February 2015. All officers are commissioned by the Sovereign. On commissioning, they are granted the rank of second lieutenant and they each receive a commission scroll that is personally signed by the Governor General acting for the Sovereign Her Majesty the Queen [Section 53 of the National Defence Act refers]. This means that officers derive their authority directly from the Sovereign.
The commission charges them with specific duties and responsibilities. This is the official legal document that binds the mentioned officer to the commitment stated in the scroll.
Officers are the primary source of authority in any military unit. Above all else, a commissioned officer’s duty is to lead. No matter what their profession or occupation, officers are expected to come out of training able to lead and assume responsibilities. To serve as an officer is to serve as a model for the armed forces values and leadership. Officers are entrusted with the welfare, morale, and professional development of soldiers under their command. As such, in democracies, armed forces grant commissions of officer-ship to only the most qualified, talented and educated men and women.
An officer can be reduced in rank by a military tribunal. However, pursuant to section 143 of the National Defence Act an officer cannot be reduced in rank below a rank lower that commissioned rank. However if dismissed or ‘cashiered’ an officer can be stripped of his commission. [A case in point, Russell Williams was stripped of his commission and stripped of his awards and decorations in October 2010).
The voluntary relinquishment of an officer rank by an officer is however possible. However, it must be approved by the Minister if the officer is an officer in the rank of colonel or higher and by the CDS if the applicant serves in the rank below that of colonel. The only way an officer can be reduced in rank to a non-commissioned rank is by his or her voluntary relinquishment of his rank on approval by the CDS.
According to records released under the access to information, during the past three years there have been a total of 279 officers decommissioned; two were serving in the rank of captain, 38 in the rank of lieutenant and 239 in the rank of second-lieutenant. They were serving in several classifications: 64 were Mars Officers; 45 were AERE Officers; 41 were Pilot Officers; 36 were Armoured Officers; 21 were Artillery Officers; 20 were Infantry Officers. They are now serving in a variety of trades such as Construction Technician (44); Aircraft Structure Technician (34); RMC Clerk (32); Firefighter (18); Military Police (13); Supply Technician (6) and cook (1) etc.
Any such reduction in rank, particularly accompanied by the stripping of an officer’s commission carries considerable career implication, and considerable loss of social and professional standing within both the service and civil society. It is a truism that rank has its privileges, and to reduce an officer to the lowest rank (private in the military hierarchy) is a giant step backwards, which is visible and noticeable by all.
See article in Esprit de Corps February 2014 edition.22-1 Law Order (Feb2015) Devaluation of a once proud act