Despite being warned what they were doing was potentially illegal and punishable by imprisonment, top military officers failed to disclose important documents under the Access to Information law, the National Post can reveal.
The military officials claimed an internal report highlighting problems with the court martial system didn’t exist — even though there were electronic and paper copies of the draft document.
However, other officers were so worried about the ethical and legal issues that they alerted the highest level — with the office of Canada’s top soldier, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, being warned that such a response was “potentially unlawful.”
Details about the 2017 incident have emerged just a month after an Ottawa court heard about alleged attempts by military officers to hide records needed by Vice Admiral Mark Norman to defend himself against one count of breach of trust. The two incidents are separate but some military sources warn they show a pattern of failure to adhere to the access law.
The 2017 incident involves responses sent by the Office of the JAG (Judge Advocate General) to the Directorate of Access to Information, according to an Aug. 28, 2017 Canadian Forces briefing note.
Judge Advocate General Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez, who oversees the military justice system and is the top legal advisor to the Canadian Forces, endorsed a recommendation by one of her staff to tell Department of National Defence’s access to information officials that the documents didn’t exist, according to the briefing document for Vance’s office. The JAG organization sent a “nil” response following two requests for a draft report of the court martial system review.