Shomporko Online News Deskঃ A retired Supreme Court judge is urging for immediate changes to Canada’s military justice system to ensure that victims of sexual and other forms of misconduct do not continue to suffer.
Morris Fish claims that the current system is riddled with locations where the chain of command might influence police investigations and courts-martial proceedings, which is why immediate intervention is required.
In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Fish said, “Reform of the military justice system along the lines suggested by my recommendations is no longer an option: It’s imperative to protect existing and future generations of military members.”
“So that’s why I say there is an urgent need for reform of the military justice system in order to prevent present and future victims of sexual misconduct and other misconduct from continuing to suffer needlessly and unduly.”
Fish’s comments follow the release of an explosive 400-page report earlier this month on the system that the Canadian Armed Forces uses to investigate and try everything from minor disciplinary infractions to heinous criminal acts.
Fish spent six months starting last November quietly studying the system, which functions separately from its civilian counterpart and is subject to mandatory reviews every decade or so, with his final report tabled in Parliament on June 1.
Much of Fish’s review coincided with the military’s latest reckoning with sexual misconduct as several senior commanders have been accused of improper and in some cases criminal, behavior.
Underlying much of the current crisis are questions of fairness and accountability in how the military handles such allegations, with concerns that those higher up in the ranks are treated less severely than those near the bottom.
In the report, Fish said reporting by Global News put renewed pressure on the long-standing need to act to solve the problem.
Those concerns were only underscored following revelations the military’s second in command, Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, recently golfed with former defense chief Jonathan Vance.
Rouleau is not only responsible for the administration of the military police, who are currently investigating Vance on allegations of sexual misconduct but has the power through the National Defence Act to issue orders in relation to police investigations.
While Rouleau and the military’s top police officer insisted that he has never issued such an order, the vice-chief of defense staff’s power was one of the areas of potential interference identified by Fish in his report even before the golf game.
But it was far from the only one, with Fish finding numerous other areas where commanders have both direct and indirect influence over military police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and even judges themselves.
Military police officers and others told the retired justice about times when they believed they were being interfered with or that they weren’t completely independent of the chain of command.
All military police, not just personnel of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, should be permitted to file charges, according to Fish’s assessment. Non-CFNIS officers can only refer charges to the chain of command at this time.
Morris noted in his report, “I heard about charge recommendations of uniformed military police members being denied — even for significant offenses — on the basis of extraneous and irrelevant grounds.”
Source_The Canadian Press