Minister Sajjan tables new legislation to enhance support for victims in the Military Justice System
May 10, 2018 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan today introduced a Declaration of Victims’ Rights by tabling An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. This new legislation also amends the National Defence Act to incorporate Indigenous sentencing considerations and enhance the efficiency of the military justice system.
The proposed Code of Service Discipline Declaration of Victims’ Rights recognizes the harmful impact that service offences have on victims, the Canadian Armed Forces and society. It ensures that victims of service offences are afforded enhanced rights to information, protection, participation and restitution as well as the right to make a complaint should they feel that one of their rights under the Declaration has been infringed or denied. The new legislation also mandates military tribunals to take into account the circumstances of Indigenous offenders at sentencing when considering the possibility of incarceration. It also reforms summary trials into a non-penal, non-criminal summary hearing process for dealing with minor service infractions.
The tabling of this new legislation follows a recent Order-in-Council bringing into force sections of the Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act, enabling victims to have their voices heard at courts martial and providing service tribunals with more flexibility.
“A military justice system that reflects Canadian values ensures that victims receive the support they need and deserve, while promoting a culture of leadership, respect and honour for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces – cornerstones of Canada’s Defence Policy Strong, Secure, Engaged.”
– Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan
“The improvements included in this new legislation demonstrate that the military justice system continues to evolve, by design, to serve the interests of Canadians and the armed forces, while remaining highly relevant in contributing to our operational effectiveness by maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale.”
– General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff
“The proposed legislation demonstrates our continued commitment to supporting victims of service offences, and to being a leader in the development of a fair and effective military justice system in a manner fully compliant with Canadian law. The Bill reinforces Canada’s position as a global leader in the continued growth of a military justice system with broad statutory rights for victims of service offences.”
– Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces
The military justice system is unique and necessary. Canada’s military justice system contributes significantly to the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces to achieve its mission in Canada and around the world, by assisting military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale.
The proposed legislation strengthens victims rights within the military justice system just as the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights strengthened these rights within the civilian criminal justice system.
Recognizing the unique nature of the military justice system, some aspects of the proposed legislation go beyond what is contained in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. For instance, this legislation provides victims with the right to a Victim Liaison Officer, appointed to assist them in understanding how service offences are charged, tried, and dealt with under the Code of Service Discipline.
Reforming the summary trial process into a non-penal, non-criminal summary hearing process enhances the responsiveness, efficiency, and effectiveness of military discipline at the unit level, contributing to the operational effectiveness of the CAF.
The new summary hearing process makes it simpler to address minor service infractions related to military discipline. The proposed changes, which will remove the penal consequences previously associated with service offences, allows the chain of command to deal with the minor service infractions of military discipline fairly and more rapidly.
Effective September 1, 2018, victims will have the right to provide an impact statement at court martial, and the courts martial will have the authority to order restitution to victims. Service tribunals will also have more flexibility in determining sentences. Other areas of the military justice system will also be impacted, including changes to the limitation period within which charges must be laid, the composition of a General Court Martial panel, the limitation on the power to arrest without warrant, and the review of directions on release from custody by a military judge.
- Backgrounder - Enhancing Victims Rights in the Military Justice System: An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
- Backgrounder - Sections of the Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act to come into force September 1, 2018
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Department of National Defence
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