James Topp, who completed his walk from Vancouver to Ottawa on June 30 in protest of vaccine mandates, is now facing a court martial for charges previously laid against him by the military.
Topp holds the rank of warrant officer and is currently a reservist after serving in the regular force.
He’s been charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for publicly speaking against the vaccine mandates in February. He was in military dress uniform when he did so.
Topp had initially elected to get a court martial, but charges were re-laid without the option for a court martial. The military has now made another about-turn.
“That’s what he wanted in the first place, and they took it away from him. So I think he’s happy to be able to make his case,” Topp’s lawyer Philip Millar told The Epoch Times.
Millar said he’s unclear why the military chose to go this route and he doesn’t know when the trial will take place.
Some changes took place in the military justice system recently, with provisions of Bill C-77 (2019) coming into force on June 20. Those provisions replaced the unit-level summary trials with summary hearings in the military justice system.
Summary hearings are non-penal and non-criminal disciplinary processes grounded in administrative law principles, whereas summary trials were criminal-law based.
Topp completed his 4,300-kilometre journey on June 30, arriving at the National War Monument with over 1,000 supporters joining him.
This gave Topp a lot of notoriety, Millar pointed out.
The lawyer said that regardless of the reason why the CAF chose to court-martial Topp, “it’s a good opportunity for him to have the matter adjudicated by a judge, so that at least he can make his case without it being done by the chain of command that created the policy.”
Topp could have faced a penalty, such as fines, but with the court martial the outcome could be more serious.
On the other hand, the trial will allow Topp’s defence to present a broad range of arguments, potentially challenging the policy that Topp was speaking out against.
Millar said in a previous interview that the policy to prevent soldiers from taking political stances is not a bad one, “but that’s generally when you’re talking about war.”
“He was speaking about being forced to vaccinate … so I think it was a little different. And I would have challenged the legality of the order in necessity because when it’s political, it’s different. The military is not supposed to be a political tool.”
The Department of National Defence was contacted for comment but didn’t respond by publication time.