Canada’s Chief Military Judge, Col. Mario Dutil, was slammed with three charges today related to offences that took place between Nov. 2014 and Oct. 2015.
Col. Dutil faces one count of an act of a fraudulent nature; one count for willfully making a false entry in a document signed by him that was required for an official purpose; and one count of Conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.
The charges have been laid against the Chief Military Judge by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Services after, according to the Canadian Press, an investigation was launched in 2015 in response to allegations Dutil was in a relationship with a service member. Although the relationship is said to have been consensual, it was prohibited according to military rules.
“Independent of the chain of command in policing matters, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service contributes to the maintenance of operational readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence by impartially investigating reported instances brought to our attention. Rank or appointment plays no factor in investigating the facts of the matter. We respect the judicial process and thoroughly investigate through gathering the facts, analyzing the evidence, and when appropriate, laying applicable charges,” said LCol. Kevin Cadman, Commanding Officer, Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
Dutil is said to be the first person to be charged while serving as chief military judge. Because the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) court-martial system works independently of the CAF, the chief military judge is designated by the Governor in Council. The chief military judge is responsible for assigning military judges to preside at court-martial and perform other judicial duties under the National Defence Act.
“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,” said Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, Judge Advocate General.
Bernatchez maintains that as in all cases, Dutil is presumed innocent until proven guilty. She goes on to say in her statement released today:
“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.”
Because this is a special case, to ensure fairness and that there is no bias a prosecutor outside the office of JAG, under the Director Military Prosecutions, will be brought in. The case will not proceed to a court-martial until this independent prosecutor determines that there is enough evidence and public interest to proceed.
In the meantime, Col. Dutil cannot be removed from his duties as the chief military judge, unlike other members of the CAF. He can only be removed by the Governor in Council following recommendations made by the Military Judges Inquiry Committee.
Col. Dutil, originally from Quebec City, is a graduate of the Université Laval Law School. He was called to the Quebec Bar in 1983 and joined the CAF as a legal officer in March 1984. He has served in a number of legal positions within the military throughout his career. The Governor Council appointed him as a military judge in January 2001. He has been serving as the Chief Military Judge since June 2006.