Frequently Asked Questions
- How is the Board different from other CF redress mechanisms?
- What is the difference between the Grievance Board and the Ombudsman?
- Can a member decide not to submit a grievance and to make a complaint directly to the Ombudsman?
- What types of grievance issues are referred to the Board?
- Are there issues that cannot be grieved?
- Is it the mandate of the Board to address individual grievances or does it also address systemic issues?
- What is the difference between findings and recommendations, with respect to grievance cases?
- If a CF member is not satisfied with the final decision by the Chief of the Defence Staff, does he or she have any other recourse?
- Is the Board making a difference within the grievance process?
- Can a CF member file a grievance directly with the CFGB?
- How does the grievance process work exactly?
- Why does it taking so long to review some grievances?
- Have there been any improvements to the process?
- Can I expect a timeline and detailed information on how my grievance will be handled once submitted to the Board?
- What is the Board's position about the Lamer Report recommendation that DND have a time limit of 12 months in which to complete the Redress of Grievance procedure?
- How can a grievor obtain information on the status of his or her grievance?
- How can I find out if a similar grievance to mine has been submitted to the Board and what the final decision was?
- Who makes up the Board? How were they selected?
- Has jurisdiction over grievances specified under the National Defence Act, as lodged by current members of the Canadian Forces;
- As an administrative tribunal, has a statutory mandate to review grievances in a quasi-judicial setting;
- Is the only organization to which the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) must refer certain grievances;
- Is the only grievance authority that must forward its findings and recommendations to the CDS for final adjudication.
2. What is the difference between the Grievance Board and the Ombudsman?
Both organizations are separate and distinct entities, each with a very different mandate.
The significant difference between the Board and the Ombudsman's office is that a member of the CF must first submit a grievance (in matters that are subject to the grievance process) before he or she submits a complaint to the Ombudsman. That is, he or she must usually exhaust the grievance process available to them before approaching the Ombudsman.
A grievance is submitted pursuant to the provisions of the National Defence Act (NDA) and regulations, whereas a complaint to the Ombudsman is of an administrative nature and is presented under the authority of a ministerial directive and Defence Administrative Order and Directive. Further, the authority of the Board is derived from the NDA whereas the Ombudsman's authority is found entirely within Ministerial Directives.
While the Board must deal with all grievances submitted to it, the Office of the Ombudsman may refuse to deal with a complaint. However, the Ombudsman can intervene in grievable matters if he considers there are compelling reasons to do so, such as undue hardship caused a member of the CF. And finally, the Board forwards its findings and recommendations to the CDS, whereas the Ombudsman forwards his reports on complaints to the competent DND or CF authority.
3. Can a member decide not to submit a grievance and to make a complaint directly to the Ombudsman?
A CF member may use any form of redress available, for example, Alternative Dispute Resolution, but as a quasi-judicial tribunal, only the Board has the power to recommend a decision to the CDS that is legally binding and may initiate a policy change.
4. What types of grievance issues are referred to the Board?
Grievances referred to the Board may relate to one or more of the following matters, as outlined in Chapter 7.12 of the Queen's Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces:
- Administrative action that results in forfeiture of, or deductions from, pay and allowances; reversion to a lower rank or release from the Canadian Forces;
- Application or interpretation of Canadian Forces policies relating to expression of personal opinions, political activities, and candidature for office, civil employment, conflict of interest and post-employment compliance measures, harassment or racist conduct;
- Pay, allowances and other financial benefits;
- Entitlement to medical care or dental treatment.
The CDS shall also refer every grievance concerning a decision or an act of the CDS that relates to a particular officer or non-commissioned member to the Grievance Board for its findings and recommendations. As per section 29.12 (1) of the National Defence Act, the CDS may also refer any other grievance to the Board.
- Any decision of a Summary Trial, Court Martial, or the Court Martial Appeal Court;
- A matter that must be addressed by another process, as stipulated under the terms of the National Defence Act;
- A decision of any board, commission, court or tribunal not created under the National Defence Act (e.g. Canadian Human Rights Commission, Privacy Commission, Access to Information Commissioner and Official Languages Commissioner);
- Decisions, acts or omissions made by the Government of Canada (because they are beyond the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff).
6. Is it the mandate of the Board to address individual grievances or does it also address systemic issues?
The grievance system is, to some degree, a barometer of current issues of concern to members of the CF. Several recurring grievances on the same issue may indicate a poor policy, or the unfair application of a misunderstood policy. In some cases, the underlying law or regulation may be out of date or otherwise unfair.
The Board's mandate, places it in an ideal position to identify systemic causes. Its full-time focus on grievances, its in-depth analysis of every case, its grievance-tracking systems, its ability to investigate all aspects of the apparent cause of a particular grievance, and its ever-growing library of precedents make it easy to recognize when certain types of grievances seem to be clustering around a systemic stumbling block.
As such, the Board's findings and recommendations may address both the individual grievance and systemic changes, as addressed in our 2004 and 2005 Annual Reports. The Board decided that where recurring grievances appeared to be triggered from systemic issues of which the CDS might be unaware, it would be useful to flag them in the findings and include recommendations that the CDS consider for further investigation. If DND could address a given issue, the likely result would be better working conditions, improved morale, and ultimately, the elimination of future grievances related to the subject.
7. What is the difference between findings and recommendations, with respect to grievance cases?
As per the National Defence Act (S. 29.2), the Board makes findings of Facts and Law and then provides recommendations that result from these findings, so that the grievance can be resolved.
8. If a CF member is not satisfied with the final decision by the Chief of the Defence Staff, does he or she have any other recourse?
Yes, recourse would be through a "judicial review" before the Federal Court. Depending on the type of grievance, the grievor may also pursue other avenues, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Privacy Commissioner, the Access to Information Commissioner and the Official Languages Commissioner.
For more information on these organizations, please visit the Government of Canada website at www.canada.gc.ca.
9. Is the Board making a difference within the grievance process?
The Board has only been in existence since June 2000 and is already seeing the difference it can make. For example, the final report of the first independent review of the legislation that created the Board, Bill C-25, states that "The Grievance Board is to be commended for establishing in a relatively short time frame a grievance review process that is recognized as providing well-reasoned and thorough findings and recommendations."
Further to this, the CDS himself acknowledges that many of the issues raised by the Board merit broader consideration within the Forces; issues such as procedural fairness, to the treatment of Reservists in comparison with their counterparts in the Regular Force, to entitlement to various allowances and benefits are just a few examples of recommendations made by the Board that the CDS asked DND authorities to examine.
The Board's value for the Canadian Forces lies in its influence on the way issues will be dealt with in the future and the underlying causes of grievances, and its proposed changes aimed at preventing the recurrence of similar grievances.
10. Can a CF member file a grievance directly with the CFGB?
CF members cannot submit a grievance to the Board directly; they are first required to submit their grievances to their Commanding Officer. The first adjudication level is with the Initial Authority. If the grievor is not satisfied with the decision rendered there, he or she may submit the grievance directly to the CDS for review. Then, according to Chapter 7.12 of the QR&O, grievances will be referred to the CFGB by the CDS.
11. How exactly does the grievance process work?
The grievance process is a two-level process that works as follows:
Level I: Review by the Initial Authority within the Canadian Forces
A common misconception about the Canadian Forces grievance procedure is that a grievor can submit a grievance directly to the Board. In fact, the process begins not with the Board, but with the grievor's Commanding Officer (CO):
- Step 1: The grievor submits the grievance to his or her CO.
- Step 2: If the CO cannot act as the Initial Authority (IA), he submits the grievance to someone who can act as the IA, i.e. the next superior officer having the responsibility to deal with the matter. If the grievor is satisfied with the Initial Authority's decision, the grievance process ends there.
Level II: Review by the Chief of the Defence Staff
Grievors who are dissatisfied with the Initial Authority's decision may request to have their grievance reviewed by the CDS, whose decision is the final stage in the grievance process.
Grievors initiate this second level of review as follows:
- Step 1: They submit their request for a second level of review.
- Step 2: For those grievances that fall within the Board's mandate, the DGCFGA (Director General, Canadian Forces Grievance Authority) forwards the grievor's file (on behalf of the CDS) to the Canadian Forces Grievance Board.
The Board's Procedural Response
When the Board's Registrar receives the grievor's file from the DGCFGA, the Board will send a letter of acknowledgement to the grievor, and in accordance with the rules of procedural fairness, will disclose to the grievor the information the file contains. The Board will also invite the grievor to submit additional information related to the case. Should the Board acquire new information, it will be disclosed to the grievor.
Processing the Grievance
A grievance officer conducts an in-depth analysis, which may involve a lawyer, following which the assigned Board Member develops the final findings and recommendations. These are subsequently forwarded simultaneously to both the grievor and the CDS. In addition, should the Board deem it necessary, it can hold formal hearings and call witnesses. The CDS, who may accept or reject the Board's findings and recommendations, will communicate the decision(s) directly to the grievor, with a copy sent to the Board. If the CDS chooses to disagree with the Board, the reason(s) must be set out in the decision(s).
12. Why does it take so long to review some grievances?
The Lamer Report recommended that grievances should be answered within 12 months of receipt by the CDS. The Board agrees that this is reasonable and works towards this deadline.
However, the Board must also deal with factors beyond its control that affect its ability to meet the deadline. These factors include:
- The expediency with which a grievance is referred to the Board once filed at the CDS level.
- The complexity of a grievance. Many grievances can be very complex, requiring Board staff to conduct more research and gather additional information.
- The promptness with which the Board receives a response from parties from whom it has requested additional information.
- The number of Board Members at any given time.
13. Have there been any improvements to the process?
The last six years have proven to be invaluable to the Board's organizational development and business strategy and each year has seen the Board steadily increase its production and closure rate. For example, 81.5% of the files received and completed in 2006, were done so in less than six months. Much of what the Board has learned has been systematically funnelled into three key areas:
1. Increased procedural efficiency
2. An established library of precedents
3.The maintenance of quality findings and recommendations
The Board acknowledges that grievances need to be reviewed in the timeliest manner possible, but not at the expense of a fair grievance process. The Board also works cooperatively with the Grievance Authority within the Department of National Defence to reduce delays in the overall grievance review.
14. Can I expect a timeline and detailed information on how my grievance will be handled once submitted to the Board?
When your grievance comes to the Board, you will receive general information about how the process works in a letter of acknowledgement.
As for timelines, the National Defence Act does not bind the Board to deadlines because of the several factors relevant to the review, including those that are outside of the Board's control. Each case is particular in its circumstance. However, once your file is assigned to a grievance officer, he or she will be in a better position to provide you with time frames according to the work that is to be completed.
Contact with the Board occurs during the disclosure process and the grievor will also receive the Board's findings and recommendations at the same time they are sent to the Chief of the Defence Staff.
15. What is the Board's position about the Lamer Report recommendation that DND have a time limit of 12 months in which to complete the Redress of Grievance procedure?
The 12-month limit for grievance resolution is deemed reasonable; and the Board does work towards this end. However, the Board's primary requirement is to comply with the rules of natural justice; as such fairness guides the process before expediency. Each grievance file is evaluated according to what is necessary to ensure a fair and transparent review. The terms of this particular recommendation need to be assessed against external factors such as procedural fairness, disclosure or public hearings, all of which can be time consuming.
16. How can a grievor obtain information on the status of his or her grievance?
A member may always call to request an update on the status of his/her grievance. The call will always be returned and the status will always be provided. To reach the Board, please visit the Contact Us section.
17. How can I find out if a similar grievance to mine has been submitted to the Board and what the final decision was?
The Board's annual reports and case summaries section provide samples for various grievances that have been received throughout the year, including the decision received from the CDS.
18. Who makes up the Board? How were they selected?
Presently the Board consists of a full-time Vice-Chairperson, a full-time Vice-Chairperson, as well as part-time Members. All Members of the Board are appointed by the Governor in Council and hold office for a term not exceeding four years, though Members are eligible for subsequent reappointments.