Maintaining Currency and Qualifications, the Legal Officer Way

May 17, 2022 - Defence Stories

General Wayne Eyre

The keynote speaker, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) General Wayne Eyre

Last month, the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG) held its 70th annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Symposium. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s four-day event was once again held virtually.

Like their civilian counterparts, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) legal officers are required to continually develop legal knowledge and skills in order to keep abreast of key developments in policy and law. In order to ensure that relevant military issues are presented to the OJAG, the annual CLE is open to all CAF legal officers and Chief Warrant Officers/Chief Petty Officers First Class as well as all members of the Department of Justice Canadian Forces Legal Advisor’s office.  Professional development and competency are reinforced by attending the CLE symposium, and participation accredited by each CAF legal officer’s respective (provincial/territorial) law society. The annual symposium also serves as a way to highlight key issues for military lawyers and partners working in defence and national security. As this year’s event was conducted virtually, attendees joined from all over the world, including CAF members posted outside Canada and CAF legal officers across the country.

This year’s symposium theme, Challenges and Changes, brought focus to a multitude of topics. Discussions covered changes to the military justice system (MJS), legal aspects of responding to COVID-19, accommodation of disabilities, developments in the cyber domain and certain facets of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC). Speakers from the CAF, Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Department of Justice, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, academia and private practice delved into key issues impacting the current and evolving global political-military landscape. The keynote speaker, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) General Wayne Eyre, provided important context about the legal layers of strategic level efforts, particularly as the CAF transforms its culture and adapts to the new geopolitical reality. He emphasized the importance of staying relevant in a changing world, and the implications of that responsibility on the CAF and its legal community in particular. A follow-on question and answer period also provided him the opportunity to share some of his personal techniques for maintaining resiliency when navigating his own day-to-day challenges. His insights resonated with many in attendance.

Guest speakers including former Deputy Minister and Associate Deputy Minister Lori Sterling, as well as representatives from institutions including Washburn University School of Law, the Cyber Operations Law Directorate, the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Ryerson University, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and private practice spoke on an array of topics. Discussions covered the LOAC as it relates to drone use in warfare, developments and updates in the cyber realm, Charter Rights amidst a pandemic, and invisible disabilities in the workplace. The insights and expertise offered provided the OJAG community a knowledge base that correspondingly improves the quality of military legal services, as well as develops valuable professional bonds between military personnel and their colleagues in civilian practice.

The symposium also encompassed much discussion and presentations on the DND/CAF’s upcoming “coming into force” of Bill C-77 – the Victims’ Rights and Summary Hearing (VR&SH) Implementation. The Declaration of Victims Rights in Canada’s military justice system has been an important topic over the past half-decade. The VR & SH Implementation and particularly the Declaration of Victims Rights, will strengthen the MJS and improve victims’ rights. Participating legal officers benefited greatly from taking time to collectively discuss and reflect upon the important changes to the MJS beginning next month.

The 70th annual CLE Symposium was regarded by participating attendees, both internal military legal personnel and external contributors and legal experts, as a great success. The annual event will continue to enhance military legal services in support of CAF operations and modernization, through on-going professional development of legal officers. The CLE Symposium contributes to keeping the Office of the JAG on the cutting edge of the most important topics and changes in military law and policy.

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