Ombudsman Writes to Minister Regarding Unfairness in Canadian Forces Redress of Grievance Process

February 10, 2011

The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
13th Floor, North Tower
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0K2

Dear Minister MacKay:

I am writing to you concerning my May 18, 2010 special report entitled The Canadian Forces Grievance Process: Making it Right for Those Who Serve.

One of my key findings in that report was that the Canadian Forces redress of grievance process, as it currently operates, is fundamentally unfair to the men and women of the Canadian Forces in that the Chief of the Defence Staff does not have the authority to grant monetary compensation to resolve a legitimate grievance. You advised me after you received a copy of this report that you had asked a working group to study this issue.

As you are aware, the Ombudsman’s Office was not the first to identify this unfairness. Former Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, made a similar recommendation in 2003 during his review of amendments to the National Defence Act.

After the publication of my report, your spokesman, Mr. Dan Dugas, was quoted on May 19, 2010 in the Ottawa Sun as saying that any changes to allow the Chief of the Defence Staff to award monetary compensation under the redress of grievance process would require  “legislated amendments.” On May 28, 2010, I wrote to you advising that I hoped that all avenues to address this unfairness would be reviewed by your department, as amendments to legislation may be unnecessary and complicated.

On June 16, 2010, you introduced Bill C-41, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, in the House of Commons. In introducing this Bill, you announced that it contained recommendations made in the 2003 Lamer Report. I note that, despite your comments, no amendments clarifying the Chief of the Defence Staff’s authority to award compensation in the redress of grievance process was contained in Bill C-41.

You further advised me by letter dated July 26, 2010, that it was too early for you to provide me with any  “substantive comments” to your review of my recommendations. I have not had any correspondence from you on this subject since that date. However, I understand that the  “working group” has completed its review. My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions amongst senior officials at the Department of National Defence but, to date, there has been no option identified or decision made to address this longstanding issue.

Bill C-41 is currently under review by the Standing Committee on National Defence. I read with interest your testimony before the Committee on February 7, 2011. In response to a specific question concerning the recommendation that the Chief of the Defence Staff be given the authority to settle financial claims during the grievance process, and why it had not yet been implemented, you stated that while some of the recommendations were in legislation that the other recommendations  “can be implemented by the chain or command.”   

Given that Bill C-41 is currently before Committee, and since I have not had any concrete response from you as to what measures will be taken internal to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces in order to clarify the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff in that regard, I intend to provide the Committee with my views on this matter and how this unfairness can be resolved in favour of the men and women of the Canadian Forces.

I thank you for your continued support of my Office.

Yours truly,

Pierre Daigle

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