January 26, 2015. In the wake of a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada extending to RCMP members the “freedom of association” by forming a professional association to engage into collective bargaining issues, namely: a) service conditions; b) grievances; and, c) workplace issues such as harassment and sexual assaults, Ottawa’s Hill Times publishes an OPINION PIECE [ CAMP 1] by Michel W. Drapeau and Joshua M. Juneau,
The article makes it clear that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is the only workplace in Canada where the ‘constitutional right of freedom of association‘ is not authorized. All over Europe, there is currently a well-structured social dialogue taking place in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, and the Netherlands concerning military associations. The central question in these debates is how to respect the rights of military personnel to the freedom of association and assembly while at the same time meeting the needs and legitimate concerns of the military, given its unique function. In many of these European countries, a culture shift has occurred, and military associations are now recognised as valuable partners for defence administrations. Perhaps surprisingly, the experience of these European nations is that the right of association has not compromised combat efficiency or military discipline. In fact, permitting democratic military associations may have de facto improved the morale and loyalty of troops.
The article demonstrates that there are many areas where the Canadian military currently fails to ensure that the rights of its members are protected or respected in accordance with traditional Charter values. There are many other examples where the basic employment rights of soldiers are being ignored or discounted. Some of these include: a) grievances; b) career administrative reviews; c) harassment and sexual assault; d) summary trials.
The authors opine that CAF members should fully enjoy the right to set up a specific professional association geared to protecting their professional interests in the framework of democratic institutions. Permitting members of the CAF the right to form a professional association would be in step with the global trend towards the formation of armed forces Professional Associations for serving military members. These include the militaries of our NATO allies in, inter alia, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Luxemburg. The idea behind this trend has been described as to help, “mitigate the discipline and loyalty of the armed forces” in these countries. Most of whom being part of European Organisation of Military Associations (EUROMIL), which was founded in 1972. EUROMIL is a conglomerate of more than 42 associations from over 24 EU countries representing approximately 500,000 military members!
An independent military professional association would represent the interest of sailors, soldiers and airpersons in compensation negotiations and in addressing parliamentary committees reviewing proposed amendments to the National Defence Act. This association would also be available for consultations for conditions of service including discipline, career administrative reviews, remedial measures, remustering, transfers and releases; grievances and workplace dispute resolution mechanisms; support to military families and, the management of Non-Public Fund (NPF) assets.