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Military facing challenges as court-martial system remains in limbo

Written by on July 11, 2019

OTTAWA — Canadian military police and prosecutors are being forced to adapt as they wait for the Supreme Court to rule on whether the military-justice system is constitutional.

That includes having to weigh which charges to lay in new cases and proceeding with lesser charges or dropping them altogether for some pre-existing cases.

The changes follow a lower court’s bombshell ruling last fall that found military tribunals are not the same as a trial by jury for serious civilian offences such as murder and sexual assault.

Military prosecutors appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments from both sides in March, but has yet to issue its own decision on the matter.

Military officials say 40 cases in the system before the lower court’s ruling have been affected, including several where charges were changed or cases were referred to civilian authorities, and three that were dropped entirely.

Military police are also facing harder decisions on what charges to lay in new cases as the military-justice system cannot try serious cases and the civilian one doesn’t usually deal with military-specific charges like insubordination.

The Canadian Press