The Right to Information: 
Military Justice System

Victims have the right to request general information about the military justice system and the role of victims in it.

The Declaration of Victims Rights can be found at Division 1.1 of the National Defence Act.

Canada’s military justice system is a separate and parallel system of justice that forms an integral part of the Canadian legal mosaic. It shares many of the same underlying principles as the civilian criminal justice system and it is subject to the same constitutional framework, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The military justice system is designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces by contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency, and morale, while ensuring that justice is administered fairly and with respect to the rule of law.

The two tiers of the Military Justice System

The military justice system consists of summary hearings and court martial.

Summary hearings are non-criminal disciplinary hearings designed to deal with relatively minor breach of discipline that are important for the maintenance of military discipline, efficiency, and morale at the unit level.

Court martial is presided over by Military Judges , and is designed to deal with more serious offences.

A General Court Martial is composed of a military judge and a panel of five CAF members, who are selected randomly by the Court Martial Administrator. This panel serves a similar function to that of a jury in the civilian courts, as the trier of facts, while the military judge makes all legal rulings and imposes the sentence.

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Role of the victim at court martial

Director of Military Prosecutions

Victims must be afforded a meaningful role in military justice proceedings at court martial, so that they are protected, considered, informed, respected and heard. The prosecutor plays a vital role in the delicate balance between the needs and interests of the victim and the proper administration of military justice.

Victims who will testify as witnesses

Early in preparation for the court martial, the prosecutor should, where possible, meet with the victim in private and in comfortable surroundings and explains the role of a witness in court and attempt to answer any questions the victim might have.

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The Victim’s Liaison Officer

Since victims of service offences can be military members and their families as well as members of the broader public, the military justice system can be perceived as unfamiliar. To help ensure that victims are properly informed and positioned to access their rights, a commanding officer can appoint a Victim’s Liaison Officer upon request by a victim.

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