05 May 2012

Forces Barred from Benefit Debate: CDS

UPDATE:  The release below was written on 24 September 2010, in the lead up to the first Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest.  The Office of the Chief of Defence Staff had advised the Forces members might face criminal charges if they participated.

In light of Cpl. Steve Stoesz's being charged for speaking out on DND's plans to scale back mental health services, I thought it would be a good time to re-post. - JRM

Forces Barred from Benefit Debate: CDS

While politicians wrangle over support for disabled veterans, future beneficiaries are banned from the debate.  Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are forbidden to comment on the programs designed to assist them when they are injured.  Flying in the face of sensible policy development and common sense, disability benefits are arranged without input from future stakeholders.

According to the Chief of Defence Staff, soldiers may not even express an opinion.  In an email obtained by ourduty.org, CDS Staff Officer Major Raymond Farrell explained “No member of the CF, including the CDS, may give the impression, even unintentionally, that he is taking sides on an issue before parliament.”  Doing so could result in disciplinary action - up to and including charges under the Nation Defence Act - for conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.  With this threat, the Canadian Armed Forces are effectively muzzled.

Public consultation is farcical when the public cannot comment.  If the Forces cannot even accidentally hint something is good or bad for fear of prison, then committees will never get meaningful input.  Parliament will implement any benefit program it wishes; the troops cannot object. 

Worse than that, Forces personnel must support any such program, right or wrong.  In that same email, the CDS office states, “Nor may [a soldier] embarrass the Government of Canada.”  Troops are barred from participating in rallies, protests, or political activity.  A subsequent message from Major Farrell indicated that Forces staff could face charges even if the participant was off duty and out of uniform.  There’s no escape from these heavy-handed laws.  Requesting that personnel be granted release to follow their conscience as civilians, an appeal to Chief of Defence Staff, General Natynchuk, resulted in the answer, “the CDS will not make an exception either way.”

These directives ensure not only that Forces will not be consulted, but that they must support any plan developed.  In this case of take-it-and-like-it, the message from the CDS is clear: Shut Up, Soldier!

By Jeff Rose-Martland, founder of OurDuty.org 

NOTE: The above released prompted John Ivison of the National Post to pontificate on the essential reason for the laws as they stand. My response can be found here.



Forces personnel are subject to the National Defence Act AND the Queens Rules & Orders.  Both address the issue of speaking out.

National Defence Act

S129. (1) Any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline is an offence and every person convicted thereof is liable to dismissal with disgrace from Her Majesty’s service or to less punishment.

Queens Rules and Orders

 (1) No officer or non-commissioned member shall make remarks or pass criticism tending to bring a superior into contempt...

(2) No officer or non-commissioned member shall do or say anything that:

(a) if seen or heard by any member of the public, might reflect discredit on the Canadian Forces or on any of its members; or
(b) if seen by, heard by or reported to those under him, might discourage them or render them dissatisfied with their condition or the duties on which they are employed.

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