A Perspective on Canada’s Code of Service Discipline
Brigadier-General Jerry S.T. Pitzul
Commander John C. Maguire*
I. The Development of Canada’s Military Justice System to 1950
It has been suggested that “the procedures for disciplining the military forces of a nation are a direct reflection of the society that the forces were created to defend.”1 To the extent that this hypothesis may be considered valid, one might expect the study of the evolution of military law not only to explain the rationale for the creation of a Code of Service Discipline, and its various provisions, but to also reveal something about the particular society concerned–its origins, traditions, experiences of war and legal history.
There are many factors which served to influence and shape the development of Canadian military law. This article is not an exhaustive analysis of the subject but a general discussion of the major turning points in the evolution of Canada’s military justice system, including the passage, in 1950, of the National Defence Act,2 which created one Code of Service Discipline applicable to Canada’s then existing three armed services and the subsequent evolution of that Code.
The Code of Service Discipline, which is currently embodied in Part III of the National Defence Act, is the statutory basis for Canada’s military justice system and sets out its main components. Further amplification is contained in the Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces (QR&O), which are regulations made by the Governor in Council (the Canadian Cabinet) and the Minister of National Defence, as well as in orders issued by the Chief of the Defence Staff.
Given Canada’s historic experiences and status as a former British colony, it may not be surprising to discover that, like so many of Canada’s public institutions, the Canadian Forces’ Code of Service Discipline has clearly defined English roots. Indeed, it has been suggested that the early history of the Canadian military justice system is, in effect, the history of British military law.3 The proposition is not without some merit given the pre-eminent role played by Britain in the defence of Canada in the period immediately prior to the Confederation of provinces, which, in 1867, gave birth to the modern Canadian nation state.4
In fact, until 1868 British forces comprised the only regular armed force in the Dominion of Canada.5 As a matter of furthering Britain’s imperial objectives, the approach was largely politic; Canada provided a ready supply of raw materials for the Empire as well as a secure market for British goods. The protection of these interests mandated a proactive role for British naval and land forces in defence of Canada. It is true that each of the British North American colonies was responsible for raising a volunteer militia. In each of the Canadian provinces, however, the militia was largely unarmed, untrained and unorganized.6 It remained so until the infant Canadian nation passed its first Militia Act in 18687 and British regular forces were gradually withdrawn.8 The 1868 Act, which borrowed heavily from British military law, marked the beginning of a period of development dominated by the legacy of British military and legal doctrine. A meaningful understanding of Canada’s early attempts at codifying military law presumes some appreciation of the English experience in formulating a code of discipline to govern its own armed forces.
Until 1661, Articles of War were issued under the hand of the Sovereign as part of the Royal Prerogative that permitted the King to place the government of His Majesty’s forces under his own command during time of war but which prevented the Sovereign from maintaining a standing army in England in time of peace. While the Articles of War prescribed offences, they only governed the conduct and duties of soldiers serving abroad in time of war. The Mutiny Act of 16899 augmented the Articles of War through the establishment of a standing army and made provision for its peacetime discipline under what has been described as the first permanent code of military law.10 By 1879, the King’s Prerogative to issue Articles of War had merged with the disciplinary provisions of the Mutiny Act in a comprehensive Army Discipline and Regulation Act, which would, in turn, be replaced by the Army Act of 1881.11 A succession of Army Acts, passed annually by the British government, entrenched the principle of parliamentary oversight over a code of military law applicable during both peace and war–a principle which has survived intact in Canada. The Army Acts emphasized the importance of discipline within an armed force and the need for informal procedures under which offenders could be tried swiftly.
Canada’s Militia Act of 1868 organized the Canadian Army as the country’s first military force and essentially adopted the British Army model for a code of discipline. This was a logical step given the presence of British regular forces in Canada during the colonial period and the then prevailing philosophy that the Canadian Army should be trained and organized to support British forces.12
The Militia Act of 1868 introduced a two-tier system of summary trials and courts martial. Although much has changed, Canada’s two-tier tribunal structure dates to this period as does the right to elect trial by court martial–which, at that time, permitted a soldier to elect the more formalized court martial mode of trial in any case where the punishment might have included imprisonment, a fine or a deduction from pay. The commanding officer’s power to award imprisonment ended in 1906 when the new punishment of detention was introduced. By 1929, commanding officers were allowed to delegate their powers of punishment and a form of summary proceeding was added to allow general officers to try field officers of the rank of captain and below, and warrant officers, for offences which were not serious but which could “not be overlooked.” This was the system which was in use in Britain when the Second World War erupted. By virtue of the successive Militia Acts passed by the Parliament of Canada since 1868, it was also the system of justice which the Canadian Army took to war in 1939.13
When Britain’s Royal Air Force was formed near the end of World War I, the British Army Act provisions governing discipline were modified as necessary to account for differences in terminology, but, in most material respects, were merely repeated in what would become Britain’s new single service Air Force Act.14 The Order in Council that in 1924 gave birth to the Canadian Air Force specified that discipline would be in accordance with Britain’s Air Force Act.15 This should not be particularly surprising given the fact that Canadian airmen had served within British air units during the First World War where they had been subject to Britain’s Army Act provisions. The British Air Force Act continued to form the basis for the Canadian Air Force’s disciplinary regime until 1950 and the coming into force of the current National Defence Act.16
As was the case in the army, discipline in the British Royal Navy had initially been governed by Articles of War. Trials were originally conducted by the Office of the Lord High Admiral, then by “councils of war.”17 In 1661, a legislative code for the navy was formulated which, for the first time, used the term “courts martial” to refer to naval tribunals and established courts martial jurisdiction having regard to the type of offence, the place of the offence and the status of the offender.18 Courts martial punishments ranged from death to imprisonment and fines. Corporal punishment―up to forty-eight lashes―could be awarded in lieu of imprisonment and penal servitude followed death in the scale of punishments.19
Unlike their army counterparts, naval captains traditionally possessed the power to summarily punish seamen for most “Faults, Misdemeanours and Disorders committed at Sea . . . according to the laws and customs of the sea.”20 While some of the more draconian features of this Code were moderated with the passage of the Naval Discipline Act of 1866, 21 ships captains still had great latitude to order the immediate execution of sentences with little supervision from higher authority.22
The provisions of Britain’s Naval Discipline Act of 1866 were incorporated by reference into Canada’s Naval Services Act23 when the Royal Canadian Navy was established in 1910. This development can no doubt be explained by the fact that Britain’s Royal Navy had always guarded Canada’s oceans and for the most part would continue to do so until the end of the First World War.24 British influences can also be seen in The Naval Services Act of 1944.25 To the extent that it marked the end of the practice of simply incorporating by reference one of the British codes of service discipline, the latter Act, which was the first truly Canadian naval code of discipline, marked a first step in the development of a uniquely Canadian as opposed to British military justice system.26 It would in turn serve as the prototype for many sections of what would, in 1950, become the National Defence Act.27
Canadian historian Desmond Morton has argued that the wars of the twentieth century forced Canadians to “choose between the empire and independence,” that they were “the catalyst for an explosive industrial expansion and for much of Canada’s system of social security” and that they “transformed almost every Canadian institution.”28 This was clearly the case insofar as Canada’s system of military justice was concerned.
While the Canadian Navy had taken the first step towards a distinct Code of Service Discipline in 1944, at war’s end the Canadian Army and Air Force still had what has been described as a “confusion of authorities,” both British and Canadian, which governed discipline.29 The situation had simply become unmanageable. This factor, coupled with a general “dissatisfaction with the military justice system caused largely by the influx of a large number of civilians into the armed forces during World War II,” led to a comprehensive review of all legislation which applied to servicemen.30 Of course, Canada was not alone in doing so. The Lewis Commission was undertaking a similar review in the United Kingdom, and Canadian observers followed the work of that commission and similar studies being conducted in the United States–particularly the efforts being made to develop a uniform code of military justice which would ultimately be adopted for use by each of the armed services in that country.31
In Canada this process of review culminated in the enactment, in 1950, of a comprehensive National Defence Act (NDA) which included, in one Canadian statute, all legislation relating to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Navy, Army and Air Force, and terminated reliance upon British statute.32 It also created a single Code of Service Discipline applicable to soldiers, sailors and airmen; established a uniform process for administering military justice; and, provided rights of appeal from the findings and sentences of Courts Martial to a Court Martial Appeal Board.33
The Code maintained the control which each of the separate Services had over their own forces to the extent that it only permitted an accused to be dealt with and tried by the service in which the member was enrolled.34 It also adopted the relatively open-ended jurisdiction scheme that had given jurisdiction over an offence to the army and air force, no matter where the offence had been committed. Provision was also made for three forms of summary trial: summary trial by commanding officer, by delegated officer, and by superior commander. It adopted the navy’s approach in appointing an officer to assist the accused and allowing the trial of subordinate officers and also incorporated the army’s right to elect trial by courts.35
In terms of courts martial, the new Code blended the pre-existing court martial structure. While it adopted the army and air force terminology in naming the highest form of court martial a “General Court Martial,” it reflected naval practice in the use of the term Disciplinary Court Martial to describe the court martial having the next highest powers. Both courts featured a panel of military officers chosen by a convening authority. Provision was also made for a third form of court martial, the Standing Court Martial, which is currently presided over by a military judge sitting alone.
The process of creating a uniform Code of Service Discipline was hardly a straightforward matter, and the finished product reflects a number of compromises. For example, prior to 1950, the summary powers of punishment of naval commanding officers included the ability to award detention of up to three calendar months whereas a twenty-eight day maximum applied in the army and air force. The Code of Service Discipline adopted a ninety-day ceiling but required commanding officers to seek approval of any sentence in excess of thirty days. Nevertheless, some differences in the approach taken with respect to minor punishments would continue to be reflected in the applicable single service regulations, thereby perpetuating such venerable punishments as “stoppage of grog” and “confinement to barracks.”36
II. Subsequent Developments in Canadian Military Law
The first thirty years in the life of Canada’s Code of Service Discipline might well be described as a period of reflection, during which public interest in the development of military justice waned.37 Changes to the Code in this period were largely procedural. However, there were some notable exceptions.
In 1952, the National Defence Act was amended to extend the powers of punishment of delegated officers to allow for the imposition of up to fourteen days detention and add the power to award a severe reprimand.38 Regulatory changes followed in 1959 which extended the right to elect court martial to any accused charged with a service offence which alleged a breach of the civil criminal law. The election had traditionally been given after the evidence had been heard but before the finding was made. That approach, which is still followed in the British Army, was abandoned in 1959 in favour of a more waiver-like process under which the right to elect trial by court martial was extended, and the accused’s answer recorded, prior to the start of the summary trial.39
In 1959, the Act was amended once more; this time to specify that any court martial decision which awarded death had to be unanimous. This marked a departure from the majority-vote oriented process for determining findings and sentence which had applied prior to 1959 and which continued to apply in all non-capital cases. The 1959 amendments also marked the establishment of the Court Martial Appeal Court (CMAC) as a civilian superior court of record having jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from courts martial pertaining to the legality of sentences and findings. This package of reforms did not provide the Crown with a means of initiating appeals; nor did it allow the CMAC to entertain severity of sentence applications. Nevertheless, it did add a further right of appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada which could be exercised by either the accused or the Minister of National Defence, provided certain pre-conditions were satisfied.40
Until 1959, Canadian Courts Martial were obliged to apply the rules of evidence then in force in the province in which the trial was being held. In trials conducted abroad, the rules of evidence which were applicable in the accused’s home province were to be used. The uncertainty and confusion which such a complicated process created ended when the Military Rules of Evidence (MREs) were passed by Governor in Council in August of that year.41 The MREs, which are a codification of the normal evidentiary rules followed by Canadian criminal courts, represent a uniquely Canadian approach to the practical problems posed by the portability requirements of a military justice system.
In 1965, the government of the day integrated the Canadian Navy, Army and Air Force under a functional command structure. Unification, which would follow in 1968, led to the creation of a single service–the Canadian Armed Forces or Canadian Forces as it became known in regulations. The new service was comprised of full-time regular force and part-time reserve force components. To the extent that a unified Code of Service Discipline was already in place, the fact of unification had very little impact on the military justice system, except to the extent that it led to the creation of a single set of Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces and the standardization of minor punishments.42 A fourth type of court martial, the Special General Court Martial, was added in 1969. It was given the exclusive jurisdiction to try civilians who were subject to the Code of Service Discipline. No further significant changes to Canada’s military justice system occurred until 1982 and the coming into force of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.43
What followed was a relatively intense process of review, both internal and judicial, during which the Canadian Forces was called upon to reconcile its military justice provisions and processes with the constitutional protections embodied in the Charter. That process, which is still ongoing, resulted in an unprecedented series of amendments to the Code of Service Discipline and subordinate regulations and orders as well as what has been appropriately characterized as the “rapid convergence between military and civilian criminal justice processes.”44 Some of the more significant changes implemented between 1982 and 1992 include:
establishing a process under which an accused who had been found guilty at court martial and sentenced to a term of incarceration, could apply for judicial interim release;
developing a Charter compliant scheme for dealing with mentally disordered accused;
creating a truly comprehensive civilian appellate review process in both courts martial findings and sentences accessible by both the Crown and the accused; and
enhancing the independence of courts martial by
separating the functions of convening courts martial and appointing judges and panel members;
adopting a random methodology for selecting courts martial panel members; and
implementing reforms to ensure the security of tenure, financial security and institutional independence of military judges, including appointing judges for fixed terms, adopting the civilian “cause-based” removal standard and discontinuing the use of career evaluations as a measure of judicial performance.
The latter reforms were the direct result of court challenges in which it was argued that the manner in which the Standing and General Courts Martial were constituted undermined the courts’ independence within the meaning of section 11(d) of the Charter.45 Of these cases, the 1992 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Généreux is particularly noteworthy.46 In ruling that the legal construct for General Courts Martial, as it had existed at the time of trial, violated the paragraph 11(d) guarantee of independence, the Court in Généreux concluded that it was unacceptable for anyone in the chain of command to be in a position to interfere in matters which are directly and immediately relevant to the adjudicative function. In this respect, the Supreme Court determined that an actual lack of independence need not be established; rather, the test was whether an informed and reasonable person would “perceive” the tribunal as independent, based on its objective status; which is to say, the legal framework governing the status of the tribunal as opposed to the actual good faith of the adjudicator. In examining the Généreux decision, it is important to note that many of the reforms in this area had already been implemented prior to the actual appeal hearing. The Supreme Court of Canada commented favourably on these changes.
Généreux is also of significance in that the Court, in that case, acknowledged and upheld the requirement for a distinct but parallel system of military tribunals staffed by members of the military who are aware of and sensitive to military concerns. In this respect, the Chief Justice stated that the purpose of such a system is “to deal with matters that pertain directly to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military” and that “[t]o maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently.” Mr. Justice Lamer went on to note the critical role played by the Code of Service Discipline in allowing the military to meet its “particular disciplinary needs.”47
During the latter half of the 1990’s, the military justice system was the subject of a level of scrutiny that was unprecedented in Canadian history. The continuing requirement to ensure Charter compliance provides an explanation for the process of self-examination which led to the creation of the Summary Trial Working Group. Its comprehensive report on the summary trial system was issued in 1994.48 That and subsequent studies, such as the reports of Special Advisory Group on Military Police and Investigation Services49 chaired by the Right Honourable Brian Dickson, a retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, resulted in the implementation of a comprehensive set of regulatory changes to the summary trial system. The changes took effect on 30 November 1997.
While units retain the primary responsibility regarding the investigation of minor offences, the regulatory amendments preclude commanding officers from trying any case which they have personally investigated. Unit authorities also continue to have the authority to lay charges.50 That jurisdiction, however, is shared inasmuch as military police assigned to a newly created National Investigation Service (NIS)51 now have the mandate to investigate serious and sensitive offences as well as the power to lay charges. Furthermore, in all but a few minor cases, advice must now be obtained from a military legal officer before a charge is laid or when deciding how charges should be disposed of.
The 1997 regulatory changes also enhance the right to elect trial by court martial. That right must now be extended to the accused in cases involving all but the most minor disciplinary offences. Moreover, for the first time, delegated officers have the power to offer the election to accused persons appearing before them. Steps have also been taken to ensure that each accused is fully informed of the implications and consequences of electing summary trial or courts martial, including providing accused persons with access to legal counsel in order to assist them in making a fully-informed election.
The amendments also reduce the offence jurisdiction of commanding officers and delegated officers to those offences that are more minor in nature and over which offence jurisdiction is demonstrably necessary for the maintenance of unit discipline. At the same time, the severity of the punishments that may be awarded at summary trial has been reduced and the scheme of punishments restructured in keeping with the summary trial’s disciplinary, as opposed to penal character. For example, while commanding officers are still able to award detention, the maximum amount of detention, which may be awarded, has been reduced from ninety to thirty days.
Until November of 1997, the decision of a summary trial could only be challenged by way of a grievance submitted through the military chain of command. The regulations now provide a mechanism, separate and apart from the redress of grievance process, by which an accused found guilty at summary trial is able to request that the findings and sentence be reviewed.
The heightened public and media interest alluded to earlier would seem to be the direct result of a small number of high profile cases involving particularly egregious acts of misconduct committed by members of the Canadian Forces involved in peacekeeping operations in Somalia, and to a much lesser extent, Bosnia. Without commenting in any detail on the broader implications and significance of these regrettable acts, their impact on public opinion in Canada has led to comparisons with the American experience in the Vietnam War era. The Canadian government responded to these events, and the public concern they provoked, by convening a public Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia 52 and by commissioning the Special Advisory Group studies referred to earlier. The Somalia Commission Report and the reports of the Special Advisory Group were released in 1997.
The government reacted quickly to the various recommendations contained in these reports by sponsoring Bill C-25,53 an Act to Amend the National Defence Act.54 Bill C-25 adopted the recommendations of the Special Advisory Group and responded to the recommendations of the Somalia Commission. The vast majority of the provisions contained in Bill C-25 and the implementing regulations came into force on 1 September 1999.55
III. The Future: Canadian Military Justice in the 21st Century
The comprehensive package of amendments to the National Defence Act contained in Bill C-25 and the supporting regulations were designed to promote greater accountability and transparency in the military justice system and strengthen the Canadian Forces as a national institution in which Canadians may continue to repose their trust and confidence. The changes resulted in a structure that is more consistent with civilian criminal procedure while still taking into account the military requirements that underscore the rationale for a distinct military justice system, including the requirement to maintain portable service tribunals capable, with prompt but fair processes, of operating in time of conflict or peace, in Canada or abroad.
One of the most important changes concerned the steps being taken to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the various actors in the military justice system. With the implementation of the reforms, the Minister of National Defence no longer has the responsibility to make decisions pertaining to individual disciplinary cases such as convening courts martial, approving punishments of dismissal from Her Majesty’s service, or acting as a review authority in respect of summary trial and court martial findings and sentences. By devolving such responsibilities to other authorities, the potential conflict of interest between such matters and the Minister’s duties in respect of the overall management of the Department and Canadian Forces has been reduced; as has any perception of interference by the Minister in the routine administration of individual cases.
The requirement for specialized military legal advice is of utmost importance to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Since 1911, the Judge Advocate General has acted as legal advisor to the Governor General, the Minister of National Defence, the Department and the Canadian Forces. For the first time however, the Judge Advocate General’s duties have been clearly set out in the National Defence Act together with the requirement to superintend the administration of military justice across the Canadian Forces by conducting regular reviews and assessments and reporting annually to the Minister.
As representatives of the Judge Advocate General, Canadian Forces legal officers have traditionally given advice pertaining to the investigation of service offences and charge laying, have been appointed by convening authorities to serve as prosecutors, and, have acted as defence counsel at courts martial. These services continue to be performed by legal officers. However, under the amended Code of Service Discipline, the prosecution function has been assigned exclusively to the Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP). The person appointed by the Minister to occupy the position of DMP is directly responsible for the preferring of all charges to be tried by court martial, for determining the type of court martial to hear those charges, and, through the assignment of individual uniformed prosecutors, responsible for the conduct of court martial proceedings. The DMP also acts as counsel for the Minister in respect of appeals. The DMP acts under the general supervision of the Judge Advocate General who may issue specific, written instructions or guidelines in respect of particular prosecutions. Where such instructions or guidelines are issued the DMP must ensure that those instructions or guidelines are made publicly available.
Similarly, the defence function has been assigned exclusively to the Director of Defence Counsel Services, who is responsible for the supervision of prescribed legal services to persons subject to the Code of Service Discipline. The Director of Defence Counsel Services also acts under the general supervision of the Judge Advocate General and may be subject to general instructions and guidelines that must be made available to the public. However, to avoid any perception of interference, the Act does not allow the Judge Advocate General to issue instructions or guidelines pertaining to the conduct of any particular defence. Enhancing the separation between military defence counsel and other actors in the military justice system was intended to provide greater assurance that persons subject to the Code receive independent legal advice.
Changes were also made to the National Defence Act to reflect the regulatory changes pertaining to the institutional independence of military judges referred to earlier. It is important to note that military judges are not responsible to the chain of command. Indeed, the Office of the Chief Military Judge has now been established as a separate unit of the Canadian Forces.
Bill C-25 also made provision for the establishment of a Court Martial Administrator to convene courts martial on the request of the Director of Military Prosecutions and appoint members to sit as General and Disciplinary Courts Martial panel members. The Court Martial Administrator performs these important administrative functions under the general supervision of the Chief Military Judge.
Under the new scheme for referring matters to courts martial, a commanding officer or superior commander who lacks jurisdiction to proceed, or considers that it would not be appropriate to refer the charges to another officer having summary trial jurisdiction, is required to refer the charges to a referral authority–typically an officer commanding a command.56 In most cases the referral authority will be required to refer the application on to the Director of Military Prosecutions together with any recommendations which may be considered appropriate. The involvement of the referral authority ensures the valuable and essential participation of the chain of command in the decision to prefer charges to courts martial.
I have already discussed some recent changes to the investigation and charging process. The recent statutory reforms continue the process of making the military justice system more efficient and transparent. For example, while commanding officers and superior commanders are able to decide not to proceed with a matter, they no longer have the jurisdiction to dismiss charges. Moreover, members of the recently created National Investigation Service are able to refer a charge which was laid by a member of that service directly to a referral authority, for further transmission to the Director of Military Prosecutions, in any case where a commanding officer or superior commander has decided not to proceed with a charge. Other legislative amendments have enhanced the independence of the military police through the establishment of an independent, external Military Police Complaints Commission which reports annually to Parliament, as well as through the creation of a Military Police Professional Code of Conduct establishing standards for military police in the conduct of their policing duties.
A new procedure has also been implemented for reviewing cases of pre-trial custody. While the initial review of custody is still conducted by the commanding officer or a designate, all subsequent reviews must be conducted by a military judge. As was the case in release pending appeal applications, the direction to release a member from pre-trial custody is now capable of being made the subject of a conditions order. Such directions are reviewable on application to the Court Martial Appeal Court.
The reforms also complete the process of modernizing the summary trial system. In particular, the largely procedural distinctions between trial by superior commander and other forms of summary proceedings have been eliminated, and the nature of certain forms of punishment have also been changed. For example, a presiding officer’s power to impose a punishment of reduction in rank has been limited to one substantive rank and reduction in rank is no longer deemed an included punishment where a non-commissioned member has been sentenced to detention.
Changes to the courts martial system include:
providing for non-commissioned members at or above the rank of warrant officer to sit as members of General and Disciplinary Court Martial panels when the accused is a non-commissioned member;
formally requiring the military judge presiding at a General or Disciplinary Court Martial to make all decisions of a legal nature and determine sentence;
reducing the period of detention that may be awarded at courts martial from two years to ninety days in keeping with the rehabilitative objectives of detention and to enhance the distinction between that punishment and the more penal punishment of imprisonment;
removing the monetary limits on the fines that may be imposed; and
eliminating the death penalty from the scale of punishments in the Code of Service Discipline on the basis that it was no longer required as a punishment for service offences and its removal was consistent with other federal law. For the most serious offences, imprisonment for life with no eligibility for parole for twenty-five years has been substituted.
Some jurisdictional changes were also incorporated into the Bill C-25 reforms. For example, the three-year limitation period on the prosecution of service offences was repealed. That limitation period was considered to pose an unreasonable limitation on disciplinary action in particularly complex investigations and in those cases where offences were not reported or disclosed within the relevant period. A one-year limitation, however, is considered to be an appropriate period within which to deal with offences at summary trial given the nature of the proceeding and its objectives.
Another jurisdictional change involves sexual assault offences committed in Canada by persons subject to the Code of Service Discipline. Prior to 1 September 1999 such offences had to be tried by civilian court rather than by a service tribunal. To the extent that sexual assault offences have the potential to undermine morale and unit discipline, lessen mutual trust and respect, and ultimately impair military efficiency, the Canadian Forces’ inability to deal promptly with such offences was considered problematic. Bill C-25 therefore removed this limitation on jurisdiction.
Other oversight and review measures which have not been discussed, but which nonetheless deserve mention, include: the appointment of an ombudsmen, the creation of a monitoring committee and the requirement that the Minister of National Defence review the statute and report to Parliament within five years of its coming into force.
While this paper does not address all of the changes made to the Code of Service Discipline, I trust it has provided some appreciation of the wide-ranging scope and nature of the recent reforms to the Canadian system. While it is still early in the reform process, the changes will result in a modern but in many ways different Code of Service Discipline as the Canadian Forces enters the 21st century.
Canadian Code of Service Discipline-