Investigation underway on whether top military lawyers suppressed damning report
Top military officers are under investigation over whether they unlawfully suppressed a report that is critical of the military justice system, CTV News has learned.
The Judge Advocate General (JAG) oversees the administration of military justice in the Canadian Armed Forces. High-ranking officers within the office of the JAG are the focus of the probe, which is looking into how officials responded to a request for a 560-page draft document that revealed a lack of confidence in the justice system.
Days after the report was completed in July 2017, an Access to Information Request was filed. But the JAG’s office denied that the report existed.
Hiding documents from an access to information request is illegal.
Now, police and prosecutors are trying to determine if the military lawyers broke the rules.
CTV News obtained the internal document and reported details of its findings on Wednesday.
Sources tell CTV News’ Mercedes Stephenson that an RCMP officer embedded with the Military’s National Investigative Service has taken the lead on looking into the allegations.
In a statement, military police said they will not “discuss, confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigation(s).”
Today, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan insisted he is confident in military justice and the JAG.
“When our new JAG was elected she has a vision. And I’m going to give her the space and time to conduct a thorough review,” Sajjan said.
The report, titled “Court Martial Comprehensive Review Interim Report,” examined the Courts Martial system and found a lack of confidence in military justice from rank-and-file to top commanders.
The report criticized the system for lenient sentences. Some went so far to call the system broken.
The report also highlighted significant delays within the military justice system. On average, it takes 434 days from when charges are laid to completion of the court martial, compared to the median 112 days from first appearance to completion of the trial in civilian criminal cases.
The report’s authors were told by some senior members of the military that they believed some serious offenses would be better handled by the civilian justice system.
Sources say the Judge Advocate General’s office was concerned that releasing the report would breach solicitor client privilege. Sources added that the JAG was not happy with the conclusions of the report and wanted more concrete recommendations.
Former military lawyer Rory Fowler said issues of fairness in the system must be seriously addressed.
“Nothing really comes as a surprise because we’ve heard a lot of these complaints before,” Fowler said. “I would want to see a much more comprehensive review of military justice writ large.”
With a report from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson in Ottawa