An Act to amend the National Defence Act (court martial) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Peter MacKay  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends certain provisions of the National Defence Act that govern the military justice system. The amendments, among other things, reduce the number of types of courts martial from four to two and permit an accused person, in certain circumstances, to choose the type of court martial that will be convened. The enactment also provides that certain decisions of the panel of a General Court Martial must be unanimous and clarifies the provision that deals with the period of liability with respect to summary trials under the Code of Service Discipline. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Geneva Conventions Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a little disappointed to be rising in the House today. I would have been much happier rising if this were Bill C-41, from the last Parliament, and to be speaking to and supporting that very important piece of legislation. However, what the government has done with Bill C-15 is turn it into what I would have to call a prequel, which is what is there before one gets to a final bill. This should be what we had before we got to something like Bill C-41, in the last Parliament, when all of the parties participated, had a debate, and agreed to bring the bill forward in a way the parties would all have been able to support. However, that is really not what the government is interested in.

There are many important reforms in the bill, and the NDP supports the long overdue update of the military justice system.

Members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline. They, in turn, deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard. While this is not an issue at the forefront of most people's minds, a lot of Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can get a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts. The way the system of justice in the military is set up right now, a soldier can receive a criminal record for very minor offences, such as insubordination, quarrels, disturbances, absence without leave and even drunkenness. These matters could be extremely important to military discipline, and we would probably all agree on that, but they are not worthy of a criminal record.

A criminal record can make life after the military very difficult. Getting a job, renting an apartment and travelling abroad are all made far more difficult when someone has a criminal record. Our brave men and women have enough challenges re-entering civil society without a criminal record on their backs.

The NDP will fight to bring more fairness to the Canadian military justice system for the men and women in uniform who have put their lives on the line in the service of Canada.

The issues addressed in the bill are not new and date back, as we have heard many times today, at least to the independent review of the National Defence Act, released in 2003, by the Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, former chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The issues contained in Bill C-15 have indeed appeared in earlier forms. There was Bill C-7, which died on the order paper due to prorogation in 2007. We all remember that wonderful time. Then there was Bill C-45, which died on the order paper after the current government was found in contempt of Parliament.

In July 2008, Bill C-60 came into force, simplifying the structure of the courts marshal and establishing a method for choosing a type of court marshal more closely aligned with the civilian system.

In 2009, the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs considered Bill C-60 and provided nine recommendations for amendments to the National Defence Act.

In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced to respond to the 2003 report and to the Senate committee's report. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as sentencing reform, military judges in committees, summary trials, court marshal panels, the provost marshal and limited provisions related to the grievance and military police complaints process. In essence, Bill C-15 is similar to the version of Bill C-41 that came out of committee in the previous Parliament, minus all of those amendments.

The amendments carried over include courts marshal composition and military judges' security of tenure. However, other important amendments passed at committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session were not included in Bill C-15. These include the following NDP amendments: the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the grievance process, responding directly to Justice Lamer's recommendation; changes to the composition of the grievance committee to include 60% civilian membership; and a provision ensuring that a person convicted of an offence during summary trial is not unfairly subjected to a criminal record.

If one member of the government would get up at this point, I would ask what in those amendments was so scary and offensive that the government would pull them out of the bill before reintroducing it. However, I doubt that I will have that chance.

I am opposing Bill C-15, as it contains shortcomings that need to be re-addressed because the amendments I mentioned were pulled from the previous version of the bill. Far too often the government takes bills that were fixed and then breaks them again before bringing them to Parliament. It is a trend that we are seeing again and again. In the next two and a half years before the next election, I wonder how many other things Conservatives are going to break anew before bringing them before Parliament.

The amendments in Bill C-15 do not adequately the unfairness of summary trials and the conviction of service offences from those trials in the Canadian Forces, which result in a criminal record. Summary trials are held without the accused being able to consult counsel; there are no appeals or transcripts of the trial; and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. I wonder how many of us in civilian life would ever want to be tried by our boss.

These trials are unduly harsh for certain members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of very minor service offences. Bill C-15 does make an exception for a select number of offences if they carry a minor punishment defined in the act, or a fine of less than $500, so they will no longer result in a criminal record. This is one of the positive aspects of the bill, but it does not go far enough.

At committee during the last Parliament, NDP amendments to Bill C-41 were carried to expand the list of offences that could be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record from 5 such offences to 27. If the offences in question received a minor punishment, one the NDP amendments also extended the list of punishments that might be imposed by a tribunal without an offender incurring a criminal record, such as a severe reprimand, a reprimand or a fine equal to one month's basic pay, or another minor punishment. This was a major step for summary trials. However, this amendment was not retained in Bill C-15. We want to see it included.

Another matter that needs to be amended relates to the external military grievances review committee. At present the grievance committee does not provide a means for external review. Currently it is staffed entirely by retired Canadian Forces officers, some only recently retired. If the Canadian Forces grievance board is to be perceived as an external and independent oversight civilian body, as it is designed to be, then the appointments process needs to be amended to reflect that reality. Thus, some members of the board should be drawn from civil society.

The NDP would like to see a provision that at least 60% of the grievance committee members never have been officers or non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces. This amendment to Bill C-41 was passed in March 2011, but again it was not retained in Bill C-15. There seems to be no good amendment that the Conservatives do not want to see gone. It is important that this amendment also be put back in the bill.

Another major flaw in the military grievance system is that the Chief of the Defence Staff presently lacks the authority to resolve any and all financial aspects arising from a grievance, contrary to a recommendation in the Lamer report. Despite the fact that the Minister of National Defence at the time agreed to this recommendation, there have been no concrete steps taken over the past eight years to implement this recommendation. The NDP proposed an amendment to this effect to Bill C-41 at committee. Although the amendment passed in March 2011, once again this amendment is nowhere to be found in Bill C-15. It should be included.

Another aspect of the bill that needs to be addressed is the need to strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill C-15 amends it to establish a timeline in which the Canadian Forces provost marshal will be required to resolve and conduct complaints as well as protect complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith. Although a step forward, the NDP believes that more needs to be done to empower the commission. Care has not been taken to provide the Military Police Complaints Commission with the required legislative provisions that would empower it to act as an oversight body.

I will be happy to answer some questions. I hear disappointment from the other side of the room, but I will be more than happy to include you in the conversation.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member speaking in the House today to this very important bill.

The bill has a very long history. It was previously Bill C-7, Bill C-45, Bill C-60, and Bill C-41.

The original report goes back to 2003, so it is certainly high time we dealt with this bill in the House.

What concerns us is that some of the key issues and amendments the NDP put forward, in good faith, at committee have been left out of the bill. We still do not have an answer on that. I wonder if the member would like to address that concern, because they really should have been included in this new version of the bill.

I think the members of the Canadian armed forces need to have a better military justice system. We are here in the House to ensure that it happens.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-15.

There are three Royal Canadian Legions in my riding. I am proud that these legions help our veterans and active military service people. I have met with many Canadian veterans who tell me about the issues that are important to them. Bill C-15 is about military justice, which is an important issue.

I am happy to raise my concerns today with the House over a misguided policy that would ultimately hurt members of the Canadian Forces. Bill C-15 proposes some solutions to ongoing problems with military justice, but this is also not the first attempt to deal with such problems.

I will start by noting that our country's military service men and women are held to a very high standard when defending Canadian values abroad, values of democracy, justice and peace. The Canadian Forces deserve a military justice system that respects these values in all instances, including the grievance system and complaints commissions. The Conservative government chose not to do that.

The government has decided to go against an amendment already passed at committee, which would allow changes to the composition of the grievance board to include a 60-person civilian membership, amended clause 11 in Bill C-41. The parliamentary committee's recommendation was simple, and that was that some members of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board should be drawn from civil society.

Why did the Conservatives not retain the amendments proposed by the NDP that passed during the study of Bill C-41 last spring? By failing to include these amendments in Bill C-15, the Conservatives undermine the recommendations of the Canadian Forces representatives during the last session of Parliament.

When defining the grievance process and highlighting its importance, the Lamer report in 2003 stated:

—unlike in other organizations, grievors do not have unions or employee associations through which to pursue their grievances...It is essential to the morale of CF members that their grievances be addressed in a fair, transparent, and prompt manner.

That is one of the primary reasons we cannot understand why the NDP's proposed amendments to Bill C-41 have been dropped. I will continue to speak about the reasons why we will unfortunately not be able to vote in favour of this bill.

This bill was introduced after a series of bills that were passed in the House of Commons over the past 10 years. First there were bills C-7 and C-45, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in 2007 and the election was held in 2008. In July 2008, the government introduced Bill C-60, which came back stronger and simplified the structure, but it too died on the order paper. In 2009, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs studied this bill and recommended nine amendments, but it went no further.

In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced, and it reached committee stage, where amendments were proposed. Unfortunately, it too died on the order paper. That brings us to Bill C-15. As my colleagues have mentioned, amendments had been proposed in committee and accepted, but they are now being dropped.

I would like to comment on what my colleague just said about the arrogance of the government. It repeatedly tells us that we do not want to work with it, that we vote against its bills and that we are opposed to all kinds of things. Then it comes and tells us that we are opposing a better bill on military justice for veterans.

This bill contains many things that we cannot accept. Furthermore, we had proposed some amendments that I believe were very appropriate. We had recommended changes to the composition of the grievance board to have it consist of 60% civilians. We had recommended that authority be given to the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process, in direct response to a recommendation made in the Lamer report.

We had proposed that a person convicted of an offence in a summary trial ought not to be unfairly subjected to a criminal record.

I would like to return to the criminal record. At the moment, the Canadian Forces system is very strict and discipline is very important. These people represent our country. They have to be upright, fair and, as it were, highly disciplined.

At the moment, five of the offences considered minor do not lead to a criminal record. This means that out of 27 such offences, 22 can lead to a criminal record.

I have not looked at my list, but my colleague from Trois-Rivières just mentioned that one of the offences was being absent without leave. I find it ridiculous that that being absent without leave can result in a criminal record.

I am going to tell you about a personal experience. Before coming to this place, I taught adults at two schools, in Sherbrooke and Quebec City. Unfortunately, a lot of young adults in my courses had criminal records. They told me how much that restricted their lives and complicated their efforts to look for work, for example. They always had to answer the question about whether they had a criminal record. They obviously had to tell the truth. Those people told the truth. They said they had a criminal record. Naturally, that can scare an employer. If you are more knowledgeable and you know what sort of behaviour resulted in a criminal record, that can change things.

Having a criminal record can also prevent you from travelling. It is harder to go to the United States, for example. Someone who has completed his military career and saved up money to go to the United States and spend a weekend with his children at Disneyland could be denied entry to the United States because he has a criminal record. This can take on grotesque proportions.

I feel we have an opportunity to change that. Some things are abnormal and disproportionate. You can have a criminal record for being absent without leave. These are things that we can change, and we should seize the opportunity to do so since we are studying the bill.

The government tells us that the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly and that moving things forward takes a long time. I agree: sometimes it does take a long time and that is why we have been studying the bill for 10 years.

We do not want this bill to die on the order paper. We want it to be passed, but passed logically and responsibly so as to move things forward.

We can decide that some offences that are considered minor will not result in a criminal record. This is the opportunity to do so now, and we must not miss it.

I wanted to add to what the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says, that military officers who impose sentences at summary trials want to maintain unit discipline and discourage future offences—everything is fine to that point—not to inflict on the accused consequences consistent with having a criminal record in the civilian world.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association thus emphasizes the fact that a criminal record has consequences in the civilian world. We would not want to go too far.

As I mentioned earlier in my speech, it is very important for the military world to be highly disciplined, but this goes a little too far.

We are definitely in favour of reforming the legislation concerning the military system.

The bill does not go far enough. Only 28 of Justice Lamer's 88 recommendations were adopted, not even half. None of the amendments put forward by the NDP was adopted either. In our view, this bill does not go far enough, and we will vote against it in the next vote for that reason.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

They are the Cardinals to our San Francisco Giants, I guess, Mr. Speaker. That is the way I look at it.

Among other things, the bill provides greater flexibility in the sentencing process. It provides additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences, and restitution. It modifies the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person. It modifies the limitation period applicable for summary trials. It allows an accused person to waive the limitation periods and clarifies the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal. It makes amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff's powers as a final authority in the grievance process.

I do not want people watching at home to think that there are not some good things in the bill as it moves forward. The bill is a step in the right direction. It is a step in the right direction toward bringing the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. However, Bill C-15 falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system, and strengthening the military complaints commission.

In 2003, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, who is the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, presented his report on the independent review of the National Defence Act. It contained 88 recommendations. Bill C-15 is the legislative response to those recommendations, but to only 28 of those recommendations. Sixty are missing. Only 28 of those recommendations have been implemented by this legislation through regulations or by way of a change in practice.

This legislation has also appeared here in earlier forms, first as Bill C-7and then as Bill C-45, which died on the order paper due to prorogation in 2007 and the election in 2008. In July 2008, Bill C-60 came into force, and some changes were made at that time.

In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced to respond to the Lamer report. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as the things we are talking about today: sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, court martial panels, the provost marshal, and limited provisions related to the grievance and military police complaints process.

In essence, Bill C-15 is similar to the version that came out of committee in a previous Parliament. The amendments carried over include court martial composition and military judges' security of tenure, meaning appointments and age.

However, other important amendments passed at the committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session were not included in Bill C-15. These included, not surprisingly, NDP amendments that we felt were and are important. One was the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the grievance process, which responds directly to Justice Lamer's recommendation. Another was a change to the composition of the grievance committee to include 60% civilian membership. Third was a provision ensuring that a person convicted of an offence during a summary trial is not unfairly subject to a criminal record, and that is no small thing.

Let me say again, because I know that my friend across the way will be asking me a question, that there are many important reforms in the bill. We support the long overdue update of the military justice system. Members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline, and they, in turn, deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard.

However, there are some shortcomings in the bill, and we hope that they will be addressed at committee stage if the bill passes second reading.

The first is the reform of the summary trial system. The amendments in the bill do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. Currently, a conviction for a service offence in a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record. Summary trials are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals and no transcripts of the trial, and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. This causes undue harshness for certain members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of very minor offences.

Some of these minor service offences could include, for example, insubordination, quarrels, disturbances, absence without leave, and disobeying a lawful command. These are matters that could be extremely important to military discipline but that I do not feel are worthy of a criminal record.

Bill C-15 makes an exemption for a select number of offences if they carry a minor punishment, which is defined in the act, or a fine of less than $500 so that they no longer result in a criminal record. This is one of the positive aspects of the bill, but it does not, in my opinion and in the opinion of the NDP, go far enough.

At committee stage last March, NDP amendments to the previous bill, Bill C-41, were carried. They expanded this list of offences that could be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record if the offence in question received a minor punishment.

A criminal record could make life in the military very difficult and could make life after the military very difficult. Criminal records could make getting a job, renting an apartment, and travelling difficult. Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who bravely serve our country can get a criminal record from a system that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts.

The second amendment we talked about was a reform of the grievance system. I know that my friend across the way will probably have a question about that. At present, the grievance committee does not provide a means of external review. I think that is important. Our amendment provides that at least 60% of the grievance committee members must never have been officers or non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces. The amendment was passed but was not retained in the bill as it stands today.

The third amendment concerns strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. I do not think care has been taken to provide the Military Police Complaints Commission with the required legislative provisions that empower it to act as an oversight body.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, proposes a series of measures to enhance the military justice system. This bill is a legislative response to some of the recommendations made by Justice Lamer in 2003 following his review of the National Defence Act and to recommendations made by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs six years later. Of Justice Lamer's 88 recommendations, Bill C-15 takes just 28 into account. Sixty recommendations were not included in the bill that the Conservatives introduced in response to the key concerns raised by the Lamer report on national defence.

In its current incarnation, the bill resembles previous national defence and military justice reform bills introduced in the House, such as Bill C-7 and Bill C-45, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in 2007 and when the election was called in 2008.

The following year, in July 2008, Bill C-60 proposed a simplified courts martial structure and set out a precise method for choosing a type of court martial that would harmonize well with Canada's civilian justice system. It was introduced and debated in the House before being referred to the Senate committee that studies legal and constitutional affairs. After a painstaking review of the bill, the Senate committee made nine recommendations for changes to the National Defence Act.

Later, in 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced in the House of Commons. The main purpose of the bill was to address the key recommendations that Justice Lamer made in 2003 and that the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs made in 2009.

Bill C-41 included provisions to reform the military justice system in the areas of sentencing, judges and military committees, summary trials, court martial panels and the Canadian Forces provost marshal. Further provisions proposed changes to the Military Police Complaints Commission.

The bill before us today, Bill C-15, is similar to Bill C-41, which was introduced by the Senate committee in the previous Parliament. It provides, among other things, greater latitude regarding the sentencing process and additional sentencing options, such as absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution. It modifies the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person, and the limitation period applicable to summary trials. It also allows an accused person to waive the limitation periods. In addition, the bill sets out the Canadian Forces provost marshal's responsibilities.

As the NDP members who spoke before me pointed out, our party believes that the bill is a step in the right direction to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. Unfortunately, it fails to address the fundamental issues that a serious military justice reform must tackle, including summary trials, grievances and measures that should be contemplated to strengthen the Complaints Commission.

Because it is silent on these substantive issues, Bill C-15 seems from the outset to be unfinished business that has not been given proper consideration.

During the debates on previous bills dealing with National Defence reform, relevant amendments were proposed and adopted at committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session. We are sorry to see that these amendments were not even taken into consideration in Bill C-15 as it now stands.

The amendments proposed by the NDP included changes to the powers of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the grievance process, which stems directly from a recommendation made in the Lamer report, changes to the composition of the grievance committee so that 60% of its members would be civilians, and a provision to ensure that a person found guilty of an offence during a summary trial would not unfairly be given a criminal record. The Conservatives rejected all of these amendments.

The NDP has long supported a necessary update of the military justice system, but not at any cost. We, New Democrats, think that members of the Canadian Forces are subject to extremely high disciplinary standards. Therefore, they deserve a justice system governed by similar standards.

Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that the people who have served our country with such valour can have a criminal record under a system that does not have the procedural regularity that is ordinarily required in the civilian criminal courts.

The NDP will firmly oppose Bill C-15 at second reading as long as measures have not been adopted to improve it throughout. New Democrats will continue to fight to make the Canadian military justice system fair for the men and women in uniform who have risked their lives in the service of Canada.

That said, the weaknesses and flaws in this bill mean that we cannot support it. The following are some of the weaknesses in the bill that make it impossible for New Democrats to agree to it.

Let us talk about the reform of the summary trial system. The amendments in Bill C-15 do not adequately address the injustice of summary trials. At present, a conviction in a summary trial in the Canadian Forces means that a criminal record is created. When summary trials are held, accused persons are unable to consult counsel. There is no appeal and there is no transcript of the trial. In addition, the judge is the accused’s commanding officer. This is too harsh for some members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of minor offences. Those minor offences include insubordination, quarrels, misconduct and absence without leave. This is undoubtedly very important for military discipline, but it does not call for a criminal record.

Bill C-15 provides an exemption so that certain offences, if there is a minor sentence determined by the act or a fine of less than $500, will no longer lead to a criminal record. This is one of the positive aspects of this bill. We think this bill does not go far enough.

Last March, at committee stage, 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 to 27 from five.

This was an important step forward for summary trials. However, that amendment was not retained in Bill C-15 and we want it to be included again.

A criminal record can make life after a person’s military career very difficult. With a criminal record, getting a job can be a thing of the past, and renting an apartment and travelling can be very difficult. Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that members of the military who have served our country so courageously can have a criminal record because of flaws in the military justice system.

Let us talk about reforming the grievance system. At this time, the grievance committee does not allow for external review. Retired employees of the Canadian Forces, some of them very recent retirees, sit on the committee. If the Canadian Forces Grievance Board is to be seen as an external, independent civilian body, as it should be, the appointment process needs to be amended to reflect that. This committee should therefore be composed, in part, of civilian members.

The NDP amendment suggests that at least 60% of the grievance committee members must never have been officers or members of the Canadian Forces. The amendment was adopted in March 2011, for Bill C-41, but it was not incorporated into Bill C-15. It is important that this amendment be included again.

Let us talk about the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process. One of the major weaknesses of the military grievance system is that, contrary to a recommendation in the Lamer report, the Chief of Defence Staff lacks the authority to resolve the financial aspects of grievances. Although the defence minister approved the recommendation, no concrete action has been taken in the past eight years to implement it. The NDP proposed an amendment to this effect when Bill C-41 was at the committee stage. Although this amendment passed in March 2011, it was not retained in Bill C-15. The NDP will fight to have it put back in.

Let us talk about strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. Bill C-15 amends the National Defence Act to establish a timeline in which the Canadian Forces provost marshal will be required to resolve complaints and protect complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith. The NDP believes that more needs to be done to strengthen the commission.

Retired Colonel Michel W. Drapeau is an expert in military law. Here is what he had to say before the Standing Committee on National Defence on February 28, 2011.

I strongly believe that the summary trial issue must be addressed by this committee. 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. Why? Because unless and until you, the legislators, address this issue, it is almost impossible for the court to address any challenge, since no appeal of a summary trial verdict or sentence is permitted. As well, it is almost impossible for any other form of legal challenge to take place, since there are no trial transcripts and no right to counsel at summary trial.

It is up to the Conservatives to explain to the House why the relevant recommendations that were agreed to during the debate on Bill C-41 have not been incorporated into this bill.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I will be speaking about Bill C-15. I will begin with a brief history of this bill.

In 2003, the Rt. Hon. Antonio Lamer, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, tabled his report on the independent review of the National Defence Act.

The Lamer report contained 88 recommendations concerning military justice, the Military Police Complaints Commission, the grievance process and the Canadian Forces provost marshal. Bill C-15 is the legislative response to these recommendations.

We must mention, however, that only 28 of the 88 recommendations have been included in this legislation. Thus, the response is incomplete. Bill C-15 is not a full response to the Lamer report.

Bill C-15 has appeared in a number of previous forms. First there was Bill C-7, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in 2007—an act that, by the way, was undemocratic—and then Bill C-45, which met the same fate when the 2008 election was called.

In July 2008, Bill C-60 came along, simplifying the court martial structure and establishing a system for choosing the court martial format that would harmonize best with civilian justice.

In 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs examined Bill C-60 and made nine recommendations for amendments to the National Defence Act.

In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced as a response to the 2003 Lamer report and the 2009 report from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

It included provisions related to military justice, such as reforms to sentencing, military judges and committees, summary trials, the court martial panel and the Canadian Forces provost marshal, as well as provisions pertaining to the Military Police Complaints Commission.

Essentially, Bill C-15 is similar to the version of Bill C-41 tabled by the Senate committee in the last Parliament. The accepted amendments included the composition of the court martial panel and the appointment of military judges during good behaviour until their retirement.

Some important amendments were adopted at the committee stage, at the end of the last parliamentary session. Unfortunately, they were not included in Bill C-15. It is really strange, because many of these amendments were suggested and supported by the NDP and by others. For example, one amendment dealt with the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff relative to the grievance process. That was a direct response to a recommendation in the Lamer report, and it is missing. There was also an amendment regarding changes in the composition of the grievance board, so that 60% of its members would be civilians. Once again, it is not in this bill. Finally, there was a provision to ensure that a person found guilty of an offence at a summary trial would not be unjustly burdened with a criminal record. That, too, is missing.

What the NDP wants are simple and important things that affect military justice and show respect for the people who serve the country by defending our rights and freedoms.

This bill does propose a number of important reforms. The NDP has long been in favour of the necessary updating of the military justice system. Members of the Canadian Forces are subject to very severe discipline and, thus, deserve a judicial system that is governed by rules comparable to those in the civilian system.

This bill has many shortcomings that we hope will be discussed in committee if the bill is passed at second reading.

The first thing that must be reviewed is the reform of the summary trial system. It is a serious problem. The amendments in Bill C-15 do not deal adequately with the injustice of summary trials. There is a true injustice in these trials. At present, a guilty verdict from a summary trial in the Canadian Forces results in a criminal record. Summary trials can cover many things, some of them insignificant.

They may apply not only to such serious charges as insubordination, but also to less serious offences such as drunkenness or the like, which have nothing to do with the criminal offences that would be found on a criminal record. This is a serious problem that must be reformed, and it must be done immediately.

For example, summary trials are held without the accused being able to consult counsel. There is no recourse and no transcript. We can imagine how a trial is conducted when there is no transcript of what was said. The name says it all: “summary trial”. It is summary, with no real justice and no recourse to a real, fair justice system. Summary trials are held for minor and major reasons, and there is no logic to them.

Moreover, the accused person’s commanding officer acts as the judge. That is much too harsh for some members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of minor infractions. The fact that the commanding officer is also the judge raises questions about the impartiality of the process. Therefore, changes are needed.

These minor offences include insubordination, as I said, but also quarrels. “Quarrel” is a pretty big word to describe someone raising their voice to someone else. We have to look at the definition of “quarrel”. We are not talking about striking and injuring someone here. Accordingly, we do not see why this should result in a criminal record. Misconduct, again, is very broad. As I said, it is the commanding officer who decides all of this.

Absence without leave, drunkenness and disobeying a command are all undoubtedly very important for military discipline, I agree, but they do not deserve a criminal record, particularly since these soldiers have lives after their military service. Someone who quarrelled with one of his colleagues and who returns to civilian life could find himself with a criminal record because of this.

It then becomes difficult to find a job, to travel outside Canada and to find housing. This creates a whole host of problems for people who, let us not forget, serve the Canadian public and defend our rights and freedoms. Because of some of these measures, their own rights and freedoms are being trampled on somewhat by this military justice system. This process needs to be revised.

I could touch on many other aspects that need to be revised, but I will not have time. A lot of competent people have looked into this. Bill C-15 does not properly reform the military justice system.

To conclude, we in the NDP believe the Canadian Forces already have to meet extremely high standards when it comes to discipline. We know the strict discipline this job calls for. Members of the military are entitled, in return, to a judicial system that is required to meet comparable standards. A criminal record can make life after the military very difficult. Criminal records complicate the process of finding a job, renting an apartment or travelling.

Accordingly, the NDP will fight to make the Canadian military justice system fairer for the men and women in uniform who have risked their lives in the service of Canada. For that reason, it is very important that this act be revised, to respect and honour our soldiers.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2012 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 7, 2011, the Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Bill C-15 amends the National Defence Act to strengthen and alter military justice following the 2003 report of the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, the right hon. Antonio Lamer, and the May 2009 report of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Among other things, the bill would provide greater flexibility in the sentencing process and additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution. It would 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. It would also allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods. The bill would clarify the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces provost marshal and, finally, it would make amendments to the delegation of the Chief of Defence Staff powers as the final authority in the grievance process.

New Democrats believe that Bill C-15 is a step in the right direction to bring the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. However, it falls short on key issues when it comes to reforming a number of required aspects of the military justice system, including the summary trial system, the grievance system and the Military Police Complaints Commission.

I will provide some background. In 2003, the right hon. Antonio Lamer, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, presented his report to the independent review of the National Defence Act. The Lamer report contained 88 recommendations pertaining to military justice, the Military Police Complaints Commission, the grievance process and the provost marshal. Bill C-15 is the legislative response to these recommendations, but thus far only 28 of those recommendations have been implemented in legislation, regulations or via changes in practice.

This bill has appeared in earlier forms. First, Bills C-7 and C-45 died on the order paper due to prorogation by the Conservative government in 2007 and an election in 2008. In July 2008, Bill C-60 came into force simplifying the structure of the court martial system and establishing a method, which was more closely aligned with the civilian system, for choosing the type of court martial. In 2009, the Senate committee consider Bill C-60 and provided nine recommendations for amendments to the National Defence Act. In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced to respond to the 2003 Lamer report and the Senate committee report. It outlined provisions related to military justice, such as sentencing reform, military judges and committees, summary trials, court martial panels, the provost marshal and limited provisions related to the grievance process and the Military Police Complaints Commission.

In essence, Bill C-15 is similar to the version of Bill C-41 that came out of committee in the previous Parliament. There are a number of amendments that carry over, which include the court martial composition, military judges' security of tenure and provisions relating to the appointment process and the age of judges. However, other important amendments that passed at committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session are not included in Bill C-15. These include the following, which were also presented by the New Democrats as amendments to that piece of legislation.

What is missing from this bill is the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process, which responds directly to Justice Lamer's recommendation; changes to the composition of the grievance committee to include a 60% civilian membership; and finally, a provision to ensure that a person who is convicted of an offence during the summary trial is not unfairly subjected to a criminal record. It is this last point that causes particular concern to all Canadians who care about the justice system in this country.

There are many important reforms in this bill and the NDP supports the long overdue update to the military justice system. Members of the Canadian Forces are held to an extremely high standard of discipline and they, in turn, deserve a judicial system that is held to a comparable standard. The NDP will be opposing this bill at second reading. However, there are shortcomings in this bill that we hope can be addressed at the committee stage if, in fact, it gets that far. Here are some of the amendments that we hope to see passed.

The amendments in Bill C-15 do not adequately address the unfairness of summary trials. Currently, a conviction of a service offence from a summary trial in the Canadian Forces may result in a criminal record. Summary trials, though, are held without the ability of the accused to consult counsel. There are no appeals or transcripts of the so-called trial, and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer. This causes undue harshness on certain members of the Canadian Forces who can be, and are, convicted of very minor service offences, offences that would not otherwise be criminal offences.

For example, some of these minor service offences include insubordination, quarrels, disturbances, absence without leave, drunkenness and disobeying a lawful command. These could be matters that are extremely important to military discipline, but they are not necessarily worthy of a criminal record. Certainly drunkenness is not a criminal offence, and many members of the House would probably attest to that.

Bill C-15 also makes an exemption for a select number of offences if they carry a minor punishment, which is defined in the act, or a fine less than $500 to no longer result in a criminal record. This is one of the positive aspects of the bill but it does not, in our opinion, go far enough.

At committee stage last March, the NDP amendments to Bill C-41 were carried to expand this list of offences that could be considered minor and not necessarily worthy of a criminal record. We would increase that number from five specified offences to 27, if the offence in question received a minor punishment.

The amendment also extended the list of punishments that may be imposed by a tribunal without an offender incurring a criminal record, such as a severe reprimand, a reprimand on its own, a fine equal up to one month's basic pay or another minor punishment.

This was a major step forward for summary trials. However, this amendment was not retained in Bill C-15, and we want to see it included here.

We also believe it is important to reform the grievance system because at present the grievance committee does not provide a means of external review. Currently it is staffed entirely of retired Canadian Forces officers, some only relatively recently retired. If the Canadian Forces Grievance Board is to be perceived as an external and independent oversight civilian body, as it was designed to be, then the appointment process needs to be amended to reflect that reality. Thus, some members of the board should be drawn from civil society.

The NDP amendment provides that at least 60% of the grievance committee members must never have been an officer or a non-commissioned member of the Canadian Forces. Again, this amendment was passed in March 2011 in Bill C-41 but was not retained in the bill before the House. We think it is important to see that amendment retained in the bill.

Finally, the NDP believes we must strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. The bill amends the National Defence Act to establish a timeline within which the Canadian Forces provost marshal would be required to resolve conduct complaints as well as to protect complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith. Although a step forward, the NDP believes that more needs to be done to empower this commission.

Care has not been taken to provide the Military Police Complaints Commission with the required legislative provisions empowering it to act as an oversight body. This commission must be empowered by a legislative provision that will allow it to rightfully investigate and report to Parliament.

Let us talk about what some independent people have said about the bill. I want to quote Colonel Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel from the Canadian Forces and a military law expert. Here is what he said in February 2011:

I strongly believe that the summary trial issue must be addressed.... 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. Why? Because unless and until you, the legislators, address this issue, it is almost impossible for the court to address any challenge, since no appeal of a summary trial verdict or sentence is permitted. As well, it is almost impossible for any other form of legal challenge to take place, since there are no trial transcripts and no right to counsel at summary trial.

Colonel Drapeau also said:

—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. If Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland have seen fit to change the summary trial system, it begs the question: why is Canada lagging behind?

I believe all members of the House want to see members of the Canadian Forces guaranteed the very charter rights that we send them into harm's way to fight for on our behalf. One part of those rights is that when people face potential criminal sanctions, they have a right to counsel. They have a right to a judge that is independent. They have a right to transcripts and a meaningful right to appeal. Bill C-15 does not allow this and I urge all members of the House to work on this bill to address those serious problems.

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.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for sharing his time with me. I am very grateful.

It is a great pleasure to speak about this issue, as the city of Sherbrooke is proud to be home to two Canadian Forces reserve units, two institutions, the Fusiliers de Sherbrooke and the Sherbrooke Hussars. I have had the pleasure and privilege to meet with them many times over the last year or so. I have great respect for them and am eternally grateful for the work they do day after day. My respect for their work is why I feel a duty to rise today to speak to Bill C-15. Our men and women in uniform protect our lives, so I have a duty to protect their interests in the House of Commons.

I would like to give some background about the legislation we currently call Bill C-15, which has had many past iterations. On October 7, 2011, the Minister of National Defence introduced An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Bill C-15 will strengthen military justice. It is a direct response to the 2003 report of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, and subsequent to that, in May 2009, work done by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

The NDP believes the bill is a step in the right direction to harmonize military justice and civilian justice. It has gone off course, however, just like a defective submarine. There will be a few colourful expressions in my speech. I sometimes enjoy expressing myself that way. Our summary trial and grievance systems are in urgent need of an overhaul, and the Military Police Complaints Commission needs to be strengthened.

I would like to delve into the background a little to better illustrate the need for reform. In 2003, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, submitted his report on the National Defence Act. It contained 88 recommendations aimed at demining various areas, including military justice, the Military Police Complaints Commission and the grievance process. Only some of the mines were cleared, however, as only 28 recommendations have been implemented. I think we would all agree that a partly demined field remains quite hazardous.

Bill C-15 has donned many types of camouflage. First off, Bills C-7 and C-45 both died honourably in combat because of prorogation in 2007 and the elections in 2008. It is our contention that we would not be here debating this bill right now if the government did not have a nasty habit of hitting the panic button and proroguing Parliament.

Later, Bill C-60 was sent to the front lines wearing slightly different camo. It simplified the court martial structure, bringing it more in line with the civilian justice system. In its report, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs made nine recommendations regarding potential amendments to the National Defence Act.

In 2010, Bill C-41—we have amassed a number of bills, making things somewhat complicated, and I hope everyone is able to keep track of the numbers—was sent out to the front lines in response to the Lamer report and the Senate committee. Bill C-41 proposed reforms to sentencing, military judges and commissions, and summary trials, among other things. We could say that Bill C-15 is the brother-in-arms of C-41. The amendments brought forward cover the composition of the court martial panel and the appointment of military judges with security of tenure to a fixed retirement age.

However, some basic amendments made at committee at the end of the last session of Parliament were not included in Bill C-15, and that poses a problem for us. Is it by chance that three amendments that were very important to the NDP are not included in today's version, Bill C-15?

The three amendments relate to: the chief of Defence Staff's authority in the grievance process, which was a direct response to one of the Lamer report recommendations; changes to the composition of the grievance committee to include a 60% civilian membership, as discussed earlier today; and the provision ensuring that a person convicted for an offence during a summary trial is not subjected to a criminal record, which we also discussed earlier. I will talk about these three amendments, which—we do not know why—are not included in Bill C-15, the bill we are debating today.

Bill C-15 does not deal effectively with the unfairness of summary trials.

Right now, a conviction during a summary trial in the Canadian Forces results in a criminal record. What is sad for our troops is that those who are accused are not able to consult with counsel. There is no right of appeal and no transcript of the trial. Everything is off the record. What is more, the judge is the accused's commanding officer. So much for an impartial hearing.

An expert in military law, retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, said the following in February 2011:

I strongly believe that the summary trial issue must be addressed by this committee. 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....As well, it is almost impossible for any other form of legal challenge to take place, since there are no trial transcripts and no right to counsel at summary trial.

A soldier slips up because of ongoing stress. We are not talking here about major offences but about misconduct, absence without leave or disobedience of a lawful command. We recognize that a soldier's code of ethics and code of conduct are the fundamental pillars that have become the pride of the Canadian army, but first and foremost, soldiers are human beings. They go through things that few people in our society experience. They live in a state of perpetual stress. We are not asking for military immunity but simply to put into perspective these acts of misconduct, which do not in any way warrant a criminal record and everything that goes along with that.

In committee in March, we proposed to expand the list of offences that could be considered minor and not worthy of a criminal record from 5 to 27 in order to give soldiers more latitude. This amendment was abandoned and we want it to be restored. We do not want this amendment to become the unknown soldier of the bill. We want it to be acknowledged. When soldiers who have a criminal record as a result of a minor misconduct finish their military service, they will find it difficult to find a new job or even to rent an apartment.

While our soldiers ought to be held to the very highest standard of behaviour, the reality is that soldiers are human and thus imperfect. Soldiers are also entitled to a fair and equitable justice system, just like all other Canadians. It is a constitutional right to be represented and to have access to a fair trial.

The second amendment concerns the reform of the grievance system. The current grievance board does not allow for external review. Are we still living in the fearful cold war era when everything must be hidden? Retired Canadian Forces personnel serve on that board. In fact, almost everyone on that board is from some kind of military background. We think that is not at all reasonable. The Canadian Forces Grievance Board should be seen as a civilian, external, independent body. That is why we proposed that 60% of the board or committee’s members should be neither officers nor enlisted personnel in the Canadian Forces. That amendment was approved for Bill C-41, but it is not included in Bill C-15 before us today. We wonder why not.

The third amendment that had been included in the previous bill, C-41, and that we would have liked to see in this bill is the strengthening of the Military Police Complaints Commission. The idea of giving this commission more powers so that it could act as a watchdog has been almost ignored. Its scope of action must be broadened so that it can legitimately investigate and report to Parliament.

The question must be asked: why have the Conservatives not kept the amendments proposed by the NDP and adopted by the committee in 2010 when Bill C-41 was studied? These amendments were good soldiers that could have protected the interests of our military personnel. The Conservatives are continuing to undermine the progress made by all members of the Standing Committee on National Defence and the recommendations made by the representatives of the Canadian Forces.

Such good soldiers as those amendments must not be abandoned. Even our allies—the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland—have decided to modernize the summary trial process. Why has Canada—having dithered so long on the issue—not got down to the task of finding the necessary tools to ensure that our military personnel are properly represented and judged?

As we have said many times, we are opposed to Bill C-15, because we see it as a tank without any firepower and without armour, one that makes it impossible for our soldiers to get a fair and impartial trial.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2012 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-15.

First, I would like to congratulate our national defence critic, the hon. member for St. John's East, who is doing an amazing and remarkable job on a file that can be difficult, given that we are dealing with a government that would rather act like G.I. Joe than seriously examine the country's national defence needs, analyze the cost to Canadian taxpayers and have a comprehensive view of Canada's defence role as it relates to the deployment of military personnel in our country and abroad.

I have tremendous respect for the Canadians who work for our Canadian Forces. I have met many of them, since there are obviously a number in my riding, it being in the national capital region. In my riding, it is not unusual for people to frequently come across Canadian Forces members. I really admire the work that they do, here, inside our borders, and around the world, especially in light of what has been going on. It takes a special person to put his or her life in danger to protect our values, rights and what we stand for every day.

That is why we cannot afford to let the government take so many years to introduce this bill. I said “so many years”, because in 2003, retired Chief Justice Lamer was asked to produce a report on the situation and to make recommendations regarding the bill.

The summary of Bill C-15, which was produced and which I will give a little background on shortly, states the following:

This enactment amends provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system. The amendments, among other things,

(a) provide for security of tenure for military judges until their retirement;

(b) permit the appointment of part-time military judges;

(c) specify the purposes, objectives and principles of the sentencing process;

(d) provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution;

(e) modify the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person; and

(f) modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods.

The enactment 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.

As I said a moment ago, I believe this quite lengthy bill has been long due since 2003. However, “long due” does not mean we should hand out blank cheques, even though the bill concerns national defence and our men and women working for the Canadian Forces. The NDP is not in the habit of handing out blank cheques.

This bill has previously appeared in a number of forms, as bills C-7 and C-45, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in 2007 and when the election was called in 2008. In July 2008, Bill C-60 was introduced and it came back with a vengeance. Bill C-60 simplified the structure of courts martial and established the method for selecting the type of court martial that would harmonize best with the civilian justice system. In 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs examined the bill and recommended nine amendments to the National Defence Act.

This happened after 2003, when the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer tabled a report on his review of the National Defence Act, a report that contained 88 recommendations concerning military justice, the Military Police Complaints Commission, the grievance process and the Canadian Forces provost marshal.

Looking at Bill C-15 as it currently stands—because that is the one we have to consider—we realize that it is supposed to be a legislative response to those recommendations. However, only 28 recommendations have been included in the bill.

I will say it right away—and the critic said this—we will not support this bill at second reading because, in any case, the government will be referring it to committee. However, there are so many flaws, serious flaws, in this bill, and it is not because it should have been introduced so long ago that we should adopt any such poorly constructed legislation. That is our position on the matter.

In 2010, Bill C-41 was introduced in response to the 2003 Lamer report and to the Senate committee's 2009 report. It contained the military justice-related provisions respecting, for example, sentencing reform, judges, military panels, summary trials, the court martial panel, the Canadian Forces provost marshal and certain provisions respecting the Military Police Complaints Commission.

It can nevertheless be said, for those who were here at that time—I was not—that bills C-41 and C-15 resemble each other and are similar to what was introduced by the Senate committee during the last Parliament.

The amendments stood included those concerning the composition of a court martial panel, and security of tenure for military judges until retirement.

However, other important amendments—and I want to emphasize this—adopted at the committee stage at the end of the last parliamentary session were not included in Bill C-15. That includes the NDP's amendments respecting the authority of the Chief of Defence Staff in the grievance process—a direct response to a Lamer report recommendation—changes in the composition of the grievance committee so that 60 % of members would be civilians and the provision to ensure that a person guilty of an offence on summary conviction would not unfairly be given a criminal record. That is the amendment under clause 75 of Bill C-41.

We have been in favour of bringing the military justice system up to date for a long time now. There is no doubt about that and I do not want to hear anybody say otherwise in this House. Members of the Canadian Forces are known to be subject to extremely strict rules of discipline and they deserve a justice system that is subject to comparable rules.

I remember when I first started out as a lawyer, doing criminal law, that there was a judge in the Outaouais district—he is still there–near Gatineau, where I am a member of Parliament, who used to tell us, because he had a military background, that nothing could be as secret and closed as military justice. This is understandable, because it operates in accordance with a very closed system of discipline. It is understandable. I think that members of the Canadian forces voluntarily submit to these extremely strict rules of discipline.

They often have absolutely critical work to do, and the chain of command is not very tolerant of exceptions. All of that is understandable and yet, sometimes there are certain types of behaviour problems—I repeat, “behaviour problems”. And those who are not accustomed to this environment can be completely flabbergasted at what can lead to a criminal record for a member of the Canadian Forces. Anyone practising criminal law in civil society, or dealing with labour rights or grievances, will find provisions in these bills that are rather surprising.

To begin with, they mention reform. For us, the problem is that the reform under discussion is of the summary trials system. The amendments in bill C-15 do not adequately address the injustice of summary trials. At the moment, a summary trial conviction in the Canadian Forces means a criminal record. Some might say, “good for them”. However, summary trials are held without the accused being allowed to seek legal or other counsel. They have no recourse and there are no transcripts of the trial. Moreover, the judge is the accused's commanding officer. This is too harsh for some members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted for minor offences. Once again, some may say that there is no room for exceptions, but there are times when it is completely ridiculous.

I have had people come and consult me, but the problem was that everything had already been taken care of.

Let us put ourselves in the place of a member of the Canadian Forces who has committed an offence, for example, absence without leave or a quarrel with another member. The member’s own commanding officer tells him he will have a summary trial. We cannot seriously think that a member of the Canadian Forces is going to go against what his own commanding officer suggests. We cannot really call this transparency. That may be too harsh for some members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of minor offences. I will say it again, because it is important to know what we are talking about. These minor offences include insubordination, quarrels, misconduct, absence without leave, drunkenness, disobeying a command, and so on. This is certainly very important for military discipline, and I am not saying otherwise, but does it call for giving someone a criminal record? It is important that we ask ourselves that question.

Having a record will have an effect when the member leaves the Canadian Forces. He may have trouble finding a job once he rejoins the civilian world. Bill C-15 does provide an exemption so that if there is a minor sentence handed down under the act or a fine of less than $500, certain offences are not entered on the person’s record. This is one of the positive aspects of the bill, but we think it does not go far enough. We hope the committee will do its job. I do not know whether the Standing Committee on National Defence is as extraordinary as the justice committee. At the Standing Committee on National Defence, even when self-evident amendments are moved, they are not adopted.

Last March, at committee stage, the amendments to Bill C-41 proposed by the NDP called for the list of offences that could be considered to be minor, and so would not merit a criminal record if a minor sentence were imposed for the offence in question, to be increased to 27 from five. The amendment also adds to the list of sentences that a tribunal may impose without them being entered on the record: for example, a severe reprimand, a fine equivalent to a month’s salary and other minor sentences.

This was an important step forward for summary trials. However, the amendment to Bill C-15 was not accepted. It is therefore entirely to be expected that we would want to include it again. A criminal record can make life after a person’s military career very difficult. It can mean losing a job, being refused housing, having trouble travelling, and so on. If Canadians knew that members of the military who served our country so courageously are being treated this way for the kinds of misconduct I have referred to, I think some of them would be in shock, as I was when I read the bill and what had gone on over the last 10 years in this regard.

There is also the question of reforming the grievance system. As a labour lawyer, I have always advocated the greatest possible transparency and independent arbitrators, because it affects the labour relations between the parties. The same is true when we talk about a Military Grievances External Review Committee. At this time, the Canadian Forces Grievance Board does not allow for external review. The people who sit on the Military Grievances External Review Committee are retired Canadian Forces employees and some very recent retirees. So if the Canadian Forces Grievance Board is to be seen as an external, independent civilian body, as it should, the appointment process definitely needs to be amended to reflect that. The committee should therefore be composed, in part, of civilian members.

The amendment that the NDP suggested, and that it will certainly suggest again when the bill is examined in committee, is that at least 60% of the grievance committee members never have been officers or members of the Canadian Forces. I repeat: it is the Military Grievances External Review Committee. The amendment was adopted in March 2011, for Bill C-41, but it was not incorporated into Bill C-15.

It is extremely important that people from the outside be part of the external review committee, and I am persuaded that my colleagues will agree with me. It is therefore important that the amendment be included again.

There is the whole question of the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the grievance resolution process. There is a major weakness in the military grievance system. The Lamer report contained a recommendation concerning the fact that the Chief of the Defence Staff does not have the power to settle financial claims in grievances. In spite of the fact that the Minister of National Defence approved the recommendation, no concrete action has been taken in the last eight years to implement it.

The ministers responsible for certain portfolios who come before our committees need to agree to the amendments we recommend. When it comes time to amend legislation, those ministers need to remember what they have said.

During committee examination, the NDP proposed an amendment, which was adopted in March 2011. Nonetheless, the amendment was not incorporated into Bill C-15. If this bill is referred to committee, the NDP, under the leadership of the official opposition’s national defence critic, the member for St. John's East, will continue to fight for this.

There is also the question of strengthening the Military Police Complaints Commission. Very little has been said about granting that commission greater powers so that it acts as an oversight body. The commission’s powers must be expanded by legislation so that it is able to investigate legitimately and report to Parliament.

The NDP is not alone in making the case for the need to amend Bill C-15. A number of organizations support our positions, including the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which has said that fundamental fairness requires that systems that impose serious penalties on individuals provide better procedural protection.

In R. v. Wigglesworth, the Supreme Court of Canada, an arm of our democracy, confirmed that, if an individual is to be subject to penal consequences such as imprisonment, he or she should be entitled to the highest procedural protection known to our law. I believe that will come as a shock to no one.

That is often where the problem lies. Military justice is often opaque or not very transparent. No one knows exactly what goes on, except those curious individuals who want to know more. It is important that justice indeed be done. That is even more important for the members of our Canadian Forces who dedicate themselves body and soul to each and every one of us, to all the Canadians we represent. They go to other countries to promote fundamental values and rights, democracy, the right to a fair trial and so on. And yet, once back in Canada, those members, for all kinds of reasons, are sentenced without receiving the advice of counsel or being able to obtain a transcript. When a former Canadian Forces member consults a civilian lawyer, that lawyer has trouble representing the member because the member’s file contains absolutely nothing other than what he or she has said.

I would not go as far as my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, who spoke before me, but I believe that is a small step. Many years have elapsed since the Lamer report, and I believe the members of the Canadian Forces deserve a lot better than Bill C-15.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2012 / 8:45 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak about Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act. As per its title, Bill C-15 is intended to amend the National Defence Act on matters related to military justice.

There is a substantial context to the bill. It has a fairly long history and iterations of the bill have come before this House, many iterations in fact.

The bill is a legislative response to the 2003 report of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, and subsequent to that, the May 2009 report of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Chief Justice Lamer's report was a very comprehensive and independent review of the National Defence Act, which arrived at 88 recommendations pertaining to the military justice system, suggesting there are a lot of issues that need to be corrected.

However, to date only 28 of these recommendations have been implemented in the form of legislation, regulations or even change in practice. Clearly, much work remains to be done.

Other efforts to respond to the chief justice's report preceded the bill before us tonight. Bills C-7 and C-45 died on the order paper, in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Bill C-60 made a dent in Chief Justice Lamer's recommendations, in 2008. Bill C-41 was introduced in 2010. It went through committee stage with agreement for some positive amendments, but it too eventually died on the order paper.

This bill, Bill C-15, seeks to accomplish a great deal in response to Justice Lamer's report and the Senate committee report.

Among other things, the bill would provide for greater flexibility in the sentencing process; and additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution. It would modify the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person, modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allow an accused person to waive the limitation period. It clarifies the responsibilities of the Canadian Forces provost marshal, and, finally, it make amendments to the delegation of the Chief of the Defence Staff's powers as the final authority in the grievance process.

The bill is a step in the right direction, in that it would move the military justice system more in line with the civilian justice system. This much is true. However, it falls too short on some of the key objectives, those being reforming the summary trial system, reforming the grievance system, and strengthening the military complaints commission.

Curiously, the bill even falls short of Bill C-41 as amended by the committee. In our view, it is not worthy of the support of this House as currently drafted.

This view is informed most fundamentally by the principle that the men and women of our Canadian Forces are entitled to the same rights that we send them to fight for around the world. What a terrible and bitter irony it would be if we, as Canadians, were to stand aside and allow the men and women of our Canadian Forces to become effectively second-class citizens in our midst, particularly when we have intervened around the world in deadly conflicts to uphold basic human rights and systems of rule or law that ensure such rights are protected.

These rights to which we are so committed, for which we are prepared to put at risk the lives of young Canadians, in fact do not permit the kind of treatment to which we subject the men and women of our Canadian Forces under our current military justice system.

This requires a bit of an explanation about military systems of justice, in that military justice is a bit different from the justice system that prevails in the rest of civil society because of the primacy attached to the issue of discipline and efficiency in the military.

Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau is an expert in military justice and law and is the author of the only really significant military legal text in Canada. He had this to say about the implications to military justice of the centrality of discipline to the functioning of the military:

Few professions are as dependent on discipline as is the military. Discipline is fundamental to military efficiency, cohesion and esprit-de-corps, permitting commanders to control the use of violence so that the right amount and type of force can be applied in exactly the right circumstances, the right time and in the right place. At the personal level, discipline ensures also that in times of great danger and risk, the soldier can and will carry out orders even if his natural instinct for self-preservation and fear tells him otherwise. Likewise, group and individual discipline ensures adherence to laws, standards, customs and values of civilian society, even during combat operations.

Another statement reads, “Therefore, discipline is integral not only to the maintaining of an efficient armed forces but also to ensuring that the rule of law predominates within the military, particularly when engaged in great peril and danger in combat.”

In 1980 and 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada examined the constitutionality of certain aspects of the military justice system. On both occasions it affirmed that a separate system of justice was needed to meet the unique requirements of military discipline. This is especially so because certain actions, like being absent without leave, which are offences in the military, are not obviously civil offences.

However, there is a tension here in the military justice system that must be resolved through legislation. There must be, on the one hand, speedy response to breaches of discipline. On the other hand, there must be adherence to law and as far as possible, that means adherence to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and principles of natural justice. That is, principles that suggest that any system of justice should be heard and decided by a neutral impartial body and that, in the most general terms, the hearing be fair. That is, provide notice, the opportunity to examine evidence, to speak, to answer and so on. At this point this tension remains unresolved.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association commented on the interests influencing the system. It said that military officers who give out sentences in summary trials are concerned with showing unit discipline and deterring future violations, not the effect they impose on an accused in the civilian world with a criminal record, for example.

We believe this tension is resolvable. We do not believe that the need for an efficient military justice system is inconsistent with, and therefore needs to take the place of, fundamental principles of justice for the members of our Canadian Forces. We believe that the bill is potentially salvageable with the necessary amendments at committee.

At the core of the issue before us is the matter of summary trials. In the context of the Canadian armed forces, summary trials are disciplinary actions which are generally less serious than courts martial. They are designed to deal with minor service offences with limited possible punishments. Offences can range from insubordination and drunkenness to being absent without leave. Actions like this, while destructive to the flow of military life, are less serious in the civilian world.

Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau testified before the national defence committee that summary trials continue to be the dominant disciplinary method used to try offences by the Canadian military. In 2008-09, there were a total of 1,865 cases determined by summary trial, and only 67 heard by court martial.

A 2008 CBC study found that military charges against Canadian Forces members had risen dramatically in the years since Afghanistan. Post-Afghanistan, disciplinary charges had increased by as much as 62% in certain areas.

Just 10 years previous, there were only 1,300 summary charges laid, compared to 2,100 in the midst of the Afghan conflict in 2006-07.

Most Canadians are likely unaware that the summary trial procedure exposes soldiers to penalties, including imprisonment and even more seriously the potential that following convictions they will have a criminal record that will continue through to their civilian lives.

While subsequent Judge Advocate General annual reports have indicated that the frequency of convictions has declined since the high point of the Afghanistan conflict, what is being left behind and what continues are convictions under this very inadequate form of justice. Canadian Forces personnel were still punished, and depending on the sentences, will have criminal records for the rest of their lives.

It is not news that having a criminal record can make life after the military very challenging. Ordinary things like getting a job, travelling, or renting an apartment become very difficult. Most Canadians would be shocked to learn that our soldiers, who bravely served our country, can get a criminal record from a system of justice that lacks the due process usually required in civilian criminal courts.

The objective of summary trials is to promote and maintain unit discipline. Therefore, the focus is on dealing with alleged offences expeditiously and returning the member to service as soon as possible. Fairness and justice, which are guaranteed in civil criminal trial, take a back seat to discipline and deterrence. In summary trials the accused do not have access to counsel. There are no appeals or transcripts of the trial and the judge is the accused person's commanding officer.

Through proposed and accepted amendments to Bill C-41, an iteration of this bill in the previous Parliament, we had gone much further down the road of reconciling this tension in the military justice system of expediency and the inclusion of fundamental legal principles. For example, a key New Democrat amendment to Bill C-41 was the provision ensuring military personnel convicted of offences during a summary trial would not be subject to a criminal record. We believed then, and we still believe, that those who bravely serve our country should not be deprived of the rights and protections that other Canadians enjoy.

It should be noted that Bill C-15 makes an exemption for a limited number of offences, if they carry a minor punishment which is defined under the act or a fine less than $500, to no longer result in a criminal record. This is a positive aspect of Bill C-15, but it does not in our view go far enough.

A New Democrat amendment to Bill C-41 also expanded the list of offences that could be considered less serious and would therefore merit less severe punishments and no carry-over of records to an individual's civilian life. That too had been accepted through committee with Bill C-41. This is one of the amendments that we would like to see included in Bill C-15.

Another area in which Bill C-15 falls short is with respect to grievance committees. In his 2003 report, Chief Justice Lamer described for us the grievance process in the military. Having spent about 20 years involved with grievance proceedings in the workplace context, I was surprised to learn about a grievance process in the military. However, Chief Justice Lamer stated in his report:

Grievances involve matters such as benefits, personnel evaluation reports, postings, release from the Canadian Forces, [et cetera] all matters affecting the rights, privileges and other interests of CF members.... Unlike in other organizations, grievors do not have unions or employee associations through which to pursue their grievances.... It is essential to the morale of the CF members that their grievances be addressed in a fair, transparent, and prompt manner.

That is not happening presently in the Canadian Forces.

The grievance committee, under this system, is a group which is intended to be an independent civilian oversight body to be composed entirely of non-Forces members. In fact, it is composed entirely of retired Canadian Forces officers, and some just recently retired. Like the summary trials system, there is obviously an apprehension of bias in this system. As it is the purpose of this body to have an outsider perspective on matters such as benefits and personnel evaluations, it should be obvious that former Canadian Forces soldiers are not capable of bringing, or are not seen to bring, an objective and independent viewpoint to their task. This seems like a very obvious breach of the rule against bias.

The New Democrats have proposed that at least 60% of the grievance committee members must never have been an officer or a non-commissioned member of the Canadian Forces. This amendment, too, was accepted as part of Bill C-41 and should also be a part of Bill C-15.

Finally, Bill C-15 would fail to strengthen the Military Police Complaints Commission. While Bill C-15 would amend the National Defence Act to establish a timeline within which the Canadian Forces provost marshal would be required to resolve conduct complaints as well as protect complainants from being penalized for filing good faith complaints, nothing has been done to effectively empower the commission to act as an oversight body. We believe it is necessary that the Military Police Complaints Commission be empowered by a legislative provision that would allow it rightfully to investigate and report to Parliament.

In conclusion, I will bring it back to Colonel Drapeau for the final word on this matter. He said, in part:

...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. If Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland have seen fit to change the summary trial system, it begs the question: why is Canada lagging behind?

I will leave the government side to ponder that question.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we have had great collaboration from all three parties represented in this House.

I want to pay particular tribute to the three members I mentioned earlier. The member for St. John's East made a couple of remarks about the LeBlanc case which probably, if they were heard by members of the Canadian Forces, would have them regretting that he chose to pursue his legal career not in the Judge Advocate General's office but in civilian life. He clearly understands the importance of the system, the importance of a strong defence, the importance of independent judges and professionals at every level of the military justice system.

I thank the member for his clarity on the issues. I also thank his party and the Liberal Party for their constructive contribution to advancing these bills.

I rise now in support of Bill C-15 , the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada bill, which concerns an important aspect of national defence, that of military justice in the broad sense.

Maintaining the integrity of the military justice system is the responsibility of government and should concern all Canadians. The military justice system is an essential tool to maintain the discipline, morale and operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces.

Without such a system, our men and women in uniform would not be able to focus on their number one priority which is to protect the interests of Canada and Canadians.

For that reason, 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. The principles and procedures of military courts martial and summary trials must remain consistent with Canadian values and the evolution of Canadian criminal law. After all, a legal system can only remain strong if it evolves alongside the society it serves. Otherwise, an outdated system could risk undermining not only the legitimacy of military law, but also the health and vitality of the forces themselves.

This government has tried three times since 2006 to introduce the necessary legislation to do so, but each bill has failed to progress as a result of the unpredictable nature of a minority Parliament. I do not think it is worth going into the details again of those stories from previous Parliaments.

In 1998, when the National Defence Act was last updated, an independent review of the act every five years was made mandatory. In the first review, in 2003—the member for Richmond—Arthabaska was right to mention that it was some time ago—Chief Justice Lamer made several important recommendations about how to improve the act.

These recommendations focused on the administration of military justice, the role of the Canadian Forces provost marshal, the head of the military police, and the system by which grievances of Canadian Forces members were addressed. All of these recommendations were studied in detail, both inside and outside the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence. A wide range of stakeholders--civilian, military, government, non-government--were consulted and, as a result, this government brought forward legislation on two separate occasions to update the National Defence Act. Members know them well. They were Bill C-7 in 2006 and Bill C-45 in 2008, both of which, as we are aware, died on the order paper.

Then in 2008, the ruling of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada in the case of Regina v. Trépanier forced the government to introduce legislation on an urgent basis. In response, the government rapidly introduced a targeted bill, Bill C-60, to rectify this problem. Thanks to many hon. members still present, this legislation was passed by Parliament.

In 2010, the government once again tried to update the National Defence Act, this time by following up on recommendations from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs as well as the latest recommendations from Chief Justice Lamer.

That bill, Bill C-41, was introduced during the final session of the 40th Parliament and was both studied and reported on by the Senate committee.

Some of the amendments that were submitted by the Bloc and discussed in committee were included in Bill C-41.

However, that bill died with the dissolution of Parliament in March. Since that time, we have had the Court Martial Appeal Court ruling, already discussed today, which assessed the process by which military judges were appointed, currently on a five-year basis, and we started to deal with that issue with Bill C-16. However, that bill does not address other important amendments included in Bill C-15, a bill that aims to reinforce military justice by bringing the National Defence Act up to date. This is an act that is evergreen, that requires constant updating, as many pieces of legislation do, on which the institutions of our country depend.

We have given careful consideration to the recommendations and proposed amendments put forward by members of the House, when Bill C-41 was studied in committee.

Bill C-15 would address various problems regarding military justice through a series of important amendments to the National Defence Act.

First, it would strengthen the administration of military justice by allowing for the appointment of part-time military judges to serve in times of large-scale operations and other search periods, thereby providing flexibility in the courts martial system. We hope this is not a provision that will be needed soon or often, but it needs to be there and it is a former chief justice of our country's Supreme Court who endorses that view.

In addition, it would lower the minimum rank requirement for the senior member of a court martial panel from colonel to lieutenant colonel in most cases and reduce the minimum rank of serving panel members on courts martial of non-commissioned members from warrant officer to sergeant. This fight simply widens the pool of those eligible to serve on these panels.

It would also allow for one more non-commissioned officer to serve on the panel when the accused is a non-commissioned member, as well as allow for increased participation of non-commissioned officers, without undermining the requirement for leadership and experience in the maintenance of discipline. It is the experience of non-commissioned members, as well as officers, on which this system depends.

This bill would clearly define the objectives, intent and principles of sentencing in the military justice system.

By articulating the purposes of military justice, we would be giving increased clarity and transparency to all those engaged in its delivery. This is perhaps the most exciting and compelling aspect of this bill. The National Defence Act had not previously articulated the purposes of military justice. They are implicit and known but now they would be explicit and this would provide Parliament's guidance to the military judges, officers and Court Martial Appeal Court justices presiding over courts martial, summary trials and appeals, just as Parliament has already done for the civilian criminal justice system in the Criminal Code. Of course, this guidance would expressly recognize the crucial elements unique to the military system necessary for it to fulfill its vital function.

The bill would also introduce a broader range of sentencing options to help ensure that the punishments handed down by courts martial or summary trials are appropriate, both in terms of being appropriate to the offence committed as well as being broadly comparable to the range and type of sentences available within the civilian criminal justice system. Criminal justice evolves. Military justice must reflect the best of the evolution of the civilian criminal system.

Bill C-15 would also improve how victims are treated by the military justice system. The bill includes the option of presenting victim impact statements before courts martial and would give military judges the authority to order restitution.

Victim impact statements are very important to the whole justice system, something that is recognized on the civilian side but which now needs to be enacted on the military side for us to continue to be as proud of and confident in that system as we have been to date.

The bill would set an additional limitation period for holding summary trials, requiring that charges be laid within six months of an alleged offence being committed, to accompany the existing requirement that the summary trial be held within one year of the alleged offence. And, Bill C-15 would legally empower the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada to suspend sentences handed down by courts martial where deemed appropriate.

In addition to resolving issues related to the administration of military justice, Bill C-15 would strengthen the military police system by officially establishing the position, duties and responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, who is the military police chief, and by speeding up the military police complaint process and making it more fair.

The provost marshal, just to be clear, is not yet recognized officially in the National Defence Act. Mr. Justice Lamer recommended that he or she be so, and the position would be so under Bill C-15 when it is enacted.

With respect to addressing grievances in the Canadian Forces, Bill C-15 would permit the Chief of the Defence Staff to better delegate his power as the system's final grievance authority, thereby helping to resolve grievances more swiftly and efficiently in the interests of better administration and morale.

The bill would also formally change the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board, at its own request, to the military grievances external review committee to reflect the actual status of that committee. This would better reflect its independence and increase the confidence of Canadian Forces members in its impartiality.

Finally, this bill would improve the existing statutory requirement for a periodic independent review of selected provisions of the National Defence Act. It would clearly establish that requirement in the act itself, setting out both the scope of review and the mandate of review period which would be adjusted from five to seven years to ensure the quality and effectiveness of each independent review.

In conclusion, the government recognizes that the changes proposed in this bill are extensive and, in some cases, complex. However, it should be noted that, in most cases, the need for these changes has been recognized for years and most of the proposed changes have already been addressed and analyzed in committee.

Our men and women in uniform are counting on us. This government acknowledges that regular attention and review is necessary to ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of any legal system, military or civilian, and through Bill C-15, we will ensure that this is the case for military justice in the years to come.

Canadians depend on their government to build and maintain a justice system that reflects our national values and respects the rule of law. This government has been given a strong mandate from Canadians to do that. The House has a mandate to act in this area as well. I therefore call on the House to support this important effort by moving this bill forward as quickly as possible.

It may seem to some of us in the House that the measures in the bill are distant or obscure. Not all of us have had direct contact with the military justice system, but we all understand that the roughly 100,000 Canadian men and women in uniform, regular force, reserve force, depend on these measures for their morale, for their discipline, for the framework of justice, action and order in which they operate in Canada, and which they take with them abroad when they are deployed as they have been so often in the history of this country.

We have a responsibility to them, eight years after the Lamer report, to move forward with these important measures. The measures in Bill C-15 go well beyond those provided for in Bill C-16, and will indeed supersede that of the bill we dealt with earlier today if that bill passes into law earlier.

We hope that we have the support of all members of the House in moving through an expeditious debate on the bill, efficient consideration at committee, and early implementation and enactment of the bill into law.

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.

February 7th, 2011 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Cathcart, can you explain to me how the document before us was produced? I know that Judge Lamer made recommendations. Some of them were implemented by regulation, others in the context of Bill C-60, and a number of other recommendations will be applied by passing Bill C-41. But who decided on the content of this bill? Was it you, as judge, or your predecessor, who said which changes had to be made and who then sent them to the Minister of National Defence, who gave his approval? How did this document end up before us today?

February 7th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

As you said, I am joined by Brigadier-General Blaise Cathcart, justice advocate general of the Canadian Forces.

Mr. Chair and colleagues, thank you for giving us the opportunity to present Bill C-41.

I'm very pleased to be with you at the committee as you begin your examination of Bill C-41. This legislation is specifically aimed at strengthening the Canadian military justice system.

Let me begin by stating how much I appreciate the support that has already been expressed by members of the committee, by members of the opposition in particular, for Bill C-41, and the indication that has come from the committee regarding the willingness to consider this bill in a timely manner.

I say that because, as many of you will know, there is quite a history with this bill. It is coming back now for the third time, and this is a bill of some urgency and priority, I would suggest to you. The government's legislation is in response to the Lamer report. This is the third time, as I mentioned, the legislation has been introduced in response to that report. It was first introduced as Bill C-7, in April 2006. It subsequently died on the order paper. It was back as Bill C-45, a successor bill introduced in March 2008, which also died as a result of an election call. As members are now aware, this bill was introduced in June of 2010.

The Lamer report was tabled in Parliament in the year 2003 and followed an independent review of portions of the National Defence Act to be amended by Bill C-25. Chief Justice Lamer made numerous recommendations that were aimed at improving not only the military justice system but also the Canadian Forces grievance process as well as the military police complaints process.

He said, and I quote, “Canada has...a very sound and fair military justice framework in which Canadians can have trust and confidence”, and I believe this to be absolutely true. But of course that is not to say, as with any justice system, that it cannot be improved. The old adage about our justice system being a living tree equally applies to the military justice system. I see my friend from Beauséjour nodding in agreement. I'm sure that's an expression he heard at law school as well.

That's what the government is seeking to achieve with this legislation, Mr. Chair.

The bill reflects recent recommendations made by the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs after their study of Bill C-60. Bill C-60 was required to respond to the judgment of the Court Martial Appeal Court in the case the Crown versus Trépanier.

As you consider Bill C-41, I also believe it is important to keep in mind that the military justice system is a separate system of justice designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces. This separate and distinct aspect was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Généreux.

The military justice system contributes to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale within our military. It reinforces the command structure of our military in support of both day-to-day and operational activities. Given the key role our military plays in protecting Canadians and advancing Canadian interests and values, ensuring that the National Defence Act keep pace with developments in the law and Canadian society is important.

Bill C-41 is a key step that is part of a process of continuous improvements—the classic living tree. And the bill has a number of key provisions that I'll touch on.

It will enhance the independence of military judges by providing them with security of tenure until the age of retirement. That is, of course, consistent with all members of the Canadian Forces. This is consistent with the tenure of judges in the Canadian civil justice system as well, Mr. Chair.

Bill C-41 also includes a statutory articulation of the principles of sentencing in the military justice system, which provides guidance in the sentencing process. This guidance parallels that provided in the Criminal Code, while taking into consideration the specifics of the military justice system.

One of the concerns expressed by some honourable members during the debate at second reading was that the sentencing of the military justice system might be unduly harsh in comparison to the civil system. It should be noted that Bill C-41 will provide statutory protection against undue harsh sentences being imposed by service tribunals. The bill in fact proposes that the principle of restraint will be followed in the sentencing system of the military justice system. This means that a determination should always be made as to what is the minimum sentence required to maintain discipline, efficiency, and morale within the military, and it requires that the sentence be imposed by the service tribunal.

This bill will also enhance the flexibility of sentencing by providing a greater ability to tailor a sentence to the particular circumstances of the offender and of the offence—also consistent with our civilian system—and by allowing for additional sentencing options, in effect modernizing the act in the form of absolute discharges, intermittent sentences, and restitution orders, all of which are now incorporated into the Criminal Code.

Bill C-41 also provides for the introduction of victim impact statements. This will permit individual victims of offences to more readily express themselves in the sentencing process at courts martial.

Together with enhanced provisions for restitution, Bill C-41 will therefore help ensure that victims of offences are not disadvantaged by having a particular case tried in the military justice system rather than in the civilian one.

I understand that during the debate at second reading there were also concerns raised regarding the fairness of the military justice system, particularly in relation to the summary trial system. In that regard, I would like to remind my colleagues that two of Canada's most eminent jurists, the late Chief Justice Brian Dickson and Antonio Lamer examined this system in significant detail. As you're aware, the Lamer report touches specifically on this. While making recommendations for refinement, both of these eminent jurists endorsed it, and they noted that the summary trial system strikes the necessary balance between meeting the unique disciplinary needs of the Canadian Forces and the needs to respect the rights of individual members of our military.

It should be noted, Mr. Chair, that Bill C-41 also includes provisions to improve the efficiency of the grievance and military police complaints process. For instance, it addresses the Canadian Forces grievance process with a view to making it more effective, transparent, and fair. The suggested amendments would require that grievances be treated as quickly as circumstances permit. They would also allow for a greater delegation of authority to the Chief of the Defence Staff in the treatment of grievances.

Finally, the bill will also establish the position of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall in the National Defence Act, and specify the functions and responsibilities of the position , as well as make improvements to the fairness and efficiency of the military police complaints process.

In conclusion, Mr. Chair, just let me emphasize that a sound military justice system is absolutely key to our military, as it is in our society. It's key for the readiness, for the effectiveness, and it's key for the morale of the Canadian Forces themselves.

Our men and women in uniform, as you know, put their lives on the line in the service of our country. They need to know they can rely on a justice system that supports, protects, and enables them as they undertake the crucial tasks that we set forward. Canadians similarly need to know that their country's military system will treat those who serve fairly and in a way that corresponds to Canadian norms and values.

The proposed amendments ensure that the military justice system keeps pace with evolving legal standards in the Canadian criminal justice system and they reinforce the continued compliance of the military justice system with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while always preserving the system's capacity to meet essential military requirements.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and colleagues. I look forward to your questions.

Thank you.