NOVEMBER 9, 2014. Retired Justice Gilles Létourneau and Professor MIchel Drapeau, co-authors of Military Justice In Action, a one-of -kind Canadian legal text on military law, attended the Global Seminar For Military Justice Reform at Yale Law School, New Heaven, Connecticut, USA on November 7 and 8, 2014.
The conference was attended by over fifty (54) representatives from 14 countries: Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, India, Nepal, Netherlands, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Unganda, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Also present, were representatives of the United Nations (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) and the President of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War. These representatives came from the judiciary, academia and human rights organizations as well as many military and civilian military law practitioners.
Also present, was the Honorable Mr. Justice (ret’d) Andrew S. Effron, former Chief Judge of the US. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Justice Effron was named in April 2014 by the US Secretary of Defence to lead a Pentagon’s Military Justice Review Group to conduct a comprehensive review of the US military Justice system. It is a “top to bottom review” which include the role of the chain of command as well as the kinds of crimes which should be prosecuted in military, as opposed to civilian, courts.
This review comes at a time of increasing concern among Congress, Pentagon leaders and media about the high number of sexual assaults taking place in and within US units as well as broader misconduct across the force after years of war.
It was obvious at the conference that there is now – except in Canada – a worldwide movement for reforming military justice systems. Most countries either have completed a wide set of reforms to modernize their military justice systems. Others, such as the US are in the process of conducting deep introspection so as to determine how best to address the serious misgivings aired by both Congress and the media. On the other hand, Canada comes across as being oblivious to these winds of change and the need to ensure that our soldiers’ Charter rights be respected which is presently not the case.