Bill C-15 Strengthening Military Justice

Bill C-15 was tabled in the House of Commons on October 7, 2011. It proposes a number of amendments to the National Defence Act (NDA) primarily related to the military justice system for the Canadian Forces. While the Bill does not directly address the jurisdiction or authorities of the Commission, one provision of the Bill of concern to the Commission relates to the proposed authority of the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) to direct military police investigations: s.18.5 (3) (in Clause 4). The Commission regards this proposal as highly problematic and it submitted a brief on this matter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence on October 26, 2011.

This proposed authority would effectively abrogate key provisions of the March 2, 1998 Accountability Framework signed by the VCDS and the CFPM of the day. The purpose of this Framework was to adapt the command relationship of the VCDS and CFPM such that the latter would retain appropriate independence from the chain of command in the conduct of individual law enforcement investigations.

More recently, the independence and integrity of military policing have been further supported through changes to the Military Police command structure. Effective April 1, 2011, all Military Police members when performing their policing duties are under the command of the CFPM. The proposed authority for the VCDS in subsection 18.5 (3) in Clause 4 of the Bill is thus out of step with efforts over the past 15–20 years to recognize and support the independence of the Military Police within the CF, particularly when conducting law enforcement investigations. Perhaps more importantly, however, the authority in question runs counter to Canadian law and practice regarding the independence of police investigations generally.

As far as the Commission is aware, there have been no problems with the VCDS-CFPM Accountability Framework which justify its revocation and the proposed subsection 18.5 (3) runs counter to various efforts over the years to shore up public confidence in the independence of military policing. For these reasons, and for other legal and constitutional reasons, the Commission is of the view that this subsection should be deleted from Bill C-15.

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