EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see corrections made to this article at bottom of page
In a statement released mid afternoon, Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, Judge Advocate General, today, issued the following statement:
“Earlier today, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service laid charges against the Chief Military Judge.
“Today’s announcement serves to remind us that, as in the civilian justice system, no one is above the law. All Canadian Armed Forces members, regardless of their rank or position, remain subject to the Code of Service Discipline.
“As in all cases, the subject of charges is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“I will not comment on the specifics of this case, which is not yet before the court.
“I will however, comment on the capacity of our military justice system to handle this type of unprecedented situation.
“As the Judge Advocate General for the Canadian Armed Forces, it is my duty to oversee the administration of military justice. I can assure you that the military justice system has the appropriate mechanisms to deal with this exceptional situation, fairly and in accordance with the law.
“The military justice system is an important part of the Canadian legal system and is specifically recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to which it is subject.
According to the National Defence website, Colonel Mario Dutil is listed as the Chief Military Judge.
Colonel Dutil, originally from Quebec City, is a graduate of Université Laval Law School. He was called to the Quebec Bar in 1983. In 1995, Colonel Dutil obtained a Master of Law degree from the University of Ottawa.
Colonel Dutil joined the Canadian Forces as a legal officer in the Office of the Judge Advocate General in March 1984 and has been employed in various positions throughout his military career including as a Deputy Judge Advocate in both Europe and Valcartier, Quebec. He further held positions at the director level within the Office of the Judge Advocate General and the Office of the Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces Legal Advisor. In 1997 Colonel Dutil was assigned as a senior counsel to the National Defence Act Amendment Team where he participated in the development, drafting and implementation of amendments to the National Defence Act and accompanying regulations. As a legal officer, Colonel Dutil has also acted as prosecutor and defence counsel before courts martial and appeared as counsel before the Court Martial Appeal Court. The Governor in Council appointed him a military judge in January 2001.
The Governor in Council has designated Colonel Mario Dutil the Chief Military Judge on 2 June 2006.
The statement from Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez goes on to say, “We ask the women and men of our Armed Forces to conduct activities with discipline and effectiveness, and to deploy around the globe at a moment’s notice. Parliament and the Supreme Court have consistently recognized that there is a need for separate tribunals to enforce special disciplinary standards in the military.
“Today’s announcement of charges by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service against the Chief Military Judge presents unique challenges for the Canadian military justice system. As the Judge Advocate General in charge of overseeing this system, I am fully confident that we have the processes in place to deal with the current circumstances fairly, and in accordance with the law.
“I have every confidence that all actors of the military justice system will continue to perform their duties in a fair, independent and impartial manner. And as in the civilian system, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
According to the National Defence website, http://www.forces.gc.ca
The Office of the Chief Military Judge (CMJ) is an independent, special entity, Level 1 (L1) organization of the Department of National Defence (DND) established in 1997. This Office is not part of the chain of command for reasons of judicial independence. Its personnel include military judges, the Court Martial Administrator and the Deputy Court Martial Administrator, military and civilian court-clerk reporters and technical, financial, human resource and administrative support. The CMJ is appointed by the Governor in Council and is designated as an officer having the power and jurisdiction of an officer commanding a command.
The role of the Office of the CMJ is to fulfill its statutory and regulatory obligations, which are:
To provide military judges to preside at courts martial and perform other judicial duties under the National Defence Act;
Administer the convening of courts martial, the appointment of panel members of General Courts Martial, and the provision of court reporting services and transcription of the proceedings of courts martial and other judicial hearings; and
Military judges may, with the concurrence of the CMJ, be appointed as a board of inquiry.
The Court Martial Administrator, who acts under the general supervision of the CMJ, convenes courts martial in respect of charges that have been preferred by the Director of Military Prosecutions. In the case of General Courts Martial, the Court Martial Administrator appoints their members. The Court Martial Administrator issues summonses to witnesses and manages the L1 organization.
Military judges speak to a number of internal and external audiences, including venues such as lectures delivered to universities and participation in the Gale Cup Moot competition. All military judges are active members of the Canadian Bar Association Judges’ Forum and the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2010-11, the military judges participated in National Judicial Institute courses, the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges and the Canadian Bar Association Judge’s Forum.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story included a photo in error and has been removed. We apologize for the oversight. Also, the word ‘criminal’ was included in the headline regarding the charges. Dutil was charged under the National Defence Act relating to fraud, as follows:
1 count of an act of a fraudulent nature
1 count of willfully making a false entry in a document
1 count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline
Saultonline sincerely regrets these errors.