Section 9.2 of the National Defence Act (NDA) states:
(1) The Judge Advocate General has the superintendence of the administration of military justice in the Canadian Forces.
(2) The Judge Advocate General shall conduct, or cause to be conducted, regular reviews of the administration of military justice.
But what is actually meant by “superintendence of military justice”? In light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Canadian Forces (CF), and the appointment of a new JAG, perhaps this is an appropriate time to reflect on what is meant by this expression and what, precisely, is the nature of the function assigned to the JAG.
In her inaugural address, the new JAG, Commodore Bernatchez, emphasized the importance that the Office of the JAG maintain and strengthen its relevance in the Canadian Forces (CF). In light of the significant actions that are being taken by CF leadership in relation to Op HONOUR, the JAG’s superintendence of military justice and the relevance of the role of the Office of the JAG take on significant proportions.
The current received wisdom in the Office of the JAG appears to be that ‘military justice’ equates, roughly, to the Code of Service Discipline. The Deputy Judge Advocate General-Military Justice (DJAG MJ) is generally tasked with providing research, analysis, and legal policy advice regarding various aspects of the application of the Code of Service Discipline, military justice at the summary trial level, courts martial, and similar issues. However, is it accurate or proper to draw this rough approximation?
In the article that is linked to this post, I propose that equating ‘military justice’ to the ‘Code of Service Discipline’ is incorrect and artificially narrows the JAG’s responsibilities, to the detriment of the true application of military justice. While an expansive examination of the division of responsibilities within the Office of the JAG lies beyond the scope of this blog article, it does suggest that, perhaps, a re-evaluation of the JAG’s role might ensure that ‘justice prevails’ in the broader administration of the affairs of the Canadian Forces, thereby rejuvenating the relevance of the Office of the JAG.
My article suggests that ‘superintendence of military justice’ actually empowers the JAG to ensure that the rule of law is observed in the broader administration of the affairs of the CF, including the Code of Service Discipline, but also extending beyond this subject. The current application of policies under Op HONOUR provides a useful litmus test to establish whether the JAG is truly superintending military justice in this broader sense. If the JAG, and the Office of the JAG, does not step up to this role, other National Defence actors might fill that capability gap.