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  • Military Law | Canada’s System of Justice

Military Law | Canada’s System of Justice

Laws regulate the affairs of every individual, business or government. Laws also impose standards of conduct. The supreme law of Canada is contained in the Constitution. There are three types of law: common law (judicial decisions), statutory law and the exercise of executive authority through Crown Prerogative. Statutes are the most important type.

Military law is validated in Canada’s Constitution in a separate system of justice. The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over military law. The National Defence Act, Queen’s Regulations and Orders, and The Code of Service Discipline are the regulatory means by which the federal government exerts civil control over its military and ensures that Canadian social values and standards of conduct are maintained within military culture.

Military law aims to promote good order, discipline, efficiency and morale in military servicemen and women under command and control. Military members are liable and responsible for their conduct under military law for various provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada. Military members bear unlimited liability, prolonged operational absences, frequent relocation, and family upheaval in education, health care, employment and support.

Prosecutions of military members take place at summary trial, court martial, and in civil court. Appellate courts are the Courts Martial Appeal Court and the Supreme Court of
Canada. The Federal Court of Canada and the provincial superior courts have authority to provide judicial review. These civilian institutions are, in effect, supervising the military justice system.

International law intersects with military law by regulating agreements between states, acting as a standard of conduct in naval, land and air operations, and influencing the law of armed conflict.

Military administrative law ensures that military decision makers act appropriately and within their authority when making decisions about a service member’s interests. Such decisions must conform to natural justice and the duty to be fair. A lack of fairness by a superior can seriously undermine cohesion, morale and discipline of subordinates and impact adversely on unit effectiveness.

Military administrative law applies to unit investigations, summary investigations, boards of inquiry, liability for public or non-public property, access to information and privacy, career action, remedial measures (initial counseling, recorded warning, and counselling and probation), personnel evaluation reports, release proceedings, pension benefits, and various legal proceedings.

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