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How to fix the Canadian Forces’ grievance system

By Joshua Juneau and Michel Drapeau      

Despite efforts by successive chiefs of defence staff to delegate their statutory responsibilities down, the backlog and delays in the military grievance system are worse than ever. But the growing backlog in the CAF grievance system is due in large part to the broad wording of Sec. 29 of the National Defence Act which permits a member to grieve practically anything. This is an expensive and inappropriate use of energies and resources.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, pictured April 30, 2020, at a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. Instilling reasonable limitations on the right to grieve would serve the greater good, and would assist in eliminating the backlog of grievances, write Michel Drapeau and Joshua Juneau. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

OTTAWA—The Canadian Forces grievance process has been in a shambles for years, mostly attributable to excessive delay. In 1998, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Antonio Lamer, in his first independent review of the National Defence Act wrote, “Soldiers are not second-class citizens. They are entitled to be treated with respect, and, in the case of the grievance process, in a procedurally fair manner. This is a fundamental principle that must not be lost in a bureaucratic process, even a military one. … They deserve a grievance process that addresses their grievances in a fair, transparent, and prompt manner.”

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