Several sweeping changes will be made in the military justice system thanks to provisions laid out in Bill C-77.
The three major areas affected by these changes include a Declaration of Victims Rights, a new summary hearing process, and court martials.
According to CANFORGEN 089/22, released in June, the month the changes went into effect, any charges laid before this date will not fall under these new changes.
“The significant scope of changes to the military justice system (MJS) make it optimal to complete any ongoing unit level disciplinary investigations, charge laying, and summary trials prior to June 20, 2022. Where this is not possible, COs should contact their legal advisor regarding handling of the case to ensure that the objectives of discipline, efficiency , and morale are met.
“The chain of command is encouraged to contact their unit legal advisors if legal advice is needed regarding changes the MJS,” stated the notice signed by LGen. Allen, the vice chief of defence staff, and Col. Holman, acting JAG.
Declaration of Victims’ Rights
New rights for victims of service offences are established in the Declaration of Victims Rights (DVR). According to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), this will allow victims to have similar rights afforded to victims under the civilian criminal justice system.
Victims will also now be able to request the assistance of a victims liaison officer (VLO) and can make a complaint if they feel any of their rights under the DVR are infringed upon or denied.
New Summary Hearing Process
The summary trial process will now be repealed, with limited exceptions for cases in progress, and replaced with the summary hearing process.
According to the CANFORGEN, the summary hearing process is a non-penal, non-criminal process that “will improve the chain of command’s ability to deal with minor breaches of discipline.”
The minor breaches will now be charged as service infractions created through regulations. A person in violation will have a sanction imposed on them rather than a punishment.
Consequently, a service infraction charge under the summary hearing press will not offer an election for trial by court martial. However, service offences will remain unchanged and will only be dealt with by court-martial.
Court Martial Changes
Changes to the court martial will be introduced, increasing “key MJS actors” and “better align the MJS with the civilian justice system.”
One of the key changes to the court martial is as follows:
“All service offence charges will be referred from the charge layer directly to the director of military prosecutions (DMP) and, if the charges are brought forward by the DMP, will be tried only by court martial.
“Expanded PM charge laying authority. The authority for MP to lay service offence and service infraction charges will be expanded in QR&Os (Queen’s Regulations and Orders) from only the CFMIS to all MP assigned to investigative duties.”
Training & Educating
Several training and education initiatives are underway to inform the CAF community of the changes.
Officers within the military justice system are required to undergo the Military Justice: Unit Level Training. This training is the subsequent training after the Officer Certification Training.
According to the Canforgen, “superior commanders, commanding officers, and delegated officers must be certified by the judge advocate general before they may perform their duties in the administration of the Code of Service Discipline.”
Victims Liaison Officers will also be provided with special training to understand their new role and the rights provided to victims.
Additionally, a CAF-wide awareness brief will be delivered to all military members to introduce the key changes. This is a one-hour brief to provide general awareness and enable appropriate immediate actions when faced with an incident or complaint of misconduct as a victim, witness, or chain of command.