As said by the Chief Justice of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., in her Word of Welcome on the Supreme Court of Canada web page, Canadians are privileged to live in a peaceful country. Much of the collective sense of freedom and safety comes from our community’s commitment to a few key values: democratic governance, respect for fundamental rights as well as the rule of law and accommodation of differences.
The commitment to these values must be renewed on every occasion and the institutions that sustain them must be cherished. Among those who valiantly uphold these values and institutions are the soldiers, men and women, of the Canadian Armed Forces who put their lives on the line to protect and defend the country and what Canadians stand for.
Many recognise that gratitude is owed to them, but few acknowledge, let alone are prepared to remedy the fact that they have been deprived of important legal rights by failing to reform and modernise the antiquated military justice system. Canadian soldiers and civilians tried in Canada before military ‘courts’, including summary trials, courts martial and other quasi-judiciary or administrative proceedings, are subject to a different treatment that denies them some of the fundamental rights Canadians are proud of and committed to.
Unlike what prevails in other allied systems, the current Canadian military ‘justice’ system fails to provide many of the guarantees set forth in the Canadian Constitution or under international law. Canadian military ‘judges’ are ‘soldiers first’ and part of a military chain of command that is, to say the least, very loath to evolve and embrace positive change. As a result, Canadian soldiers and civilians falling under the military jurisdiction loose many of the important rights and freedoms conferred upon Canadian citizens.
The Canadian military ‘justice’ system is in desperate need of reform. Members of the Canadian Forces expect, are entitled to and deserve a modern, equitable system of justice that Canadians would be proud of.