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100 years of the Canadian JAG

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the office of Canada's Judge Advocate General, outgoing Canadian Bar Association president Trinda Ernst presents Brig. Gen. Blaise Cathcart,  Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces, with a gift at the opening plenary of the CBA's annual meeting in Vancouver on Sunday.

Cathcart said he "is proud to carry on the legacy of combining the profession of arms and the law."

He is the 14th JAG. Col. Henry Smith was named Canada's first JAG in 1911 at the age of 74, even though the mandatory retirement age in the military at the time was 65. Smith went on to serve in the office until he was 80.

According to the National Defence web site:

The Judge Advocate General performs two unique statutory roles set out in the National Defence Act. The Judge Advocate General is the commissioned officer, appointed by the Governor in Council, to superintend the administration of military justice in the Canadian Forces [s. 9.2(1)].

In respect of that superintendence function the late Chief Justice [Antonio] Lamer commented that the intention of the legislative provision “was to recognize and continue the exercise of responsibilities similar to those of the Attorney General as historically performed by the JAG under English common law.”1

The Judge Advocate General also performs a separate function as a legal advisor to the Governor General, the Minister, the Department and the Canadian Forces in matters relating to military law [s. 9.1]. Canadian military law includes the law relating to the constitutionally separate system of military justice as well as the governance, administration and activities of the Canadian Forces.

Military law governs the armed forces in peace and during armed conflict, at home and abroad. The breadth of the scope of military law is reflected in the fact that the Judge Advocate General is a legal advisor to both the Department and the Canadian Forces.


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