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It’s time for a civilian review of the military justice system

Over the past decade or so, the JAG has been conferred a plenipotentiary mandate over the administration of the military penal and disciplinary justice system. The JAG has monopolistic authority for providing advice to all stakeholders in the system on practices, procedures, development, and reforms.

Michel Drapeau and Gilles Letourneau, pictured in this file photo in Ottawa, say the military's reforms would have no significant effect as they would necessarily permit the JAG to continue lording over this broken military justice system. The Hill Times photograph by Kate Malloy

OTTAWA—Recently, the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) announced that it is launching consultations as part of a comprehensive review of the court martial system, the centrepiece of the military justice system. We agree that this system is in dire need of a major overhaul because when compared with the civilian justice system there are a number of important differences not necessarily warranted and hardly justifiable. For instance, a person tried before a court martial is denied the constitutional right to a jury trial. Instead, that person is given a trial by a general court martial composed of a panel of five military members chosen by the chain of command. Such differences carry the potential of resulting and, in some cases, result clearly in unfairness to an accused, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or members of his or her family.

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