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Sex crimes will no longer be handled ;s by military courts

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If the bill is adopted, all crimes of a sexual nature committed in military Canadian Armed Forces will come under the exclusive jurisdiction of civilian courts.

  • Stéphane Bordeleau (View profile)Stéphane Bordeleau

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In his bill C -66 filed Thursday, Defense Minister Bill Blair intends to amend the National Defense Act to incorporate the recommendations made by former judges Louise Arbor and Morris Fish.

The changes made revolve around four axes. The first is to remove cases of sexual assault involving the military from the jurisdiction of the martial justice system.

The new law would now give authorities civil courts the exclusive jurisdiction to investigate crimes of a sexual nature committed within the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and to try the perpetrators before civilian courts.

This major modification to military law results from a recommendation from Justice Louise Arbour, mandated in 2021 by the Trudeau government to examine the treatment of sexual misconduct in the army . Former Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish was commissioned to carry out a statutory review of the National Defense Act as a whole.

The bill is structured around their recommendations.

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In her report, Ms. Arbor wrote: Sexual offenses covered by the Criminal Code should be removed of the jurisdiction of the FAC. They should be prosecuted exclusively in civil criminal courts in all cases. When an offense takes place in Canada, it should be investigated by civilian police forces as quickly as possible.

Regarding sexual crimes committed abroad in the CAF, Louise Arbor believes that the military police can act first to safeguard the evidence and begin investigation, but should contact civilian law enforcement authorities as soon as possible.

Through these measures and our ongoing efforts, we will create a diverse, inclusive and supportive institution that can attract and retain talented people across our country.

A quote from Bill Blair, Minister of National Defense

In a report filed with the Defense in June 2021, Judge Morris called for urgent reform of the military justice system to allow victims of sexual misconduct to be better protected.

According to the judge, the current system gives too many opportunities for the chain of command to interfere in investigations and courts martial.

In response to the eight recommendations it made, the Trudeau government will modify the appointment process of the three main military judicial authorities, namely the Provost Marshal of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Director of Military Prosecutions and the Director of Legal Services of the defense.

The appointment of military judges will also be modified by expanding the pool of potential candidates for enlisted personnel.

By modernizing our processes, we are strengthening the foundations of trust, which is essential to fostering discipline, efficiency and morale within the CAF.

A quote from General Wayne Eyre, Chief of Defense Staff

Other measures also aim to exclude military judges from the summary hearing system and expand access to victim liaisons.

The National Defense Act will also be amended to harmonize it with provisions relating to sex offender information and publication bans.

A series of other internal changes must be made to increase the confidence of soldiers and the public in the military justice system, which must, it is recalled, be completely independent of the chain of command.

  • Stéphane Bordeleau (View profile)Stéphane BordeleauFollow

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