An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 36th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 1999.

Sponsor

Art Eggleton  Liberal

Status

Not active
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament.

February 11th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and through you to the witnesses, thank you for appearing today.

My questions will be for Justice Létourneau.

I know that you have been intimately involved with the military justice system for many years now and that you have made many public comments with regard to the potential for reform.

There is a preamble to my questions, which are two.

The bill currently before this committee proposes several changes to improve this review and reform cycle; specifically, Bill C-15 proposes to fulfill the Lamer report recommendation to entrench independent review provisions in the National Defence Act.

Bill C-15 also proposes to move beyond the limitations of Bill C-25 review mechanisms by permitting a greater focus and in-depth review; by allowing a given review to focus on specific thematic issues, such as military justice grievances, the Canadian Forces provost marshal, and the Military Police Complaints Commission; and by changing the review period to seven years between reviews as opposed to the current five years. This will increase the likelihood that any review would be conducted only after a sufficient period of time has elapsed to provide an adequate track record upon which to base subsequent assessments of the operation of provisions.

My questions are these: first, do you think that this iterative approach is a prudent way to approach military justice reform? Second, do you think it is a good idea to implement the recommendations of the Lamer report on strengthening and entrenching the independent review of the military justice system in the National Defence Act?

February 11th, 2013 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Drapeau, you stated in a recent article that you're not opposed to summary trials and you said that again today, but you had concerns regarding their constitutionality.

In fact, you had the opportunity to make this submission to Chief Justice LeSage during the second independent review of Bill C-25 and Bill C-60. In rejecting your point of view, he stated:

...regarding the constitutionality of the summary trial process, I am satisfied, as was former Chief Justice Dickson, that “the summary trial process is likely to survive a court challenge as to its constitutional validity”.

Given that two former chief justices of Canada and the former chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice have assessed Canada's summary trial process as constitutional and compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can you explain why the committee should not follow the opinion of these respected Canadian jurists?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if you could let me know when I have one minute left.

I am pleased to rise in this House to speak to Bill C-15. We have to make sure, first and foremost, that the men and women who work to defend us are able to represent us in the armed forces and have the tools to avoid putting their lives at risk unnecessarily. We also have a responsibility to provide them with an operational framework that is appropriate and fair.

And that is what Bill C-15 on the military justice system, which is now before us, claims to do. This bill originates in the responsibility of the Minister of National Defence to arrange for an independent review of the amendments to the National Defence Act every five years. That requirement is set out in clause 96 of Bill C-25 which was assented to in 1998.

In 2003, Justice Antonio Lamer was instructed to examine the provisions and application of Bill C-25. He concluded that “Canada's military justice system generally works very well, subject to a few changes”. Justice Lamer proposed those few changes in the form of 88 recommendations, some of which were addressed in Bill C-7, which became Bill C-45, and then C-60.

After Bill C-60 was passed and assented to, it too was the subject of a review, this time by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs of the House of Commons. That report was released in 2009 and is entitled “Equal Justice: Reforming Canada’s System of Courts Martial”. Bill C-41, which is now Bill C-15, was to act upon the nine recommendations in that report, which addressed both the Lamer report and Bill C-60.

The justification for having a separate justice system for the armed forces has been repeatedly demonstrated, and in 1992 the Supreme Court of Canada did so very eloquently in R. v. Généreux. One piece of tangible evidence of the importance of having a system that is specific to the military, as Justice Lamer himself admitted, is the fact that certain offences in the Code of Service Discipline do not have the same importance in the civilian justice system, and sometimes there is no equivalent for those offences: for example, disobeying an order of a superior officer.

The Minister of National Defence referred in committee to the old adage that our justice system is a living tree, meaning that the military justice system has to evolve. The Senate committee summarized that very well when it said that “the military, as an organization, benefits when the rules that govern it largely reflect those that apply to Canadian society in general”.

However, we must be careful not to fall into the other extreme, and make sure that, notwithstanding this overriding disciplinary aspect, people who work in the armed forces do not lose their rights that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Senate committee also stated that “with the exception of section 11(f) of the Charter, the rights enumerated in the Charter do not distinguish between proceedings under the military and civilian justice systems”.

As well, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that this separate justice system does not violate the individual’s rights since it is still able to guarantee the individual “the right to equality before the law and to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal”. It is therefore essential to ensure that the actors in the military system are effective, independent and impartial.

Let us now come back to the crux of this bill, which, I must say, has become weaker with every version. Although, according to a Supreme Court justice, Bill C-45 did not resolve the problem it was created to address, Bill C-15, which we are currently discussing, does not take into account all the work done in committee during the examination of the previous version of the bill, Bill C-41.

In fact, some amendments that were adopted in the past were not included in this new version of the bill. Yet, these amendments changed practices that did not fit with the desired evolution of the military justice framework.

I hope I have enough time left to talk about the three main amendments proposed by the NDP, which were adopted in the past but excluded from Bill C-15.

The first is the reform of the summary trial system, so that a conviction at a summary trial in the Canadian Forces no longer automatically results in a criminal record. During hearings before the Senate committee, many witnesses expressed their disagreement with this practice. There is even more cause for concern given that most offences are dealt with in this manner.

Michel Drapeau, one of the witnesses, said:

There is currently nothing more important for Parliament to focus on than fixing a system that affects the legal rights of a significant number of Canadian citizens every year....

From where I stand, I find it very odd that those who put their lives at risk to protect the rights of Canadians are themselves deprived of some of those charter rights when facing a summary trial.

In committee last March, the amendments to Bill C-41 proposed by the NDP called for the list of offences that could be considered to be minor, and not merit a criminal record if a minor sentence were imposed for the offence in question, to be increased from five to 27. The amendment also adds to the list of penalties a tribunal may impose without them being entered on the record, for example, a severe reprimand, a reprimand, a fine equal to one month's salary and other minor sentences. That was significant progress in terms of summary trials, but since that amendment was not included in Bill C-15, we want it to be included now.

The second amendment concerns the military grievances external review committee. Currently, the grievance board does not allow reviews by people outside of the military system. It is made up of retired members of the Canadian Forces. We would like the committee to be perceived as an independent, external civilian body. There is a problem with the makeup of the committee and the appointment process if the armed forces want to maintain that reputation. Committee membership should therefore include individuals from civilian society.

The NDP's amendment suggested that at least 60% of the members of the grievance committee should never have been a Canadian Forces member or officer. This amendment was agreed to in March 2011 for Bill C-41, but it was not included in Bill C-15. It must be put back in the bill.

One major flaw in the current military grievance system is the fact that the Chief of Defence Staff can resolve certain financial matters arising from grievances. That goes against a recommendation in the Lamer report. Despite the fact that the Minister of National Defence supported the recommendation, the government has failed to act on it for the past eight years. The NDP proposed an amendment to do with this at committee stage of Bill C-41. Even though it was agreed to in March 2011, it was not included in Bill C-15, and the NDP will fight to put it back in the bill.

The third amendment that I would like to talk about would strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill C-15 amends the National Defence Act to establish the time required for the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal to resolve complaints and protect complainants from being penalized for having filed a complaint in good faith.

Giving the Military Police Complaints Commission more power, effectively turning it into a watchdog, was virtually ignored. There should be a legislative provision to give the commission more power so that it can be authorized to investigate and report to Parliament.

In conclusion, the fact that the Conservatives deliberately botched the bill and removed some of the key elements that resulted from the hard work done by the members of the House of Commons committee and all parliamentarians in this House is further proof of this government's lack of respect and consideration for the parliamentary process.

Why did the Conservatives not keep the amendments proposed by the NDP and adopted at committee stage last spring, when Bill C-41 was studied, after long hours of debate that seemed to have moved the bill in the right direction?

By not including these amendments in Bill C-15, the Conservatives are undermining the important work done by all members of the Standing Committee on National Defence and also the recommendations made by Canadian Forces representatives during the last session of Parliament. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence rose in the House to give the first speech at second reading. He said:

...the government, the Supreme Court of Canada and even the Constitution recognized the importance of maintaining a robust military justice system.

This government also recognizes, as did Chief Justice Lamer in his 2003 report, that there is room for improvement.

If the parliamentary secretary really meant what he said, why did he ignore all the improvements made by this Parliament in committee? Although truly unfortunate, that is the Conservative government's approach. Not only has it dropped the amendments agreed to in committee, but it has ignored a number of recommendations, picked the ones it wants and rejected the rest.

The official opposition will oppose the bill at second reading, knowing that the bill will be referred to committee. And we truly hope that the amendments agreed to when the committee studied the issue will be included in order to make this a more balanced bill.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2012 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, for almost a year and a half, I have had the opportunity to debate in the House a number of issues that are dear to me. At times, we must also debate issues with which we are not as familiar. You will agree that we cannot be interested in everything all the time. However, that does not mean that the issues are not very interesting, and I do not doubt their importance. For many Canadians, everything to do with the military is somewhat of a mystery. The public definitely knows that Canada has an army and many people are very proud of it. However, the internal workings of the armed forces are a mystery to mere mortals.

A year and a half ago, that was the case for me. Since arriving here, I have had the opportunity to meet many members of the armed forces and I have become aware of the issues that are important to them. I have also asked the veterans in my riding many questions, and they have kindly and patiently answered them.

Bill C-15 is about military justice and it is a truly interesting subject. I will summarize the bill in order to provide some context. Bill C-15 is the Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. True to form, the Conservative government gave it an optimistic short title—Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act. Coming up with such upbeat titles is a new trend. I would not put it past the Conservatives to introduce a bill to diminish the rights of aboriginal peoples and name it “encouraging the legal and economic autonomy of first nations”. The cheerful words are a bit much.

Bill C-15 addresses some very clear problems and, in a way, proposes some clear solutions. This bill originated in 1998 when the Liberals were in power. During the 1990s, it was determined that the National Defence Act absolutely had to be modernized and achieve a better balance. It was significantly amended in 1998, after the release of three different reports that questioned its effectiveness. The Liberals introduced Bill C-25, which contained clause 96 stating that, every five years after the bill is assented to, there would be an independent review of the amendments made to the National Defence Act to see whether they were effective and whether any adjustments were needed.

This brings us to 2003, when the Lamer report came out with its 88 recommendations. Everyone agreed that the Lamer report was an effective tool and that it clearly indicated the steps to follow to improve and modernize our National Defence Act.

When the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they inherited the Lamer report and its recommendations. The Conservative government was aware that it had to continue reforming the National Defence Act. Under the Conservatives there were all kinds of disappointing twists and turns. In the first two minority, and rather unstable, Conservative governments, the two attempts to pass legislation to comply with the Lamer report recommendations died on the order paper.

In 2008, there was a turn of events. On April 24, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, in R. v. Trépanier, declared unconstitutional the provisions in the National Defence Act enabling the director of military prosecutions to choose the type of court martial for a given accused. This essentially meant that, from then on, in certain cases, accused persons had the right to choose the type of court martial to be convened.

The Conservatives had to react to this event as quickly as possible. Their legislative attempt failed in the wrangling of minority governments, and suddenly there was a court case that they needed to respond to. Their response was Bill C-60, which made minor changes to the military justice system. The Lamer report definitely remained the foundation for future legislation, but it also led to a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs entitled, “Equal Justice”. That report, commissioned by the Minister of National Defence, was agreed to in principle by the government when it tabled the report.

At this time, we have an abundance of studies and information to guide the whole legislative process of amending the National Defence Act. However, the tone has already been set. It will never be applied as a whole, but rather in bits and pieces. That is not necessarily a bad thing. We cannot change everything at once, unless the government decides to throw an omnibus bill at us concerning the National Defence Act, but I think the staff at the Prime Minister's Office, based on the two huge tomes that we have seen in recent months, are burned out. You see, the first victims of these paving stone expeditions are the legislative and political staff in the Prime Minister's Office.

Significant progress was made in 2010. Bill C-41, which was the direct forerunner of Bill C-15, was introduced in the House on June 16, 2010. It made it through the entire legislative process, was debated and discussed, and several of the NDP's proposed amendments were included. Unfortunately, Bill C-41 died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved during the last federal election.

Not long after a new Parliament was formed, in June 2011, there was yet another twist. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, in R. v. Leblanc, declared unconstitutional the provisions regarding the appointment of judges and the length of their terms.

The Conservatives wanted to fix the problem as quickly as possible, so in came Bill C-16, which was introduced and assented to in the fall of 2011. At the same time, at the very beginning of the 41st Parliament, the Minister of National Defence appointed the hon. Patrick LeSage, retired Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, to conduct the second independent review of Bill C-25, passed in 1998. His report was recently tabled on June 8, 2012. And that is where we are now.

This topic has been debated in Parliament for 13 years. We have the Lamer report and we have the report from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, all of whose recommendations the Conservative government accepted. Now we have Bill C-15. So what is the problem?

As I said, Bill C-15 in itself is relatively well done and addresses specific urgent problems. Except there was a bit of a sleight of hand. All of the recommendations that the NDP had managed to get accepted for Bill C-41 magically disappeared.

We were not kidding around when we proposed amendments during the previous Parliament. We were being serious. They were discussed in detail and they were accepted. The NDP wants to see these amendments in Bill C-15 as well.

If I may, I would like to quickly describe the purpose of those amendments.

First, there is one very important thing: we believe that Bill C-15 fails to properly address the problem of reforming the summary trial system.

A summary trial takes place when a member of the Canadian Forces is guilty of a lack of discipline in a strictly military setting. That person will be judged by his or her commanding officer on site, without a transcript, in order to maintain military discipline. That is fine in and of itself. Members of the military are subject to rigorous discipline in the course of their duties, but since they are only human, they may make mistakes and commit minor offences. Unfortunately, right now, these minor offences lead to a civilian criminal record.

The NDP does not believe that this type of purely military insubordination should result in a criminal record. I am somewhat disturbed that soldiers who bravely put themselves in harm's way for my safety and who are under an unusual amount of pressure must, when they return to civilian life, carry a criminal record that could prevent them from travelling or getting a bank loan all because of a simple matter of insubordination.

In February 2011, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said that military officers who impose sentences during a summary trial often want to make a show of discipline for the unit and discourage future offences, not impose on the accused the consequences that go along with having a criminal record in the civilian world.

We are talking here about really minor offences, and in the last Parliament, the NDP sold the committee on expanding the list of so-called minor offences from 5 to 27. We want this amendment to be put back into Bill C-15. If it is not, we will not support the bill.

This is not a conspiracy. The countries with which we have everything in common have already done so. It is a fairly powerful list: Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

If they have done this, I do not understand why Canada would not.

The second point pertains to the reform of the military grievances system. Right now, the grievance board does not allow external reviews. However, the grievance board should be an independent, external civilian body. Right now, only retired members of the Canadian Forces are on the board. I am not saying that they are not doing the job properly, but the system is not working. A change must be made.

Do we have to wait for another Court Martial Appeal Court ruling for things to be done right?

We suggest that at least 60% of the members of the grievance board be civilians. This amendment was agreed to in the last Parliament, but is not included in Bill C-15. We are right about this, and we want this amendment to be included.

Once again, for these reasons we will not be supporting this bill.

The third amendment that is missing from Bill C-15 concerns the Military Police Complaints Commission. It is a minor point, but the NDP believes that much more should be done to strengthen this commission.

It should be granted more powers by means of a legislative provision and it should be able to legitimately conduct investigations and report to Parliament. It is for the good of the military. We want this amendment included as well.

In the end, it is quite gratifying to be part of this long process that began in the late 1990s under the Chrétien government.

I am quite aware that such important statutes as the National Defence Act cannot be amended by only three or four pieces of legislation. Change will inevitably take many years. The work is well under way. The Conservative government has dealt with this matter rather appropriately, which is quite rare. However, as always, the NDP must be vigilant in order to put the finishing touches to the bill. The Conservatives want to act too quickly, and they have not got all the details right.

If the valuable and important amendments that we won acceptance for in the last Parliament are not restored, the NDP will unfortunately vote against the bill.

November 15th, 2011 / 9:10 a.m.
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Deputy Judge Advocate General, Military Justice, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Department of National Defence

Col Michael R. Gibson

Under the National Defence Act, since Bill C-25 in 1998, the Director of Military Prosecutions is responsible for preferring charges at courts martial, so he or she is the statutory prosecutor for the Canadian Forces.

The system is very much structured on a Director of Public Prosecutions model, that is to say to provide the functional independence required for prosecutorial independence. The DMP occupying that position provided by statute is responsible for selecting, with the concurrence of the JAG obviously, the appropriate personnel that he or she considers are best suited to perform that prosecution function. Like a DPP in a civilian system, they seek to recruit people they think are best suited to provide that function.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in the debate on Bill C-16. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is well aware that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill.

What we take issue with is that the parliamentary secretary has said in the House that we have failed to provide unanimous consent, which is completely false. I will give an example. Today, I gave unanimous consent, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois which I represent, to the agreement between the Cree and the federal government. We had already given our word and consent with respect to this bill.

With regard to Bill C-16, we were asked for our support yesterday at the same time that we were asking for unanimous consent to pay tribute to veterans. Remembrance Day is at hand. We are all wearing poppies—I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are wearing one also—to commemorate the battles fought by our veterans, the people who went overseas to fight in two world wars and other conflicts, which unfortunately should not have occurred but did, and who fought for our freedom.

The dean of the House of Commons, the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, wanted to rise, like members of other parties, and pay tribute for a few minutes to the people who fought to protect our freedom and to prevent dictators from taking control of the world and suppressing freedoms, as was recently the case in Libya. The leader of the Green Party also wanted a few minutes to address the people and pay tribute to our veterans. This was refused by lack of unanimous consent. We were simply told that the Conservative government had the right to do so and that it was within the rules.

I know that the government was probably afraid that the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois would use this precedent to intervene and rise often in the House, saying that they want to be recognized as parties. We have known from the beginning that we do not have 12 members, just 4, and that the leader of the Green Party is the only member of Parliament for her party. For that reason, the interim leader of the Bloc Québécois specifically stated yesterday, when making the request, that he did not want to set a precedent and that he simply wanted to make a statement.

That was one of the lowest moments I have experienced since being elected in 2004. I have rarely seen a government rebuff the opposition parties in a such a way and on such an occasion.

We did not give our unanimous consent to Bill C-16 then and we are opposing it today because the fault lies with the government for not being alert enough to introduce it sooner. The government could have introduced this bill as early as September 19, when Parliament resumed, but it waited until October 7. The government has also introduced a series of bills and has prevented the opposition from debating them and discussing them properly by moving closure and time allocation motions five or six times. I do not even know how many there have been, but closure has been moved on at least five or six bills. We cannot follow the normal legislative process because the government is in a very big hurry. It made legislative choices, but Bill 16, which we are discussing today, was not part of them.

The Conservatives chose to introduce Bill C-10 on justice. They decided to abolish the firearms registry and destroy the data. They also introduced a bill that will diminish Quebec's political weight in the House. There was also the bill on the Canadian Wheat Board. They chose to introduce all those bills instead of Bill C-16. I want to come back to Bill C-16 to which we could have given our unanimous consent. We only did what the government said it would do, in other words, follow the rules. I have been in federal politics long enough to know there are rules to be followed in the House. There is a legislative process to be followed: first reading, second reading, third reading and work in committee.

I understand perfectly well that there was a court order, but if the government was in such a hurry, it could have made sure that this bill went through all the stages as quickly as possible. After all, it is the government that sets the agenda.

Yesterday, by refusing to allow us to pay tribute to veterans, if the government was trying to send a message that we do not exist, that we are not an official party and that we do not deserve to speak in this House, it failed. Today we are sending our own message that we are still here. Just like the Conservative members, and in fact like all members of the House, we were democratically elected. Even the Prime Minister himself must acknowledge that he was democratically elected in his riding and that he is an MP first and foremost, and Prime Minister second. I think it is our duty to do things correctly here.

Thus, there are no second-class MPs in this House. I never thought that when there were 50 Bloc Québécois MPs, nor do I think that today, just because we are fewer in number. My message to the government is that it should think carefully before acting as heinously as it did yesterday. Nevertheless, once again, it is the government's fault that it did not introduce the bill earlier. And we support Bill C-16, especially since a court decision will strengthen the independence of military judges. That is very important. The Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges), in the House of Commons at first reading.

The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada delivered its judgment in the Regina v. Leblanc case. In its decision, the appeal court determined that the provisions in the National Defence Act and the Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces regarding the appointment and retirement of military judges do not sufficiently respect judicial independence as required by section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In declaring certain National Defence Act provisions constitutionally invalid and inoperative, the Court Martial Appeal Court in Regina v. Leblanc suspended the declaration of invalidity for a period of six months to allow remedial legislation to be enacted. The declaration will be effective December 2, 2011.

Bill C-16 amends the provisions of the National Defence Act that deal with the tenure of military judges, providing that they serve until the retirement age of 60 years, unless removed for cause on the recommendation of an inquiry committee or upon the resignation of the military judge.

To give a bit of background and explain the situation in full, I should mention that judges used to be appointed for a predetermined period of time. I believe it was for five years, but when a judge's term was up for renewal, it seemed that he or she did not have complete independence at that time. Now the process will simply be the same as it is for other judges. The tenure for military judges will allow them to sit as such until the retirement age of 60 years. That creates a balance. It sends a message that we will improve the situation around judicial independence, which is something we in the House could in no way be opposed to.

Justice Lamer made a number of recommendations, and this is one that we have agreed with from the outset. The Bloc Québécois believes in keeping military justice separate from civilian justice. It makes sense for the Canadian armed forces to have its own justice system, in light of the particularities of military life and military requirements. This bill corrects a situation that created a fairly significant difference between the civilian justice system and the military justice system, in order to improve the military system.

It is absolutely necessary to have discipline within an army. Without that discipline, we would lose any sense of structure and effectiveness. Since the primary goal of our armed forces is to protect the safety of Canadians, this issue is vitally important. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this principle in 1992:

The purpose of a separate system of military tribunals is to allow the Armed Forces to deal with matters that pertain directly to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military. 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. To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs. In addition, special service tribunals, rather than the ordinary courts, have been given jurisdiction to punish breaches of the Code of Service Discipline. Recourse to the ordinary criminal courts would, as a general rule, be inadequate to serve the particular disciplinary needs of the military.

A number of changes were called for. I think that Bill C-16 is a step that, I repeat, addresses only one of Justice Lamer's recommendations. We can go step by step. That is no problem.

There are also offences in the Code of Service Discipline that do not have equivalents in civilian justice. For example, the offences of disobedience of lawful command or disobedience to a superior officer do not exist in civilian justice. Military justice applies to three categories of people: military personnel in the regular forces, reservists and civilians who work with military personnel on missions.

But although military justice is necessary, people who join the Canadian Forces do not lose their rights, including their charter rights.

For 12 years, a great deal of thought has been given to modernizing military justice to bring it more in line with civilian justice. In its May 2009 report, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs wrote the following, “...the military, as an organization, benefits when the rules that govern it largely reflect those that apply to Canadian society in general.”

We therefore feel it is important that the government consider not only the issue of the independence of military judges but also the entire military justice reform. In my opinion, even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence can understand that, when we talk about such a bill, it goes without saying that we should expand our discussion and thought process a bit to include the whole military justice policy, particularly since more than one recommendation was given by Justice Lamer and the Senate committee.

Military justice reform dates back to 1997 and stems from two reviews. First, a special advisory group received a mandate to study the Code of Service Discipline set out in the National Defence Act. Then, the commission of inquiry into the deployment of Canadian forces to Somalia was asked to review how to handle the actions of certain soldiers sent to that country.

The two resulting reports led the government to introduce Bill C-25, which came into effect on September 1, 1999. This bill amended the National Defence Act by abolishing the death penalty in the military justice system, a very important change; incorporating civilian parole ineligibility provisions; creating the Canadian Forces Grievance Board; creating the Military Police Complaints Commission; strengthening the independence of military judges by making changes to the terms of their appointment, their qualifications and their tenure; and creating new positions within the military justice system in order to separate the investigative function from the prosecution and defence functions.

Clause 96 of Bill C-25 provided for an independent review every five years in order to examine the amendments to the National Defence Act. Many of the amendments I just listed are still pending. I am counting on the current government and its Minister of National Defence to take into account the majority of the recommendations that I mentioned just a few moments ago.

With this in mind, the federal government appointed a former Supreme Court justice, Antonio Lamer, to conduct the first review. He presented his report to Parliament in March 2003. Military justice has been on the radar for some time now, and here today we have this bill—barely two pages long—regarding the independence of judges. There will undoubtedly be other, more significant, changes that will improve the National Defence Act and that will also implement Justice Lamer's recommendations, which, as I have said before, are already 10 years old.

In his report, Justice Lamer observed that “Canada's military justice system generally works very well, subject to a few changes.” Consequently, he made 88 recommendations to improve military justice. I will not list the 88 recommendations, although some here might like me to do so.

I will briefly refer to some of Justice Lamer's 2003 recommendations: arrest procedures and pre-trial detention; procedures for proceeding by indictment; the structure of the court; sentencing; aligning the rights of the accused with those in a civil court such that the accused could choose the type of court martial and such that the finding of court martial panels would be arrived at by unanimous vote; strengthening the independence of the principal intervenors in the military justice system; and improving the grievance and military police complaints processes.

In order to implement Justice Lamer's recommendations and amend the National Defence Act, the government introduced Bill C-45 in August 2006. It died on the order paper. In March 2008, the government introduced another bill, Bill C-7, which was identical to Bill C-45 and also died on the order paper when an election was called in the fall of 2008.

In April 2008, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada handed down a decision in the case of Regina v. Trépanier. At issue was the possibility of choosing the type of court martial. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada ruled that a provision of the National Defence Act that gave the court martial administrator exclusive authority to select the type of court martial was unconstitutional. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada found that it was unacceptable that the accused could not chose the kind of court martial that would judge him or her.

Following that ruling—which brings us to where we are today—the federal government introduced Bill C-60 to accomplish the following: to more closely align the manner in which the mode of trial by courts martial is determined with the approach in the civilian criminal justice system, while still satisfying the unique needs of the military justice system; to reduce the types of courts martial from four to two; to allow military judges to deal with certain pre-trial matters at any time after a charge has been preferred; and to require court martial panels to make key decisions on the basis of a unanimous vote. Bill C-60 passed in the House on June 18, 2008.

One of Justice Lamer's recommendations has been incorporated into Bill C-16 before us today.

I repeat—and I will conclude on this in just a moment—the Bloc Québécois is not opposed to Bill C-16. The Bloc did not break any agreements to speed things up. The government alone is responsible for its own legislative agenda. It could have introduced the bill to get it through all the various steps in the usual way, knowing very well that a court order meant that a certain timeline had to be respected.

I cannot believe that, with the army of people and public servants available to the Minister of National Defence, it did not occur to him to look at a calendar and ensure that all the steps could be completed regarding Bill C-16. It is because of the government's own negligence that it is so keen to have the bill fast-tracked, because it did not do its homework.

I cannot believe that the government behaved in this manner. However, as I explained at the beginning of my speech, it is simply because the government made other choices. It had other priorities. It wanted to reduce Quebec's political weight with Bill C-20, for instance. It wanted to put the Canadian Wheat Board out of commission. It also decided to rule out all potential debate on Bill C-10 regarding justice. I can assure this House, not everyone is pleased about that. It is no longer only Quebec that opposes that bill. We will soon be up to 10 provinces that oppose the bill. But the government decided to make it a priority anyway.

In closing, it should have found a way to move a little faster on this matter and introduce Bill C-16 earlier. Had it done so, we might not still be talking about it today.

March 9th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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Deputy Judge Advocate General, Military Justice and Administrative Law, Department of National Defence

Col Patrick K. Gleeson

I'd be happy to address that question.

The panel is not intended to be a jury of peers. The military justice system exists for a different purpose. You see that purpose set out in the sentencing principles in this bill. One of the fundamental objectives of the military justice system is the maintenance of discipline and operational effectiveness.

The responsibility for discipline and operational effectiveness does not rest with peers. It rests with the chain of command. That's what the panel makeup is intended to reflect. So the view is that, yes, this would have a negative impact on the military justice system as you try to turn the panel into a jury.

Certainly this bill does provide a greater level of representation for NCMs on panels. We recognized back in 1998 when we introduced Bill C-25, the importance of having senior NCMs sit on panels. Prior to that, no NCM could sit on a panel; it was all officers. It was certainly recognized that NCMs are the senior disciplinarians in units; they play a key and critical role, with significant responsibility for discipline at the unit level, and therefore should be represented on panels.

We have now increased that representation in this bill to three. I would submit that to move to a representation of four and essentially exclude officers--which I think I heard suggested might be the better approach--would definitely undermine the purposes and intent of the military justice system and the court-martial process.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for sharing his time on the debate on Bill C-41. Over a week ago, I had prepared a 20-minute speech on this subject so somehow I need to cut it down.

However, we have dealt with many of the really important issues through questions and answers and the speeches of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh today and our critic, the member for St. John's East, who have done an excellent job of dealing with the issue. In a general sense, when it comes to crime bills, the member for Windsor--Tecumseh is able to give solid answers on the bill, more so than I can get even from the government. There have been exceptions for the government. The odd government member has actually been very knowledgeable but it is very intermittent, but very consistent on the part of the member for Windsor--Tecumseh.

In terms of the background on the military justice system, I do not think it is well understood by people in regular society. People in regular society understand that there is a separate system and they know that it is more stringent than the regular justice system. I have a son in the military reserves and I have spoken to him briefly about this but I do not sense that he is really that well informed on all the ramifications of the involvement with the military justice system versus the regular justice system since he has had no involvement with either up to this point, and I hope it stays that way.

The statutory basis for the Canadian military justice system is set out in the National Defence Act and is known as the code of service discipline. Among other things, the code sets out who is subject to the jurisdiction of the military justice system. It establishes military offences such as striking a superior, disobedience of a lawful command and absence without leave. When I was looking at the annual report that the parliamentary secretary gave me, I was curious to find out why it was that the number of trials had gone up 2.5 times over 10 years. I was looking for specific cases because it is instructive to study case law and look at certain cases, which is done in law cases and in the insurance field.

I found some interesting cases in the annual report that deal with the issues I just mentioned, but in addition to that, drug issues. I thought that with drug testing going on in the military right now that drugs would not be a problem whatsoever, but there are a number of cases of personnel being involved in drug activities. With a force the size that we have, I guess it is to be expected that things like this would happen.

It incorporates all offences under the Criminal Code, other federal statutes and foreign laws. It establishes tribunals for the trial of service offences, summary trial and court martial. It establishes a process for the review or appeal of findings in sentence after trial. The military justice system is designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces by contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale.

As other speakers have mentioned, Chief Justice Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada explained in Regina v. Généreux in 1992, the purpose of a separate system of military tribunals is to allow the armed forces to deal with matters that pertain directly to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military. 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 national security. To maintain the armed forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and frequently punished more severely than would be the case of a civilian engaged in similar conduct. As a result, the military has its own code of service discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs.

In addition, special service tribunals rather than ordinary courts have been given jurisdiction to punish breaches of the code of service discipline. Recourse to the ordinary criminal courts would, as a general rule, be inadequate to serve the particular disciplinary needs of the military. We have to understand that the military not only operates within Canada but operates on a worldwide basis. Thus, there is a need for separate tribunals to enforce special disciplinary standards in the military itself.

The separate system of military justice has been developed to deal expeditiously and fairly with service offences while respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and meeting the expectations of Canadians. Charter issues in many ways have served to propel the bill that we see in front of us now and in earlier bills to make the changes to bring the long-standing military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system to the extent that it is possible. It has been indicated that it is not possible to make it a mirror image of the civilian system.

We have dealt with quite a number of important issues with respect to this bill over the last few debate days. I want to point out that establishing the victim's voice in this process is extremely important. Having a victim impact statement similar to the Criminal Code provisions included in this legislation is a groundbreaking and necessary change.

Comprehensive amendments to the National Defence Act were made in 1998 by Bill C-25, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. These amendments included clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Minister of National Defence, the Judge Advocate General and military judges. It separated on an institutional basis the system's investigative, prosecutorial, defence and judicial functions. It included a completing summary trial reform directed at modernizing the summary trial process, strengthening compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and enhancing procedural fairness.

Bill C-25 included strengthening oversight and review by establishing the external Canadian Forces Grievance Board. The member for St. John's East spoke about the grievance board. It also included the establishment of an external Military Police Complaints Commission which required the Judge Advocate General to report annually to the Minister of National Defence on the administration of military justice in the Canadian Forces. It also required the Minister of National Defence to have a review carried out of the provisions and operations every five years. It also eliminated the death penalty.

That has now been changed to a seven-year review, and it seems, by all accounts, to be acceptable. When we pass this bill on to committee, we will be opening it up to the committee inspection process. Witnesses will appear before committee and they will be subject to questions and answers. We will be able to drill down into the components that make up the individual parts of the bill.

I also wanted to talk about the additional sentencing options because that is really crucial to this whole process. Now there will be absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders added into the process, which is going to improve the present system.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on this subject. As was the case for my colleague, I also support the bill. The Liberal Party will support sending it for second reading.

In particular, when I was defence minister, I had the privilege of dealing with the Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, whose report provided the foundation for this bill. I remember thinking he was an extremely fine and bright man with a keen sense of justice in what was right and fair. Knowing that he was the author of this bill, in many ways, reinforces my support for it, although not even Antonio Lamer was infallible. Therefore, there may be amendments at committee, but we certainly will vote to send it to committee.

That reminds me of another fine gentleman I knew when I was at defence, and that is Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister. While in a somewhat different category from Antonio Lamer, he was nevertheless a fine public servant and extremely able in the area of procurement.

In terms of the justice of the argument of the other side, Alan Williams, a very able man, has no axe to grind. He is retired. He is not a Liberal, to my knowledge. He is only speaking truth. Therefore, I think he is more credible than the current ADM, who is constrained by the powers that be. If he wants to hold his job, he has to say what his bosses want him to say, whereas Alan Williams, who is now entirely free from any constraint of that nature, said extremely clearly that we had absolutely no obligation to purchase this F-35. He said that we had absolutely no role in the American competition and we would be far better placed to go for a competitive bid. That way, according to Alan Williams, the taxpayers of Canada would likely save something in the order of $3 billion, which may not be a lot of money from the point of view of the government. However, from our point of view, that is a lot of taxpayer money which it is wasting through not going to a competition and insisting on going sole-source.

That is my brief reference both to Antonio Lamer, the father of this bill, and Alan Williams, the father of common sense when it comes to procurement.

However, let me now return more narrowly to the bill, as the parliamentary secretary has urged us to do. To ensure that the Canadian court martial system remains effective, fair and transparent, the military justice system must be reformed. Currently there are disparities between the military and the civil justice systems. Although we realize the need for the military and civil justice systems to be different in some respects, as they answer to different circumstances, both systems should be as similar as possible. One example of this is allowing for the security of tenure for military judges until their retirement. This is the case in the civil justice system and we believe it should also be the case in the military justice system.

As well, the addition of new sentences such as absolute discharge, intermittent sentences and restitution are positive steps toward developing a much fairer system.

We have concerns about clause 50 of the bill, which indicates that the size of the accommodations available will determine whether a hearing will be public or private. We do not believe that the size of a room should be the only determining factor.

Clause 101 refers to the review of this bill. We are in favour of a review; however, the review will not be conducted until seven years after the bill is passed. We are of the opinion that seven years may be too long in certain circumstances. If we consider Bill C-25, to which I referred earlier, the review took place five years after the bill was passed. However, we are still in the process of discussing the results of this review today, mainly because of the Conservatives' failure to act.

We certainly hope that, if additional changes were needed in this bill after it were passed, they would be made much more quickly and effectively than what we have seen to date.

As I said at the beginning of my comments, I have a profound respect for the late Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer who was indeed the father of this bill. For that reason, I am particularly pleased to say that the Liberal party will vote in favour of sending this bill for second reading.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-41. This bill was introduced on June 16, 2010, to amend provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system.

The amendments, among other things, provide for security of tenure for military judges until their retirement; permit the appointment of part-time military judges; specify the objectives and principles of the sentencing process; provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution; modify the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person; and modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods.

The text of this bill, beyond what I just listed on military justice, also sets out the Canadian Forces provost marshal’s duties and functions and clarifies his or her responsibilities. It also changes the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board to the military grievances external review committee.

Finally, it makes amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s powers as the final authority in the grievance process and makes consequential amendments to other acts.

The Bloc Québécois wants Bill C-41 to be studied in committee. It is true that the purpose of this bill is to improve the military justice system by enhancing judicial independence, but we lean heavily in favour of the healthy administration of justice. Accordingly, we are in favour of any initiative to enhance impartiality and the quality of judges and courts. However, this bill is long and complex and it contains a number of other measures. That is why we are calling for it to be studied in committee, in order to have witnesses inform our decisions.

I will try to put this into context. Military justice reform dates back to 1997 and stems from two reviews. First, a special advisory group received a mandate to study the code of service discipline set out in the National Defence Act. Then, the commission of inquiry into the deployment of Canadian forces to Somalia was asked to review how to handle the actions of certain soldiers sent to that country.

The two resulting reports led the government to introduce Bill C-25, which went into effect in 1998. This bill amended the National Defence Act by abolishing the death penalty in the military justice system; incorporating civilian parole ineligibility provisions; creating the Canadian Forces Grievance Board; creating the Military Police Complaints Commission; strengthening the independence of military judges by making changes to the terms of their appointment, their qualifications and their tenure; and creating new positions within the military justice system in order to separate the investigative function from the prosecution and defence functions.

Clause 96 of Bill C-25 provided for an independent review every five years in order to examine the amendments to the National Defence Act. That was in 1997. With this in mind, the federal government appointed a former Supreme Court justice, Antonio Lamer, to conduct the first review. He presented his report to Parliament in March 2003.

In this report, Justice Lamer observed that “Canada's military justice system generally works very well, subject to a few changes.” Consequently, he made 88 recommendations to improve military justice, especially in the areas of arrest procedures and pre-trial detention, procedures for proceeding by indictment, the structure of the court and sentencing. He recommended that the rights of the accused be more in line with those in a civil court so they could choose the type of court martial, and that the finding of court martial panels be arrived at by unanimous vote. The purpose of another recommendation was to strengthen the independence of the principal intervenors in the military justice system and to improve the grievance and military police complaints processes.

In order to implement the recommendations of Justice Lamer and amend the National Defence Act, the government introduced Bill C-45 on August 27, 2006, but it died on the order paper.

So the government introduced Bill C-7, which was identical to Bill C-45, on March 3, 2008, and it died on the order paper when the election was called in the fall of 2008. Of course Bill C-45, which had been introduced on August 27, 2006, died on the order paper when the election was called in December 2006.

In April 2008, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada handed down a decision in the case of R. v. Trépanier. At issue was the possibility of choosing the type of court martial. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada ruled that a provision of the National Defence Act that gave the court martial administrator exclusive authority to select the type of court martial was unconstitutional. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada found that it was unacceptable that the accused could not chose the kind of court martial that would judge him or her.

Following that ruling, the federal government introduced Bill C-60 to accomplish the following: to more closely align the manner in which the mode of trial by courts martial is determined with the approach in the civilian criminal justice system, while still satisfying the unique needs of the military justice system; to reduce the types of courts martial from four to two; to allow military judges to deal with certain pre-trial matters at any time after a charge has been preferred; and to require court martial panels to make key decisions on the basis of a unanimous vote.

Bill C-60 passed in the House on June 18, 2008.

Bill C-41 is a new version of Bill C-45 and therefore fits into the notion of general reform with a view to implementing Justice Lamer's recommendations.

Bill C-41 before us here today is a new version of Bill C-45 and, once again, aims to implement Justice Lamer's recommendations. A closer look at Bill C-41 reveals that it fits into the broad military justice reform that began in 1998, as I mentioned. It contains several provisions.

First, it contains a number of provisions concerning military judges, which I will list. It provides judges with tenure until their retirement, grants judges immunity from liability as granted to a judge of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction, grants the chief military judge the authority to establish rules of practice and procedure with the Governor in Council's approval, improves the system's flexibility by appointing part-time military judges from a panel of reserve force military judges, and stipulates that in order to be appointed as a judge, the member must have served as an officer for at least 10 years.

There are provisions in Bill C-41 concerning summary trials. For one, in terms of the limitation period, charges must be laid within six months after the offence is alleged to have been committed, and the trial must commence within one year after the offence was committed. The accused person may waive the limitation period established for summary trials.

There are other provisions related to the court martial panel. In the majority of cases, the rank required in order to sit as the senior member of a panel would be lowered from colonel to lieutenant-colonel. As well, the pool of Canadian Forces members eligible to sit on a General Court Martial panel would be enlarged, and the number of non-commissioned members would increase from two to three for the trial of a non-commissioned member.

In addition to these provisions, Bill C-41 would reform military justice by putting additional restrictions on the power to arrest without warrant, by extending the limitation period from six months to two years in terms of civil responsibility, by granting the Chief of the Defence Staff the authority to cancel an improper release or transfer if the member consents, by indicating that the role of Canadian Forces provost marshal is provided for in the National Defence Act as well as by setting out his responsibilities and ties to the Canadian Forces chain of command and by requiring the provost marshal to provide the Chief of the Defence Staff with an annual report on his activities and those of the military police.

Lastly, Bill C-41 would protect individuals who file any type of complaint with the Military Police Complaints Commission and would require the provost marshal to resolve conduct complaints or to close cases within 12 months.

This is clearly an impressive and important bill. Once again, that is why the Bloc Québécois wants to discuss it in more detail in committee and wants to bring in witnesses with expertise in military justice so that they can provide some insight.

There are other arguments. The Bloc Québécois is not opposed to keeping military justice separate from civilian justice. It makes sense for the Canadian armed forces to have its own justice system, in light of the particularities of military life and military requirements. It is absolutely necessary to have discipline within an army. Without that discipline, we would lose any sense of structure and effectiveness.

Since the primary goal of our armed forces is to protect the safety of Canadians, this issue is vitally important. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this principle in 1992, in the Généreux decision, which I will quote:

The purpose of a separate system of military tribunals is to allow the Armed Forces to deal with matters that pertain directly to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military. The safety and well-being of Canadians [and Quebeckers] depends considerably on the willingness and readiness of a force of men and women to defend against threats to the nation's security. To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs. In addition, special service tribunals, rather than the ordinary courts, have been given jurisdiction to punish breaches of the Code of Service Discipline. Recourse to the ordinary criminal courts would, as a general rule, be inadequate to serve the particular disciplinary needs of the military.

I repeat, that was a quote from the 1992 Supreme Court ruling in the Généreux case. The Bloc Québécois subscribes to the principle of keeping military justice separate from civilian justice.

There are also offences in the Code of Service Discipline that have no equivalents in civilian justice. I am thinking of offences such as disobeying a command or a superior officer. Military justice applies to three categories of people: military personnel in the regular forces, reservists and civilians who work with military personnel on missions. But although military justice is necessary, people who join the Canadian Forces do not lose their rights, including their Charter rights.

For 12 years, a great deal of thought was given to modernizing military justice to bring it more in line with civilian justice. In its May 2009 report, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs wrote the following:

...the military, as an organization, benefits when the rules that govern it largely reflect those that apply to Canadian society in general.

The Bloc Québécois feels it is useful and necessary to reform military justice. Obviously, we have some fears and also some suggestions. As I said, the Bloc Québécois wants this bill to be sent to committee so that we can call the appropriate expert witnesses. But we feel that justice must prevail at all levels of society, and justice often depends on police work. We are afraid that because the provost marshal can be reappointed, he will not want to delve too deeply into something that could ruffle feathers among the defence staff. The Bloc Québécois will ensure that this does not happen, and we will introduce amendments to correct this situation.

Once again, when we have a complex bill before us, we need to take the time to do the necessary analyses and studies. This is the case with this bill. The provost marshal, who is the person who will ultimately be in charge of military justice within the armed forces, will have a renewable term. We need to look at that.

Why must this mandate be renewable when judges are appointed until they retire? We must then consider how this would affect the provost marshal's work. Would he give the defence staff less firm direction because his mandate is renewable? Would he be more sensitive when a case involves defence staff? It would be to our advantage to ask these questions in committee.

It is important that the listening public understands how this works. Committee work is of the utmost importance to the operation of any parliament, whether it be the British model or any other parliament in the world. Witnesses may appear before the House of Commons only in very exceptional circumstances. Generally speaking, with only a few exceptions, witnesses appear before committees.

It is therefore important that the national defence committee take all the time required to analyze Bill C-41 and examine all of its ins and outs. It is true that military justice must become more like civilian justice, simply so that citizens can understand how military justice works and relate to it. If the military justice system is completely different from the civilian justice system, citizens will not understand it and might question all the work done by our military personnel. Thus, this is a very important issue.

This work began in 1998. Some bills were deferred or came to an abrupt halt when an election was called. We must now—and I hope we will have time—deal with this issue before the next election campaign.

I am interested in responding to the questions of my fellow members. Once again, the Bloc Québécois supports sending this bill to committee for improvement. We hope to convince members of other parties of the benefits of the improvements we would like to make to it.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2010 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-41, regarding military justice.

First, I have to respond to the comments in the last back and forth between the two members. It should be noted that the parliamentary secretary was trying to attribute the comments of the former Liberal leader to the NDP. My colleague was simply trying to get an actual position from the Liberal Party, which is difficult to do these days. He was raising the point that the former Liberal leader, the new ally or old ally, I do not know anymore, of the Conservative government, was asking why it is that we need to train more troops. It was his supposition, not that of my friend from Winnipeg. We have simply said that NATO is already going to meet its goals by next year and, as the parliamentary secretary knows, so is the Pentagon. Why did it break its promise and abandon the civilian equation?

It is a matter of getting things straight, and I know the parliamentary secretary was challenged at the special committee on Afghanistan on even knowing what the numbers were for his own government. It is interesting that he would now take the assertions of the former Liberal leader that there need not be more training for the Afghans because they beat the Russians. It was the former Liberal leader who said that. I know the member from B.C., his colleague who sits just a couple of desks away from the former Liberal Party leader, would know that as well.

Now that I have cleared that up, which is always difficult when we are dealing with a government that does not even read its own press releases, let us talk about the bill before of us.

When we are looking at strengthening military justice, it is important that we understand the ambit of this. This is an area that is important to look at. The last time we looked at the issue was in 1998. We were considering Bill C-25 at that time, legislation to modernize the defence act. However, the importance of military justice vis-à-vis changes to our Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was not looked at.

Let me be very clear with the government that we will be supporting sending this bill to committee. I do not want the government to misquote us or attribute our comments according to what the Liberals might say on any given day, which is always challenging. Let me be crystal clear. We will support sending this bill to committee with a view to looking at strengthening some of its provisions.

With respect to this review, our members have already mentioned that we need to get it right. On the one hand, we need to look at what the responsibilities are of the military in terms of its conduct and allowing the military to discipline its troops in a way that is in line with its mandate. On the other hand, we also have to recognize the rights of members of our military as citizens, and ensure that they do not forgo the rights they have as everyday citizens.

It is a balancing act between recognizing the rights of members of our military as citizens of Canada in line with the charter provisions and understanding the unique role of the military in our society and the way it conducts itself. When we are talking about summary justice, for instance, the military has a special role to play which allows it to use its disciplinary tools.

I remember talking to my grandfather about my father's service in the second world war. As a sergeant, he had to ensure that the troops who were working with him understood that there was a code of conduct. In the case of my grandfather's service in the first world war, he told me about the fear that was invoked by his commanding officers. That was important because the discipline that is needed when in situ and also when being trained must be understood.

There is also a need for justice to be supported when there are allegations of misconduct. That is where we have to get the balance right. Notwithstanding the need for proper discipline, the need for summary justice for military conduct, we also need to ensure that if there are allegations of misconduct and there is a serious charge against a member of our military, that he or she is afforded the same protections the he or she would get if he or she had been charged outside the military under the ambit of the Criminal Code of Canada. That is where we have serious concerns.

If we look at the balance between the support of someone who is coming forward in the military justice framework versus regular court proceedings, we would know there is not an equal support for troops who are under the guise of military justice.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this bill to amend the National Defence Act. This bill will ensure that Canadians can maintain their trust in our military justice system. This bill will improve the speed and fairness of the military police complaints process. Furthermore, this bill will give members of our armed forces access to a faster, fairer and more flexible grievance process.

In 1998, Bill C-25 made significant amendments to the National Defence Act. One of the amendments was the requirement for an independent review of those portions of the National Defence Act amended by Bill C-25.

The late right hon. Tony Lamer, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, was appointed to conduct the first independent review, and his report was tabled in Parliament in November 2003. In his report, former Chief Justice Lamer made 88 recommendations: 57 pertaining to the military justice system; 14 regarding the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the military police complaints process; and 17 concerning the Canadian Forces grievance process.

The bill that we are debating today is the Government of Canada's proposed legislative response to recommendations made in the Lamer report. Implementing the proposed response will require changes to the National Defence Act, the Queen's Regulations and Orders to the Canadian Forces and some administrative practices.

A similar bill, Bill C-7, was introduced in April 2006 but it died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. A successor bill, Bill C-45, was introduced in March 2008 but that bill also died on the order paper.

While the bill before us today largely mirrors the contents of previous bills, some changes have been made, and I will discuss those changes in a few moments. It should also be noted that some amendments to the National Defence Act related to changes suggested in the Lamer report were made in June 2008 by Bill C-60. Bill C-60 was required to respond to the judgment of the Court Martial Appeal Court in the case of R. v. Trépanier.

Further, during consideration of Bill C-60, the minister requested members of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to consider studying the provisions and operation of Bill C-60 and to provide a report on their findings and recommendations, which the committee did in May 2009.

In October 2009, the Minister of National Defence responded to the Senate committee members thanking them for their recommendations and indicating that all of their recommendations were either accepted or accepted in principle by the government.

Thus, in a nutshell, the present bill replicates most of the provisions of Bill C-45, minus some provisions implementing Lamer report recommendations, which have now already been enacted in Bill C-60, plus some additional elements arising from the recent recommendations made by the Senate committee.

I would now like to discuss the amendments we are proposing for the National Defence Act in the current bill.

In his report, former Chief Justice Lamer wrote that, as a result of the changes made in 1998 by Bill C-25, “...Canada has developed a very sound and fair military justice framework in which Canadians can have trust and confidence.” He added that observers from other countries see this system as one their country might wish to learn from. However, he also pointed out that there remain areas for improvement in the military justice system.

The Department of National Defence analyzed the recommendations in the Lamer report very carefully. It undertook extensive policy analysis and consultation to determine the appropriate legislative response to the recommendations. This response is reflected in the legislative amendments we are considering today. These amendments deal with the military justice system, the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the military police complaints process, and the Canadian Forces grievance process.

I would like to look at each of these areas in turn, beginning with the military justice system.

The Canadian military justice system has been developed to deal expeditiously and fairly with service offences, while respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and meeting the expectations of Canadians. It is a system designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces by contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale. It must also ensure that members of the Canadian Forces who are subject to this process are dealt with fairly.

The proposed amendments to the military justice system would make improvements both in process and in substantive law. They would also ensure that the military justice system keeps pace with evolving legal standards in Canadian criminal law.

Simply put, the bill before us today would reinforce the continued compliance of the military justice system with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while preserving the system's capacity to meet essential military requirements.

I will now go over the main military justice amendments proposed in the bill.

The bill would strengthen the provisions of the National Defence Act regarding the independence of military judges. More specifically, the bill would ensure that judges are appointed until retirement.

The bill would increase the timeliness and flexibility of the system by providing for the appointment of part-time military judges to a reserve force judges panel.

The bill would modernize and enhance sentencing provisions of the Code of Service Discipline.

It would provide more flexibility in the sentencing process, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders, providing summary trial presiding officers and military judges at courts martial with a greater ability to tailor a sentence having regard to the particular circumstances of the offence and the offender, replicating many of the options available in the sentencing regime of the civilian justice system.

As well, a greater voice would also be given to victims by providing the introduction of victim impact statements at courts martial.

The bill will set out the sentencing goals and principles that will apply to military tribunals, promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces and uphold a system that supports a fair, peaceful and safe society.

This codification of sentencing principles and objectives in the National Defence Act would provide an important statutory articulation of the fundamental principles underpinning Canada's military justice system, as well as providing guidance concerning sentencing to all actors in the military justice system, including presiding officers at summary trials, military judges at courts martial and the appellate judges of the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada. This statutory guidance would parallel that already provided in the civilian criminal justice system in the Criminal Code, with the additional specification of factors unique to the distinct military justice system.

I will now explain the key elements of the bill as they relate to the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the military police complaints process.

Although the National Defence Act establishes specific responsibilities for the Canadian Forces provost marshal in relation to the military police complaints process, neither the actual position of the provost marshal nor the full scope of its responsibilities are found in the current act.

Establishing the Canadian Forces provost marshal in the National Defence Act would bring greater clarity to the role and responsibilities of that position and to the military police in general.

We cannot forget that military police are different from all the other police entities in Canada. They can be called upon to undertake both traditional police duties, such as investigating offences, and what I would call purely military duties, such as providing security for airfields and other defence establishments or facilitating movement of troops in a theatre of operations. Bill C-41 reflects the dual nature of the Canadian Forces provost marshal's responsibilities.

It would also ensure that the provost marshal has the independence necessary to ensure the integrity of military police investigations and promote professional standards.

At the same time, the bill recognizes that the provost marshal will be directly responsible to the senior Canadian Forces chain of command regarding the military functions of the military police.

Bill C-41 would also enhance the timeliness and fairness of the military police complaints process by requiring the Canadian Forces provost marshal to resolve complaints within one year of receiving them in normal circumstances, and by protecting individuals who submit complaints in good faith from penalty.

I will now turn to the Canadian Forces grievance process.

In his report, former Chief Justice Lamer indicated that there was a clear need to improve the process for dealing with grievances submitted by members of the Canadian Forces. The proposed changes to the National Defence Act would help ensure that grievances are addressed in a fair, transparent and prompt manner.

For example, the bill provides for an amendment to the National Defence Act requiring the Chief of the Defence Staff or those he authorizes, where circumstances permit, to informally and expeditiously deal with any issues that arise.

At the same time, the bill allows for an expansion of the Chief of the Defence Staff's responsibilities as the final authority in grievance procedures.

These changes would enhance the efficiency of the process and ensure that a backlog of grievances, such as that which existed at the time of the Lamer report, does not recur.

Before concluding, I will discuss the differences between the bill we have before us today and previous Bill C-45. While the content of Bill C-41 is largely the same as that of the previous Bill C-45, some modifications have been made.

Principally, the differences between the two bills reflect the deletion of issues that have already been dealt with in the interim in Bill C-60, such as the requirement for unanimity of the panel to convict or acquit an accused person at a general court martial, the reduction of the number of types of courts martial from four to two, and the enhancement of the powers of military judges to deal with pretrial matters such as disclosure.

Other differences are related to the recent recommendations of the Senate committee. These include reducing distinctions based on rank and the composition of panels for general courts martial, amending the limitation period for summary trials to provide that a charge must be laid within six months after the day on which the service offence is alleged to have been committed, and allowing an accused person to waive the application of a limitation period for summary trials in certain circumstances.

A further point to note relates to the independent review provision. As recommended in the Lamer report, a provision will be added to the National Defence Act requiring that portions of the act relating to the military justice system, the military police complaints process and the grievance process be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

In the current bill, as was done in Bill C-45, the timeline for conducting future reviews has been modified to seven years. This would allow for more comprehensive and useful reviews to be conducted by ensuring sufficient time to work with and assess amendments to the National Defence Act after they come into force before a review is conducted.

Finally, this bill would propose that the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board be changed to the military grievances external review committee. The Canadian Forces Grievance Board plays a vital role in the process established under the National Defence Act for members of the Canadian Forces to seek redress of grievances. The impartial findings and recommendations of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board buttressed by that organization's institutional independence from the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence helped to increase the confidence of Canadian Forces members in the grievance process.

The proposed change in name would assist in communicating the Canadian Forces Grievance Board's current role, in particular its institutional independence and mandate to all stakeholders. It should be emphasized that the bill merely proposes a change in the organization's name, at its own request, to assist in this regard, not in its mandate, which will remain unchanged.

To conclude, reforming the military justice system is just one step in a process of continuous improvement.

As Canadians, we are privileged to have a military justice system that reflects our values and respects the rule of law.

These proposals to amend the National Defence Act would ensure Canada's military justice system remains one in which Canadians can have trust and confidence. They would clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian Forces provost marshal and bring greater timeliness and fairness to the military police complaints process. They would ensure that a more responsive, timely and fair grievance process is available. I am confident that these amendments would serve to further strengthen the Canadian Forces as a vital national institution.

This is a very technical bill and for that reason it would be appropriate to pass this bill quickly at second reading and get it to committee where we can hear various expert witnesses to drill down into the details that many will want to do. It is more appropriate that it be done in that setting where we time can take time to reflect fully on all the implications and suggestions that may be come up.

I request that hon. members pass this bill quickly at second reading and move it on to committee for further consideration.

June 16th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Drapeau, it's my understanding that at the end of the sunset period--whatever that date was--Bill C-60 would cease to exist and its the provisions would no longer be valid. Bill C-25 made amendments to the National Defence Act in 1998, and they included a requirement to complete and table a review within five years of the bill receiving royal assent. That eventually gave rise to Bill C-45. So we have quite a gap in time between the review and the actual tabling of the bill.

Given that a sunset clause and the end of the provisions of Bill C-60 could result in a gap, there being no legislation to cover the end of the sunset point to the enactment of the next legislation, can you describe what the impact of that would be?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak, on behalf of the NDP, to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the National Defence Act. We will support the bill at second reading and its reference to the Standing Committee on National Defence later today.

The National Defence Act has not been reviewed often by the House of Commons. The last time it was amended was in 1998, and before that it went unchanged for 50 years.

On April 24 of this year, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada made a decision to strike down a section of the National Defence Act. I want to remind members of the House what the decision of the court said.

The panel of three judges said that the military justice system “is in dire need of a change and modernization to improve its fairness and meet the constitutional standards”. We should keep that warning in mind.

We should also keep in mind that many of the reforms promised could have been dealt with years ago. Military justice is separate from the civilian justice system because militaries must maintain discipline and morale. Breaches of discipline are dealt with speedily and sometimes more severely than they would be in the civilian world. This difference with the civilian system is crucial.

The military justice system does not only exist to punish wrongdoers, it is a central part of command, discipline and morale. Ours is a voluntary military and if the military justice system is not seen as equitable and fair, we will not only have a justice problem, but we could also have an operational problem.

In 1992 the Supreme Court recognized that military justice needed to be different from the civilian justice system. However, there was nothing in that decision that said the military justice system should be antiquated or behind the times.

In 1998 Bill C-25 was introduced to modernize the National Defence Act. The changes brought about are too numerous to mention here today, but for instance, it removed capital punishment from the books. The bill included an undertaking to review the act every five years so we have not faced another situation where Canada would go for 50 years without updates or revisions.

Former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, undertook a study of military justice, His report was tabled in Parliament in November 2003. The report contained 88 recommendations, some of with which the government has not agreed. It was not until three years later, however, that legislation was introduced by the government to implement the recommendations of Lamer, and that was under the previous minister in the form of Bill C-7. That bill had many of the changes recommended by Lamer, however, it had a poison pill, which was to virtually eliminate the power of the Military Police Complaints Commission. This would have seriously undermined civilian oversight of the military police, so that bill was dropped.

The department has been faced with the problems brought up by the Trépanier decision for several years, but it did not reform the act. In the Trépanier decision, Justice Létourneau wrote:

The unanimous concern of this Court in Nystrom about the fairness of section 165.14 was expressed more than two years ago, i.e. on December 20, 2005. Since then, there have been five new constitutional challenges to that provision and appeals before this Court are pending. Retired Chief Justice Lamer made a recommendation as early as September 3, 2003 that section 165.14 be amended to give the accused the option to choose his or her trier of facts. As previously mentioned, he also made a recommendation that a working group reviewed the reorganization of the courts martial with a view to improving the fairness of the trial, at the center of which, as an important element of that reorganization, is the right for an accused to choose the trier of facts. Yet, Bill C-45 has been tabled before Parliament and it contains no remedial provision. The authorities have been given more than four and a half (4½) years to address the problem

As a result of the decision made by the Court Martial Appeal Court on April 24 of this year, the department suspended convening all courts martial. This is not a situation that can continue. Serious offences in the military must be prosecuted.

As it stood in the National Defence Act, the director of military prosecutions had the power to choose what type of court martial a member of the Canadian Forces would face. The idea of a prosecutor having this much power is completely contrary to accepted practice in the civilian justice system. As I said at the outset, we have to accept the military justice system will never be the same as the civilian system, but what justifiable military reason was there for this power being given to a prosecutor?

The three justices who made the determination in the Trépanier case, on April 24, said that the military justice system “is in dire need of a change and modernization to improve its fairness and meet the constitutional standards”. If an appeal court made that kind of ruling about the civilian justice system, the entire country would be outraged.

At the end of the day, it is up to Parliament to rewrite the act; it is not up to the courts. It is our responsibility to ensure that these urgent reforms are carried out. Such a delay of justice is a denial of justice.

Finally, I want to speak briefly about the lack of balance in staffing the military justice system. The JAG has 14 staff officers, who work on prosecutions, and four military judges, but how many military defence lawyers are there? There are only four military defence lawyers.

A system with an equal number of defence lawyers and judges would not be tolerated for one moment in the civilian justice system. Military defence lawyers are overworked and under-recognized, just like many members of the Canadian Forces.

I believe everyone in the House will come together to support changes to the act, and I hope we can do so quickly.

May 6th, 2008 / 4:05 p.m.
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Acting Chairperson, Canadian Forces Grievance Board

James Price

That was discussed. In fact, I was a legal officer working on Bill C-25 in 1998. The decision of the government at that time was to have a recommending board as opposed to a decision-making board.

This board was based on the RCMP external review committee. It serves virtually the same purpose. As you know, that committee was looked at recently and some recommendations were made to the government. I'm not sure what the decision is going to be. So we're very much a model of the RCMP external review committee.