Thank you, Mr. Casson.
Let me open by thanking the members of this committee for permitting me to appear before you this afternoon to present my analysis of Bill C-60.
Also allow me to introduce Zorica Guzina, who, like me, is interested in Canadian military law, both in her everyday practice and in her teaching at the University of Ottawa.
Given the very short notice to conduct this analysis and the short amount of time for my appearance this afternoon, I thought it would be best for me to present the results of my review in a booklet, which you have before you.
On page 1 of the booklet is a summary table outlining the existing structure and organization of courts martial. There are four types of courts martial. I give you a description of their powers and of the rights of the accused, among other things.
On page 2, I provide a very brief decision by the Court Martial Appeal Court in Trépanier v. Her Majesty the Queen, rendered April 24 of this year, which gave life to Bill C-60.
I draw your attention to the fact that, in its decision, the Court Martial Appeal Court also referred to the recommendations made by the late Chief Justice Antonio Lamer upon his review of the National Defence Act in 2003. The purpose of those recommendations, which were pressing at the time, was to simplify the structure of the courts martial in order to create a permanent military court. The recommendations echo, at least in part, the amendments proposed in Bill C-60.
On page 3, I present a table on the essential aspects of Bill C-60.
In response to the recent decision by the CMAC declaring unconstitutional a provision by which the director of military prosecutions, not the accused, could choose the type of trial—either a panel and a military judge, or a military judge alone—Bill C-60 repeals that provision. At the same time, Bill C-60 simplifies the current system from four courts martial—a general court martial, a disciplinary court martial, a standing court martial, and a special court martial—down to two. This is something that late Chief Justice Lamer recommended in his 2003 report following his review of the then National Defence Act.
Bill C-60 then makes a fairly good number of other minor amendments, many of which are already included in Bill C-45, which I presume will receive, in the fullness of time, a more substantial discussion because this has yet to take place.
As for my general assessment, I do not have any major issues with Bill C-60. Above and beyond providing an accused with the right to elect the type of trial, it also simplifies the structure of the court martial, as first recommended by the late Chief Justice Lamer, and that is a good thing. The other minor amendments are also aimed at improving the military justice system, and on the whole, they are very apropos .
My concern—and it's reflected in the documents you have before you—is twofold, and some of it was addressed, at least in part, during the earlier part of the meeting when General Watkin was testifying.
The first one has to do with the tabling of this bill coincident with an application for leave to appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada in Trépanier. One of the documents that I'm giving you from the Supreme Court says that in fact an application to stay the execution of the Trépanier decision has been put before the court, and also an application for leave. Neither of these two has been heard so far.
My second concern deals with a transitional provision in clause 28 of the bill. It specifies that courts martial commenced but not completed by the time Bill C-60 comes into effect will be conducted under the old law. I heard some of the explanation for that, but it leaves me with a certain degree of doubt as to what the real impact will be of the operation of this particular clause. What do you mean? You may have the answer to it, but I don't.
Having said that, those are my opening comments, and I'd be pleased to take your questions.