On March 24th, the Minister of National Defence introduced legislation to amend the National Defence Act that proposes a suite of targeted changes to modernize the military justice system. The proposed amendments address key recommendations made in independent and external reviews conducted by former Supreme Court Justices Arbour and Fish.

To address the recommendation 5 from the Arbour’s Independent External Comprehensive Review, the proposed legislation would definitively remove the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute Criminal Code sexual offences committed in Canada. The proposed legislation would provide exclusive jurisdiction to civilian authorities to investigate and prosecute such offences committed in Canada.

To address recommendations made by the Fish in his Independent Review, this legislation also seeks to modify the process for the appointment of three key military justice authorities: the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, the Director of Military Prosecutions, and the Director of Defence Counsel Services. By making these positions Governor-in-Council appointments, they would be insulated from real or perceived influence from the chain of command. As the military justice system continues to serve the CAF, efforts to enhance and modernize it are key to advancing meaningful and lasting institutional reform.

This legislation also seeks to expand the eligibility criteria for military judges to include non-commissioned members, which would help diversify the pool of potential candidates. These amendments are aimed at bolstering the trust and confidence of Canadians in the military justice system.

By Editor