August 23, 1946 (20th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Alan Cockeram

Progressive Conservative


Mr. Chairman, while we are on the subject of courts martial it might be well to review the whole system of courts martial in the army. Some time ago I asked for the production of General Price Montague's report on conditions in Holland, but my motion for the papers was voted down. The minister will remember that there were prosecutions in Holland of certain junior officers and of a senior officer. The junior officers were found guilty and punishment was meted out by the court. The senior officer, more or less on the instructions of the prosecuting officer, was acquitted. At the trial the prosecuting officer had this to say:
It would pain the entire army to see one of its most distinguished members come to grief on such charges as these. We would all rejoice at an acquittal.
However, if the court feels later conduct did not measure up to his own earlier standards then a verdict of guilty must be registered.
I state now that that was interference with the course of justice by the prosecuting officer. Unfortunately this is not the only case. I am not saying that the present minister had anything to do with it, but it was a well-known fact in the army that many courts martial were ordered by the then minister of militia in spite of the fact that the cases had previously been disposed of. It seems to me that if there is going to be interference by the minister, if he can order courts martial to take place where and whenever he so desires, there is something -wrong with justice in the army. I believe that any system whereby ministers of the crown can require the judge advocate general or a district officer commanding to court martial an officer or a man, with or without justification, needs to be completely changed. It amazes me that within the last few weeks this officer, who as I say was acquitted on the orders of the highest officers, has since been placed in one of the senior positions of the Canadian militia. If the militia is to be efficient, if it is to be a force which can be looked up to not only by the men serving in the army but by the people

of Canada as a whole, great- care must be taken in the selection of the senior officers; because if the men in the ranks have not the respect for their officers which they should have, and if the people do not respect the force, you will never get a permanent force in this army.
I should like the minister to enlarge on this matter. There is no question in my mind that Major Elliott should have been court-mar-tialled. The department knew about what he had been doing. Had I been someone else, no doubt the then minister would have ordered a court martial of that officer and he would have been punished if found guilty. The whole system of courts martial in the army must be revised.

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