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Military judge's court martial paused again over issues finding judge to hear it

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OTTAWA — The case against Canada's chief military judge is back in limbo after a civilian judge refused to order one military judge to appoint another military judge to preside over the court martial of their commander.

Canada has only a handful of military judges and all the others who would ordinarily be eligible to handle Col. Mario Dutil's case can't do it, either.

Dutil was charged under military discipline with fraud, making a false statement in a document and breaking rules through a personal relationship with a subordinate.

Dutil's deputy presided over the case at first but eventually recused himself and refused to name another judge to take over because two of them have conflicts of interest and the third isn't bilingual enough.

Now Justice Luc Martineau of the Federal Court has ruled that ordering one of them in would do irreparable damage to Dutil's constitutional right to a fair trial.

Martineau says the tidiest solution would be to name an outside civilian judge to hear the case, but also that the real problem is that the law on military justice never contemplated a scenario where the military's top judge would face charges himself.

Although Dutil isn't above the law, Martineau ruled, steamrolling all the problems with naming one of his colleagues to hear his case wouldn't be right.

"Justice is not a Pandora's box that can be opened as desired to see what is hiding in it, nor a game of chance where the accused must play Russian roulette with the prosecution," Martineau's ruling says.

"We are speaking of the career, the reputation, the freedom and the life in the future of an individual."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press