Bill C-15: Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
On October 7, 2011, Bill C-15: An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (short title: Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act) was introduced in the House of Commons by the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. The legislation reflects a series of recommendations made in 2003 by the late Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of Canada, following his independent review of the National Defence Act, as well as those made in May 2009 by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
The amendments in Bill C-15 cover changes to the military justice system, the grievance process and the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall Organization.
Military justice system changes will:
-- further enhance the independence of military judges;-- expressly provide the purposes, principles and objectives of sentencing in the military justice system;-- expand the pool of Canadian Armed Forces members eligible to serve on a court martial panel;-- modify the limitation period applicable to summary trials and allow an accused person to waive the limitation periods; and-- provide for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders, as well as the ability to submit victim impact statements at courts martial.
Grievance process amendments will:
-- enhance the effectiveness of the grievance system by authorizing the Chief of the Defence Staff to delegate his power as the final grievance authority when appropriate, thereby enabling grievances to be resolved more swiftly;-- formally change the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board to the Military Grievances External Review Committee - a name that better reflects the Board's independent status; and-- empower the Chief of the Defence Staff to cancel the release of Canadian Armed Forces members as a remedy in the grievance system when it is discovered a member has been improperly released.
Canadian Forces Provost Marshal organization changes will:
-- legislate and formalize the position of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and specify the Provost Marshal's responsibilities;-- establish a timeline within which the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal is required to resolve conduct complaints. Moreover, it protects complainants from being penalized for submitting a complaint in good faith;-- establish the necessary governance framework for the Provost Marshal in statute, which reflects the need to balance the important principle of police independence with the raison d'etre of the Canadian Armed Forces - mission success in complex, dangerous and difficult environments.
The Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act received Royal Assent on June 19, 2013.
Comprehensive amendments to the National Defence Act were made in 1998 by Bill C-25, An Act to amend the National Defence Act. Bill C-25 requires the Minister of National Defence to initiate an independent review of the provisions and operation of the Bill every five years, and to table a report of the review in Parliament.
Other changes to the Act dealt mainly with the military justice system, modernizing the Code of Service Discipline and promoting integrity and fairness within the system by:
-- clarifying the roles and responsibilities of its various actors;-- clearly separating, on an institutional basis, the system's investigative, prosecutorial, defence and judicial functions;-- completing summary trial reform;-- strengthening oversight and review; and-- eliminating the death penalty.