March 19, 1998

?

The Deputy Speaker

I do not see a quorum. Perhaps we could ring the bells.

And the bells having rung:

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I see a quorum. The hon. member for Kamloops has the floor.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
NDP

Nelson Riis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nelson Riis

I can hardly take that, Mr. Speaker. I have never experienced this before in my life. I do not want to overdo it and change their minds very quickly. Thank you, that is more like it.

I am going to end my remarks in my presentation by simply saying that we believe the minister is not going far enough in subjecting our armed forces to an outside and independent review process.

This concerns New Democrats a great deal because we feel that the insular culture of the military was in fact in large part responsible for the cover-up that occurred in the Somalia affair.

The measures introduced by the minister in Bill C-25 may be a bit of a help, and I acknowledge that they may be a bit of help, but they really do not address the problem of a military beholden to itself.

The Somalia commission's principle recommendation, the establishment of a formal inspector general system to watch over the military's performance, has been rejected by this minister and his Liberal government. Instead, the minister will allow the military to continue to investigate itself in these matters.

I know that the minister is a very thoughtful individual but I find it hard to believe that he was attached to this because would anybody really believe that the military will continue to investigate itself in a clear fashion. It is a bit like asking the coyote to keep an eye on the chickens in the henhouse and make sure everything is peaceful there.

We point out what appears to be a glaring error in the draft of this legislation and perhaps we will have a chance to change it later.

The minister has also rejected a key recommendation of the Somalia inquiry aimed at protecting both those individuals who report wrongdoing in connection with the Somalia mission and those who may do so in the future. This might be called whistle blowing. Also rejected is the recommendation that military police be more independent of the defence department and report to the solicitor general instead.

The minister also has not accepted the commission's proposal that Parliament set the ground rules for future peacekeeping operations.

I believe this minister has perpetuated the notion that the old boy network in the military is alive and well and that when problems arise, they will be settled clearly within the family. Given the terrible shape of our military these days, I am afraid that is not in any way assuring Canadians.

Bill C-25 reminds us of the government's failure to get to the bottom of the Somalia affair and the government's failure to bring forth the key recommendations of the Somalia commission in this bill indicates to us in the New Democratic Party that there is more secrecy to come and there will still continue to be a great lack of accountability in Canada's military.

Bill C-25, the department of defence response to the need for change in the military justice system, fails to deal with the contentious issue of accountability and responsibility within the senior echelons of the Canadian Armed Forces. That is why we are not terribly enthusiastic about this legislation at this time.

To reiterate, I think it is fair to say that the two areas of serious concern are, first, the fact that there is no protection for whistle blowers, in other words those men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces who see a serious wrongdoing, see something that simply should not take place, who do not feel free to inform others, including the public, of this problem. Until that happens there will always be this sort of cloudy pall hanging over the armed forces with people wondering if everything is going on above board. There is also the matter of accountability. The two are related but there is still the lack of accountability in terms of what is happening, particularly at the leadership level in our forces.

That is what we do not like about the bill but, like everything else, there are good points and there are some bad points. I have emphasized in my role as a critic today some of the more negative and downsides of Bill C-25. But there are positive aspects. I could list a few, but it just is not part of my personality in the House to list positive things. However, I will focus on one positive and that is the removal of the death penalty.

The minister is here in his place and I want to applaud him for his efforts.

Many countries around the world have eliminated the death penalty for their armed forces. The death penalty has been abolished in many western nations with which Canada has very strong ties. Among our NATO allies are countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Greece, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain. I could list a number of countries which have done away with the death penalty as a punishment for all civil and military offences. Countries outside the NATO sphere have also abolished the death penalty for civil and service offences. Our Commonwealth friends such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have also abolished the death penalty.

The odd state in the U.S. retains the death penalty. It is interesting that those states which have kept the death penalty are those states which have the highest amount of violent crime. There seems to be an inverse relationship to the death penalty when it comes to safety.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you as a learned individual know full well all of the reasons why we have abolished the death penalty in Canada. Now that the Minister of National Defence, through this legislation, has eliminated the death penalty for Canada's armed forces, we join those nations which are the most progressive in the world. I believe it is fair to say that the countries which are the most favourable in the world in which to live, almost inevitably, are those countries which have taken steps to abolish the death penalty. It is a clear signal of the values they place on human life.

I am loath to say that we will not support the bill at this stage. However, we hope that by sending out a clear message to our friend, the minister of defence, there will be a chance to amend it in committee. We will be working hard in committee to improve the legislation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
PC

John Herron

Progressive Conservative

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to this bill today. The government has decided to address the issue of justice in the Canadian forces and we believe it is about time.

Addressing the issue of justice in the military is both important and urgent. My party understands that if we are to do something, we might as well do it right. Unfortunately, while there are some interesting points in the bill, it does not address the real problems faced by the Canadian forces today.

There are several questions which we must ask ourselves. What events brought us to the point to have this bill read in Canada's House of Commons? Did the government act in an appropriate way and does the bill address the need for change? If passed, will the bill work in a practical way when it is applied?

While all these questions are connected, it would serve us well to take the time to ensure that they are answered to the satisfaction of Canadians.

The first question is perhaps the most important. The key for this bill is what events brought us to this point.

I believe all members of the House are aware of the events which transpired as a result of other events in Somalia. However, they are worth repeating and repeating.

The Somalia inquiry was shut down for political and personal reasons last year. That brings us here today. Inquiry commissions are created because there is a public concern which needs to be addressed. As elected officials of this House it is incumbent on all of us to take such matters very seriously. It seems to me that if there is a good enough reason to begin an inquiry, then there is a good reason to complete it.

I would like to quickly outline what was the cost, in real terms, of prematurely shutting down the Somalia commission.

Robert Fowler, then deputy minister of national defence, now Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, said that on March 19, 1993 he told defence minister Kim Campbell's acting chief of staff, Richard Claire, that Somalia teenager Shidane Arone had died three days earlier as a result of foul play at the hands of Canadians.

Richard Claire, then acting chief of staff to minister of defence Kim Campbell, said he did discuss the death with Fowler and Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, then vice-chief of defence staff on March 19, but nobody mentioned foul play. He said at that time the death was still a mystery to him.

The Right Hon. Kim Campbell, then minister of defence, said that she was aware that there was an investigation going on from March 17. She knew this because she received a briefing note on that day. In that briefing note the death of the Somali was listed as perplexing and that Canadian forces had acted appropriately.

The Right Hon. Kim Campbell also knew from the same briefing book that Corporal Marchi had tried to kill himself because “he had roughed him up”, meaning Shidane Arone, “the truth was that he beat him to death”. It was not until March 30, 11 days later, that Kim Campbell learned that there was an investigation into the death.

Because the Somali inquiry was cut short, this has never been resolved. The result is that Canada's fine military has been dragged through the mud and still there is no resolution. The result is that Canadians have less faith in their public servants as Robert Fowler remains Canada's ambassador to the United Nations and Larry Murray has just been appointed assistant deputy minister in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and still there is no resolution.

The result is that Canadians do not know the true story and still there is no resolution. That is why we are here today. We are not here because the government all of a sudden cares about justice in the military but because the government made a mistake and it knows it made a mistake and now it wants to hide that mistake as best as possible.

That brings me to the second point that I outlined earlier. Did the government act in an appropriate way and does the bill address the need for change? I would like to refer to the words of one of Canada's most respected sons, Chief Justice Brian Dickson. In a speech given in November, 1997 Chief Justice Dickson said: “Something is drastically wrong when the public feels that its military is incompetent and led by an inept if not corrupt hierarchy”.

I do not bring up Chief Justice Dickson for no reason. In fact, Chief Justice Dickson is an important player in the making of the bill because much of what is in the bill stems from the recommendations made to the minister of defence in March, 1997 by a special advisory group chaired by Chief Justice Dickson. It is worth repeating the words of Chief Justice Dickson: “Something is drastically wrong when the public feels that its military is incompetent and led by an inept if not corrupt hierarchy”.

My party agrees with Chief Justice Dickson. There is something drastically wrong. Does the bill address the need for change? I just told the House I disagree with the way the bill arrived here. However, there is much in the bill that my party agrees with. The problem, however, is that when one tries to cover up something rather than address the real issues, as this government so often does, the result is very often inadequate.

Similarly, because the government is introducing the bill for the wrong reasons, it does not go far enough in addressing the real problems. Indeed the government missed an excellent opportunity to instil new confidence in the military. The government could have taken measures that would have truly made a difference, measures the Canadian public could point to and say “my government listened and I now have faith in the way the military operates”. The government did not listen. Instead it shut down an inquiry and stifled debate and now the Canadian public will feel cheated, and justifiably so.

The government feels proud when it says that it is fulfilling 80% of the recommendations of the Somalia inquiry. I want to make two points about this not so great accomplishment. First, the Somalia inquiry was cut short and so we do not know what the full recommendations would have been. Second, while the government thinks 80% is something to brag about, my party's answer to that is quality is far more important than mere quantity.

The Somalia inquiry commissioners recommended that the judge advocate general be a civilian. The government ignored this recommendation. The Somalia inquiry commissioners recommended that the office of the inspector general be created. The government ignored that recommendation as well.

My party proposed in our election platform last year and we maintain today that creating the office of an inspector general would be the best way to make the military both accountable and increase transparency to give the public more confidence in its armed forces.

We proposed in our platform let the future begin: “Establishing an inspector general for the armed forces to act as an ombudsman to address concerns which cannot be dealt with in a routine chain of command”.

In the government's response to the Somalia inquiry, a document that for one reason or another my party has not yet figured out, called “A Commitment to Change” the government turns down the proposed inspector general. In “A Commitment to Change” the government states that the commissioners themselves are confused and that introducing an inspector general of the kind that they envisioned would demand the very sort of counter-expert body the commissioners consider inappropriate in chapter 44 of the Somalia report.

My party has looked very closely at chapter 44 of the Somalia report and found one thing has nothing to do with the other. Chapter 44 is entitled “The Need for a Vigilant Parliament”. The chapter does not speak about the office of the inspector general but rather how to better inform Canadian parliamentarians.

In chapter 16 of “A Commitment to Change” the government misleads Canadians into believing the Somalia commissioners asked for an inspector general and then said in chapter 44 an inspector general was not needed. That is not the case, and the minister and the government know this very well.

If that was not clear enough, my colleague for Compton—Stanstead put forward a motion on November 29, 1997 at the defence and veterans affairs committee because he knew it was very important to clarify this precise issue.

I would like to read the motion that my colleague presented at that time: “That the committee invite the three Somalia commissioners to appear before this committee to speak on chapter 44 of the Somalia report, `The Need for a Vigilant Parliament”'.

I am sad to say this motion for the need for a vigilant Parliament was turned down. This is shameful behaviour on the part of this government. It ends an inquiry and misleads Canadians in its response to the inquiry. When the defence committee wants to have things clarified, as is its right, the motion is turned down.

This government does not want a vigilant Parliament because if Parliament were too vigilant this government might not get away with all its schemes. Is this why 80% of the recommendations of the Somalia inquiry do not include the recommendation for a detailed annual report to Parliament? Instead of listening to the recommendations made by the Somalia commissioners this government chose to follow the advice given by the Dickson special advisory group. What my party cannot accept is the way this government picks and chooses what recommendations to follow.

The government might want an example and this might surprise it. Recommendation 35 of the Dickson report, which has not made its way into this bill, calls for “an independent office of complaint review and system oversight such as a military ombudsman be established within the Canadian forces and that it report directly to the Minister of National Defence”.

The Somalia commissioners call it an inspector general. The Dickson report calls it an ombudsman. My party calls it an inspector general to act as an ombudsman. And still this government does not act. In the words of the Minister of Defence, the military does not need someone looking over its shoulder.

Why is this minister convinced that the Department of National Defence does not need an independent inspector general when experts who have studied for months and made recommendations to his department tell him he does need an inspector general?

Before I move on to my final points I want to tell this House about another recommendation made by the Somalia commissioners that did not make it into the government's 80%: “That the National Defence Act be amended to provide clearly that any individual in the Canadian forces or any civilian can lay a complaint with the military police without fear of reprisal and without having first to raise the complaint with the chain of command”.

This recommendation does not appear in the bill before us today because in “A Commitment to Change” it is written plainly this recommendation is not accepted.

If passed, will this bill work in a practical way? My party will ensure during the committee stage of this bill that we invite witnesses who can enlighten the committee. I hope the government does not interfere with this process.

It is my understanding that my colleague from Compton—Stanstead will put forward motions to invite the Somalia commissioners. They are experts and they have something to add to this bill. He will also want to hear from those who worked closely on the Dickson special advisory group. But that is not all. It will be important to hear from the Americans, the British, the French and other like-minded nations on the operation and success of their military justice systems. It will also be important to hear from the stakeholders, namely members of the Canadian forces.

This bill addresses the issue of military summary trials, that is, trials run by military officers with no legal training.

When being briefed by the Department of National Defence on this bill, my party asked what sort of training company commanders were given. The answer that there was no formal training astounded us. Although Chief Justice Dickson recommends a certification process that allows officers to hold summary trials, the issue is not addressed in this bill.

Through my colleague, my party will argue that this bill should go further to create real change. We want the public to know the military serves them and not itself. I hope the government takes my party's suggestions seriously.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The legislation is a comprehensive package of amendments that will strengthen the statutory framework governing the operations of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian forces. It deals primarily with the military justice system. The amendments proposed in the bill are the most extensive amendments to the National Defence Act since it was first put in place in 1950.

The men and women of our armed forces have maintained our defence forces at a high state of readiness in the face of many challenges. They have contributed with enthusiasm and professionalism to our wide range of international and domestic commitments. In the Saguenay, in Red River in Manitoba, in central, eastern and Atlantic Canada they have played a crucial role in protecting the health and the safety of Canadians.

During the recent ice storm, one of the worst natural disasters in our history, almost 16,000 members of the Forces provided relief to literally millions of Canadians who were without power.

They helped restore power, set up evacuation centres, assisted police and other emergency response teams and comforted people in need. Their very presence helped Canadians cope with the disaster and face it with added confidence and resolve. The Canadian forces demonstrated once again that it is truly a vital national institution. We and all Canadians have good reason to praise the dedication and the professionalism of these men and women.

We must also remember that the Canadian forces are an armed force trained for combat and requiring a distinct system of military justice. This requirement derives from the uniqueness of the Canadian forces' mandate, purposes and roles as well as special responsibilities and obligations to its members.

Military personnel may be required to risk injury or death in the performance of their duties. This puts a premium on the discipline and cohesion of military units. This operational reality has specific implications for military justice.

First, the Canadian forces require a justice system that can try offences against the ordinary law of Canada and offences that are unique to the military, such as mutiny or being absent without leave.

Second, the military chain of command which is accountable not only for the maintenance of discipline but for carrying out the missions assigned by the government, must play a key role in the administration of justice.

Third, the system must be able to try and punish violations quickly so that individuals can be returned to service as soon as possible.

Finally, the system needs to be portable so it can function wherever the forces are deployed in times of peace or conflict, either here in Canada or abroad.

Discipline is the lifeblood of any military organization. Whether in peace or war it spells the difference between military success and failure. It promotes effectiveness and efficiency. Its foundations are respect for leadership, appropriate training and a military justice system where equity and fairness are unquestionably clear to all.

In recent years however, the capacity of the military justice system to promote discipline, efficiency, high morale and justice has been called into question by a number of incidents. The government looked closely at these events and has acted decisively.

In March 1995 the Somalia commission was established and the commission brought us a great number of recommendations. Over 80% of those recommendations, including many on military justice, are being implemented. It has been asked what about the inspector general recommendation. It is here in other forms. There are other people responsible for the military justice system who will carry out those same functions. Indeed there will be independent monitoring, looking over the shoulders of the military to ensure that in fact they are implemented.

In December 1996 the government commissioned a special advisory group under the right hon. Brian Dickson, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. We asked him and his colleagues to assess the military justice system and the police investigation services.

The group reported on time and under budget. The minister of the day supported the recommendations in his report to the Prime Minister on the leadership and management of the forces of March 25, 1997. The Prime Minister endorsed early action on the recommendations and work began immediately to pursue their implementation.

The special advisory group was also asked to examine the quasi-judicial role of the minister in the military justice system. I am pleased to accept the recommendations it has made. They are also being implemented.

When the government saw that the military justice system was one of the key areas where change was needed, we took action. We sought advice from within the military, from the public at large and from distinguished Canadians with specialized knowledge. The amendments under Bill C-25 are a product of that process.

Bill C-25 addresses a broad range of provisions in the National Defence Act. It will modernize the provisions with respect to boards of inquiry. It will clarify the legislative authority and performance of public service duties by Canadian forces members such as those during the recent ice storm.

Bill C-25 is primarily about the modernization of the military justice system. The four principal thrusts of this initiative will first, establish in the National Defence Act for the first time, the roles and responsibilities of the key figures in the military justice system and set clear standards of institutional separation, a very important element, for the investigative, prosecutorial, defence and judicial functions.

Second, it will enhance transparency and provide greater structure to the exercise of individual discretion in the investigation and charging processes.

Third, it will modernize the powers and the procedures of service tribunals, including eliminating the death penalty under military law.

Fourth, it will strengthen, not weaken but strengthen, oversight and review of the administration of military justice.

Each component is a major building block in the revitalization of the Canadian military justice system.

Allow me to present a brief overview of each, so that the totality of the improvements are apparent.

The roles, responsibilities and duties of the key figures in the military are not precisely set out in the National Defence Act as it is presently constituted. This has led to a degree of uncertainty and misunderstanding about their respective functions and relationships in the overall process of delivering justice.

The amendments contained in Bill C-25 will establish in clear terms the duties and relationship between the prosecution, defence and judicial functions. The bill clearly defines the role of the judge advocate general as a legal adviser to the Governor General, the Minister of National Defence, the forces and the Department of National Defence in matters of military law.

The bill will establish the office of the director of military prosecutions who under the general supervision of the JAG will be responsible for deciding which charges are tried by courts martial and for the conduct of all prosecutions at a courts martial.

It will provide for the appointment of a director of defence counsel services who will provide legal services to accused persons in proceedings under the code of service discipline.

It will provide explicitly for independent military judges to be appointed by the governor in council for fixed terms.

Under the system as it now stands, the Minister of National Defence is also a key figure and plays an active role in the routine administration of individual cases under the code of service discipline. Bill C-25 will remove the minister from such day to day administration. This will reduce potential conflict of interest between the minister's duties in individual cases and the minister's responsibility for the overall management of the department and the Canadian forces. It will enable the minister to focus on other duties and responsibilities.

These amendments will also complement the recent initiative to establish the national investigative service of the military police. This organization will be independent of the operational chain of command and will have jurisdiction to investigate serious and sensitive service offences. They are people who are being well trained to carry out that function.

Bill C-25 will also improve the structure of the investigation and charging process and enhance transparency within that process. The current system has been criticized for its lack of transparency and for the broad discretion it gives to a commanding officer to make final decisions concerning not only minor offences but also serious and sensitive offences that may implicate interests well beyond his or her individual unit.

The amendments to the act will remove from commanding officers the power to dismiss charges. They will provide a clear statutory basis for tailoring the jurisdiction of summary trials to those minor offences necessary for the maintenance of internal unit discipline. They will also require that a charge that is beyond the jurisdiction of commanding officers is referred to the director of military prosecutions.

Changes to the act and to the regulatory administrative provisions dealing with investigations and charging of service offences will increase openness and refocus the exercise of individual discretion. At the same time they will ensure the valuable and essential participation of the chain of command in the process.

The amendments under Bill C-25 will also modernize powers and procedures associated with the two types of service tribunals that try military offences, summary trials and courts martial.

Reform of the summary trial process is already well under way. Amendments to the Queen's regulations and orders enacted on November 30, 1997 restrict the jurisdiction of summary trials to more minor offences that affect internal unit discipline. They also grant accused persons the right to elect trial by courts martial in all but the most minor cases.

In addition, commanding officers are being provided with more comprehensive training in their military justice duties and responsibilities.

Bill C-25 will complement those ongoing reforms of the summary trial process by reducing the powers of punishment at summary trial in keeping with its disciplinary focus.

The maximum period of detention that may be awarded at a summary trial will be reduced from 90 to 30 days. The power to reduce in rank will be limited to one rank below the rank held before the summary trial.

In respect of courts martial, they will deal with more serious offences and will be conducted in accordance with rules similar to those at a civilian criminal court.

Currently general and disciplinary courts martial are composed of a judge advocate who officiates at a panel of officers headed by a president. Even though the president and the officers and the panel are not required by the act to possess any legal training, they nonetheless make judicial decisions and determine sentences. Moreover, as it now stands, only commissioned officers can sit as members of general and disciplinary courts martial panels.

Bill C-25 will recognize the judicial nature of the courts martial. As such, it will eliminate the position of president of the courts martial panels. It will authorize the presiding military judge to make all decisions of a legal nature, contrary to what I was hearing earlier from a colleague opposite.

It will enable a military judge presiding at courts martial rather than the members of the court martial to determine the sentence. These people are well qualified to do that.

Moreover, Bill C-25 will permit a non-commissioned member of the rank of warrant officer or above to serve as a member of a general and disciplinary court martial when the accused is a non-commissioned member.

This participation, which is for the first time, will enable the Canadian forces to tap into the considerable wealth of experience and leadership offered by their senior non-commissioned members, men and women who also have a significant role to play in the disciplinary process.

We are moving to enhance accountability and transparency within the military justice system. Oversight and review mechanisms must be in place to ensure that day to day decisions are monitored effectively and are capable of being assessed.

Bill C-25 will establish two oversight bodies, both of which will be independent of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian forces.

The first is the military police complaints commission. Its mandate will be to receive and investigate complaints by any member concerning the conduct of military police in the performance of their duties.

It will also investigate complaints by military police about improper interference in their investigations by members of the Canadian forces and senior departmental officials. That is something that is not done in other police complaints commissions.

Second, the Canadian forces grievance board will make findings and recommendations on certain categories of grievances prior to their being referred to the chief of defence staff for final decision.

If any finding or recommendation of the grievance board is not acted upon, the chief of defence staff will be required to provide reasons in writing for not doing so.

In addition to these oversight bodies, Bill C-25 will impose new review and reporting requirements. The Minister of National Defence will be required to report to parliament on the operation of the act within five years of the amendments coming into force.

Moreover, the Canadian forces grievances board, the military police complaints commission and the judge advocate general will be required to report annually to parliament. This will provide a great deal of opportunity for oversight of many reports coming into the public forum for examination.

These measures will greatly enhance accountability, transparency and increased competence in the military justice system.

The proposed amendments contained in Bill C-25 are the most extensive in the history of the act. They will provide a more modern and effective statutory framework for the operations of the department and the Forces.

They will more closely align military justice processes with judicial processes applicable to other Canadians.

In conjunction with other elements of our comprehensive program of institutional change, these amendments will increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of our armed forces and enable the men and women of the Canadian forces, who do so much for us and do it so well, to do it all even better.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. Pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche, Courts in Campbellton; the hon. member for Kamloops, Health Care; and the hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington, Atomic Energy Control Board.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
REF

Leon Benoit

Reform

Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Lakeland, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a couple of questions stemming from the comments he made in his speech.

He said that the position of an independent inspector general, which was recommended by the Somalia inquiry, was not needed as a result of changes made by the legislation. I would like to ask him specifically how what was done in the legislation replaces the position of an independent inspector general laid out by the Somalia inquiry.

The minister proposed that there be an ombudsman. That was also recommended in the report of Somalia inquiry, as well as in other reports. The position recommended in the Somalia and other reports called for an independent ombudsman. The one being proposed by the minister is not independent. However it is notable that the position of ombudsman is nowhere in the legislation.

Has the minister gone as far as he is going to go in this area, or will he implement a position of ombudsman? Again, could he explain where the rather phantom independent inspector general is in the legislation?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. It gives me an opportunity to say that the functions he proposes in terms of an inspector general are covered in other positions, not just in terms of the legislation but also in other provisions that are being made by the government.

In the legislation, as I have mentioned already, there is the grievance board and the police complaints commission. There is an ombudsman who indeed will be independent. It will not be someone who reports to the chain of command or who is part of the chain of command. The person will be independent and will be from outside the Canadian forces. When a report is issued, the report can be examined by parliament, can be examined by the committee which is a part of the parliamentary process and does such things. It will be fully available and open to scrutiny and examination.

That I call accountability and transparency. It addresses the issue of the examination of what is going on in the military.

I am not afraid to have people looking over the shoulders of the military. I said that we did not need an additional person to do that when we already have the functions covered. They are covered by the ombudsman, by the grievance board and by the police complaints commission. There is also a chief of review services who does a lot of work in examining what the chain of command has authorized, what it is carrying out and whether it is being carried out within the mandate and is being done in a proper fashion.

A very substantial overview will happen not only as a result of these amendments but of decisions of the government to implement oversight mechanisms to make the Canadian forces all the more accountable to parliament.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
PC

Peter MacKay

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC)

Mr. Speaker, on March 12 there was a press release from the minister's department announcing that Jerry Pitzul was the new judge advocate general. This appointment seems to exactly hit on what the minister is looking for. It has the element of a civilian and the element of a former military person.

I understand Mr. Pitzul has been out of the military since 1995 when he took on a position with the Nova Scotia government as director of the public prosecution service. It now appears he is being brought back into the military with a new rank, a raise in pay and new responsibilities.

He is praised in this release as being an extremely competent man. Was an appraisal done of his performance in the province of Nova Scotia? It speaks of his immense experience in Nova Scotia but the man never tried a case there.

I ask the minister if there is any beginning to the wisdom of this latest appointment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton

Mr. Speaker, given that the hon. member once worked for him—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
PC
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton

He fired him. Yes, that is true. I guess if you get fired you do not particularly like the person who fired you. Well, too bad. Perhaps he had good reason to do that; I am sure he did. I guess it does not hurt members who get fired because they get elected to the House of Commons.

Mr. Pitzul has considerable experience in the military. He spent most of his legal career in the military. He has been a judge. He has occupied other positions that have given him a great deal of information, knowledge and understanding of the military justice system. On top of that, he now has experience from outside having gone to Nova Scotia and having performed duties in a civilian role in that province. That adds to the depth and experience he brings to this position. It also shows that we are willing to bring in new blood, to bring in people from the outside and to make reforms in the military justice system.

I know that the new judge advocate general, Mr. Pitzul, will do that and do it well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We have one minute for a question and one minute for a response so that we can get them both in.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned that 80% of the Somalia inquiry recommendations were being implemented in Bill C-25. The minister shut down the Somalia inquiry so 80% may not be an accurate figure.

The inquiry was not allowed to complete its work because the government shut it down. That 80% figure is probably a bit erroneous. Even so, the 20% the government chose not to implement includes some of the most important things that could be done for the Canadian Armed Forces including the implementation of an inspector general.

I will ask the minister directly one specific question about reducing the sentence for mutiny. In this country mutiny can be very serious. The minister has pointed out that we require a strong military system for good order and discipline. Where is the wisdom in the government that would see a sentence for mutiny reduced to 14 years where we are dealing with heavy expensive equipment like CF-18 aircraft and we—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The minister of defence.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton

Mr. Speaker, let me comment about the Somalia commission of inquiry. We are implementing over 80% of the recommendations.

The member talks about the other 20%. We are by and large implementing all the recommendations. We have different ways of implementing some. We do not agree with every letter of every recommendation. We have a different way, a preferable way of implementing but the spirit and intent of just about all recommendations are being implemented, not necessarily all by the legislation but certainly by government action in many different respects.

The inspector general is a good example because it will come into the 20%. I have said that all those functions are covered. We have covered them with other positions.

On the question of mutiny, all these changes are to bring about a legal system that is in accordance with modern day legal practices, akin to what is happening in civilian courts and takes into account the charter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
NDP

Louise Hardy

New Democratic Party

Ms. Louise Hardy (Yukon, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is very impressive that the minister is willing to overhaul the whole institution, in particular when it comes to justice.

As he said, we expect every soldier to be willing to give his or her life so why on earth should we hold them to another code of conduct and a whole other code of justice than what we would hold ourselves accountable to? I think this is important. What is wrong with our own courts? Why on earth can we not have our justice system deal with our military so that they can count on our justice system if they are going to give their lives for us?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton

I thank the hon. member for the question. By tradition there is a separate military justice system because of the nature of dealing with matters swiftly.

As I emphasized in my remarks, discipline and cohesion are very important because not only can what some of our soldiers do threaten their own lives, it can threaten the lives of other people who are part of the team they are working with. It is important to be able to deal with these matters for that reason very swiftly. In some cases they may be abroad at the time. They may be involved in war or peacekeeping in other parts of the world and so it is necessary to have a portable system, have a system that can operate in a very swift fashion in terms of the military justice system.

The Supreme Court of Canada has indicated there is justification and a need for a separate military justice system. What we are attempting to do is to bring it as close as possible to the civilian system so that indeed the charter and the questions of fairness and equity within the judicial system will be there for the soldiers as much as they are for the civilians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
REF

Jim Hart

Reform

Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Okanagan—Coquihalla to speak on Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act. The act represents the government's attempt to respond to the failings of the military justice system which became so evident to all Canadians during the Somalia inquiry.

Canada has an obligation to protect its interests both internationally and domestically. This frequently involves committing military resources which is a task that is becoming increasingly difficult for the underfunded, undertrained and under-equipped Canadian Armed Forces.

I would like to stress that this statement is in no way an attack on the good men and women who serve our country. I would like to put it in complete context by telling the House, and telling Canadians, that I served in the Canadian Armed Forces. I served five years in the regular armed forces with the navy on three Canadian destroyers, the HMCS Gatineau , the HMCS Yukon and the HMCS Qu'Appelle . Later in life I also served in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve.

I come to this debate with a little knowledge regarding the forces. I see you also, Mr. Speaker, have served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and maybe other members have too. I think there is a strong feeling that the military is very important to Canadians. It certainly is to me and it is not lightly that I enter the debate on Bill C-25.

Many people in eastern Canada had to do little more than to look out their windows recently to see the dedicated men and women of the armed forces in action. Operation Recuperation had more than 12,000 military personnel deployed in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to assist in humanitarian relief operations.

Floods in the Red River Valley also highlighted the important role of our military forces and how they help with domestic problems in Canada. Recently, internationally, we see unrest in the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo which has Canada and the United States considering the sending of more troops to that region. Currently, Canada has some 1,300 troops located in Bosnia. Recently we sent a small contingent to the Persian Gulf.

In my history as a member of Parliament and as a military person, most recently I have seen the good work of the Canadian Armed Forces internationally in Bosnia in 1994 where we had reserve members and regular force members. They do Canadians proud each and every day of the week.

Just last week, as a matter of fact, we saw Her Majesty's Canadian ship, the Okanagan , a submarine located in Halifax, rescue two men who had drifted out to sea in the Bahamas after the motor of their fishing boat gave out. I congratulate the entire crew of the HMCS Okanagan for a job well done.

The men and women of our armed forces do a wonderful job and they deserve the support of this government for their hard work and dedication. However, members of the Canadian Armed Forces do not have the commitment from this government that they need to do their jobs. Spending cuts have decimated the Department of National Defence since the Liberals took power in 1993. In the last five years, the department's budget has dropped from approximately $11 billion to just over $9 billion. This has dramatically reduced the readiness and capability of the forces.

As I said earlier, the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces do their best with whatever they have and they have been able to complete their tasks, no thanks to this government and this Liberal administration.

Cuts to the defence budget have lowered the standard of living of lower ranks to near poverty levels. They have cut the number of personnel to below minimum levels and have reduced training to below minimum requirements. In fact, I have introduced a private member's bill that will seek to address the substantial training deficits faced by our reserve forces in Canada. This bill will entitle reservists employed by the federal government and crown corporations a period not to exceed two months annually for the purpose of training or serving in the Canadian reserve force.

Presently, reservists have been forced to use their own hard-earned vacation time to attend training courses. This is just not right when they could be sent away to do the government's bidding and the government's will. We need to make some concessions in our system for those reservists, those citizen soldiers who work so hard for us. This is certainly a tremendous sacrifice for them and their families. Therefore, I encourage every member of the House to show their support for the fine work of our armed forces reserve and support this bill when it comes to this House on Monday.

The Somalia inquiry exposed very serious deficiencies within the military justice system. As I looked through one of the many volumes from the Somalia inquiry, volume 5, it just highlights some of the problems that the Somalia commissioners found when they were involved in that massive review of the military justice system: too few military police and military police with inappropriate skills; commanding officers slow to call in the military police; guidelines for calling investigations not followed; guidelines not followed when it comes to summary investigations; witnesses' statements not taken correctly; conflict of interest; problems in military investigations; lack of co-operation when people were interviewed by military police; difficulty investigating superior officers because of the chain of command in the military—military police had a lot of difficulty with that— and influence of commanding officers over investigations.

The volumes and volumes of books that we have and still not complete point out the true problems that we have in the military justice system. We have to try to get to the heart of those problems: problems surrounding the murder of a Somalia civilian; the cover-up of the murder; the failure of the general staff and the government to hold anyone accountable for their actions or omissions; the cultural secrecy within the Department of National Defence; and the double standards in the military justice system all became very evident during the Somalia inquiry.

If this Liberal government was really concerned about our troops and our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces, it would have let the commissioners of inquiry complete their work and finish the recommendations instead of just coming up with 80% of the problem completely solved. I do not think that is fair to our men and women in the forces. They deserve much better.

The amendments in Bill C-25 give the appearance of an attempt to address problems with the military and the justice system, yet the amendments do not address all the concerns expressed by the commissioners in their incomplete report. In fact, they actually add a whole new set of problems to the military justice system.

The first problem is that the bill creates more bureaucracy. If there is one thing the Canadian Armed Forces does not need, it is more levels of bureaucracy. We have more military personnel located in Ottawa in a bureaucratic function than we have on the pointed edge of the army in actual military roles. There are more bureaucrats here for the Canadian Armed Forces and this bill will add more bureaucracy to that already top heavy system. That is not good enough.

The military police complaints commissioners is created. That sounds fine. The problem is it is going to create seven more order in council appointments. I think Canadians are pretty fed up with order in council appointments. We would like to see a system where they appoint more people who are fully qualified and have the background, not more patronage appointments that we saw this week in the Senate chamber. We do not want to see more of that here and this department creates seven more order in council appointments. It is unbelievable. What we need in this system of military justice is openness, accountability and independence, not a more complex system.

Another problem is with the office of the judge advocate general. Currently the judge advocate general wears three hats. He is responsible for investigative, prosecutorial and judicial functions of the system. One office is responsible for the military police who investigate the potential violations for the prosecutors who prosecute the cases and for the legal officers who may preside over courts martial that may result. It is not hard to understand that the JAG may find himself in a conflict of interest in these duties.

In the days leading up to the murder of Shidane Arone, the judge advocate general was actively involved in providing the executive staff of the Department of National Defence with daily legal advice. You have a person offering the chief of defence staff the military command, the military hierarchy, legal advice when he would only weeks later be expected to oversee the military justice system that was going to prosecute people. So you can see there is a conflict of interest.

Nowhere was this conflict more evident than in the Somalia affair where the JAG was providing from the start legal advice to the minister, the deputy minister and the military police. He did provide that judicial advice to his military trial judge division. Clearly judicial responsibility should be removed from the JAG branch. The judicial function must be seen as independent and clearly this cannot happen when the JAG is appointed directly by the chief of defence staff.

The other problem with the judge advocate general being of military background is that he is always beholden to the person who appoints him. There is only one person who can do that. That is the chief of defence staff. He is offering him legal advice. He is also very thankful that he received this appointment. It is a difficult position to put anyone in and they should change that system so there is more independence.

The third problem with this bill is the failure to create the inspector general which was recommended by the Somalia inquiry. The inspector general would receive information from all sources, investigate complaints of corruption, abuse and mismanagement. We could give you many examples of why this is important.

The other day during question period my colleague for Lakeland brought a case forward where the inspector general had actually sent a letter to a person intimidating that person regarding a committee that was being heard. That is why an inspector general is so important. What are people who are intimidated by the office of the judge advocate general to do? Where are they to go? The problem is that they have nowhere to go at all.

If they have an inspector general who works as an ombudsman for men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces who find themselves in this particular situation where they are being attacked or being told to keep quiet about a certain situation that is happening on a base, we want to know about that in this House. That is why an independent inspector general is so very important to a military justice system that is going to carry us through the 20th century.

The inspector general would also advise the minister concerning ethical interests including conflict of interest. This office must be filled by a civilian. This would be the mechanism for ensuring civilian control of the military system. This is a fundamental principle of Canadian society.

Another problem with this bill is clause 28 and the reduction of the penalty for mutiny without violence. The reduction is from a maximum of life imprisonment to 14 years. Clearly this change could dramatically affect the relationship between the ranks which is vital to good military order. The minister acknowledged that himself. We need a strong military justice system for the good order and discipline of our troops. One of the key reasons for that is that there is no other department in Canada where we ask our troops to put their lives on the line, that they may actually have to die for their country.

We have frigates in the Canadian Armed Forces that are worth millions of dollars. We have CF-18s that are also worth millions of dollars. What would happen if internally within Canada there was a situation where a group of military personnel for one reason or another decided they were going to do away with a couple of those CF-18s and move them elsewhere?

A term of 14 years is not enough. This is not nearly enough to ensure that we have good order and discipline in the Canadian Armed Forces. It should be a life sentence and there is no question about it.

Canada is a nation that recognizes its obligations both internationally and domestically. The ice storm, the Manitoba flood, Bosnia and the recent mission of the submarine Okanagan all demonstrate to Canadians what a wonderful job the men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces do.

Yet we find this Liberal government has shown it is no friend to the Canadian Armed Forces or people with military service. The government has demonstrated this quite clearly through spending cuts. In 1993 it dramatically reduced the readiness and capability of our forces.

We had a chief of defence staff, Boyle, who said to the international community in Brussels that our Canadian Armed Forces could not meet the readiness capability of going into battle. Exactly what we have a Canadian Armed Forces for is to make sure it can protect our interests and our sovereignty at home and abroad. Yet we do not have a military that is at that level, according to a former chief of defence staff.

The reductions this government has imposed have hurt the Canadian Armed Forces. This does not stop the Liberal government from sending our troops into potentially dangerous areas like Bosnia, the Persian gulf or Kosovo. As a matter of fact when the Prime Minister thinks it might help his political points by sending more troops to Rwanda or other places, even though we do not have the troops to fill that need, the Prime Minister makes a commitment anyway. We all know the result of that was just a bunch of hot air. Those in the military circles knew very well we could not have met the commitment the Prime Minister made.

The government has now introduced Bill C-25 to deal with the problems created by the Somalia inquiry. However the changes in this bill fail to address the fundamental root of the problem, that the government, not the men and women in the forces and not the forces itself, but the government has failed to provide openness and accountability in our Canadian Armed Forces.

Recommendations of the Somalia inquiry continue to be ignored by the government. The government has done our armed forces no favours whatsoever. It has allowed a cloud to hang over the military by shutting down the Somalia inquiry when it was just getting to the root of the problem. True things were coming out. But the government felt it was in danger itself of being tainted with some of the things that were going on during the investigative process.

I strongly support substantive changes to the military justice system. I believe that Canadians also support changes to the military justice system. However, any changes must address the issues of accountability, openness and independence within the Canadian forces. Changes must, for me to support them, include an inspector general.

The Canadian people will be watching this government and the decisions it makes on this very important issue. Canadians condemn the Liberal government for interfering with the inquiry and turning a blind eye to the destruction of evidence and the intimidation of witnesses.

The problems are at the top with politicians; let us make that very clear, they are right here on the front bench across the way. It is not with the lowest ranking members of the Canadian Armed Forces who serve with the willingness to put their lives on the line for those very people in the front row opposite. No, it is not with members of the forces. It is with them across the way.

The government now has the opportunity to address the problems. We will be watching very closely on behalf of the men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces. We will be watching on behalf of all Canadians to make sure that the changes to the justice system that are required for our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces are the proper ones.

We will be putting forward many amendments on this bill. The way it stands right now, we cannot support this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink
REF

Leon Benoit

Reform

Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Lakeland, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, earlier I heard the minister tell us that the role of the independent inspector general that was so very vigorously proposed in the Somalia inquiry and by others was found in his legislation or in something yet to come. It was not completely clear from his answer. The member who has just spoken has indicated that the minister has created a new bureaucracy and several new patronage appointment opportunities for his Liberal friends. The minister has not in fact put in place someone or a group who would perform the function of that independent inspector general.

I ask the member which is it. Is it what the minister says, that the position is covered in these changes or is it not? Is what has been created a new bureaucracy?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Defence Act
Permalink

March 19, 1998