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