Supreme Court of Canada rules on military members' right to be tried by a jury

Date Closed

July 26, 2019

Lead Office

Toronto

On July 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that military members charged with civilian crimes don’t have the right to be tried by a jury if they are tried in the military justice system.

Several military members accused of serious crimes and facing trials without juries in the military justice system sought to be tried by a jury, claiming that this was guaranteed under Section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of Canada’s Constitution. Their stance was based on an argument that the "military exception" to Section 11(f) should only apply to military-specific crimes, not crimes that could be committed by any civilian. The military prosecutors disagreed and argued that the "military exception" should apply to all service offences, whether they were civilian crimes or not. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada gave two conflicting rulings in separate but similar cases, and the matter was heard before the SCC.

The SCC ruled that military members could be tried for civilian crimes without juries, and in doing so reinforced the military exception to Section 11(f).

McCarthy Tétrault acted for Advocates for the Rule of Law (ARL) as interveners in this case with a team led by Adam Goldenberg that included Emilie Bruneau, Erich Schultze, and Sarah Ferguson.

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