Wounded Soldier, ex-Ombudsman challenging CF 'Universality of Service' policy

July 3, 2011

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Cpl. Ryan Elrick, a Canadian soldier who lost his legs in Afghanistan, is taking the federal government to court, saying the policy known as Universality of Service is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Elrick spent three years training as an intelligence officer following his wounding but has since been discharged from the military due to the policy, which states that all soldiers must be able to go into combat.

The lawsuit comes amid calls by Pat Stogran, the former Veteran’s Ombudsman, to keep wounded soldiers in the ranks.  He points to inconsistency in applying the rule and to the superior treatment of wounded veterans in the United States. “I could walk down the halls of [headquarters] and show you people with no medals on their chest who are not deployable, either because they’re overweight or because they’ve got family problems or whatever and no one challenges them.” Strogran explains that wounded soldiers would be the first to admit what they can and cannot do, “but there are still all sorts of jobs that some fat plugs at [headquarters] who are not deployable, who are not universally fit for service, are now doing.”

Rear Admiral Andy Smith, chief of military personnel, says the CF are prepared to offer wounded veterans jobs either training cadets or providing administrative work for that organization. Additionally, there are jobs supporting the Canadian Rangers, the reserve force that operates in the Arctic. However, no jobs would be offered with the regular forces.

Elrick alleges he was forced out of the military in March because the Canadian Forces determined his disability made him unfit for service. He says he is angry. He told the CBC, “I truly truly feel Canadian veterans — people wounded in combat —deserve much much better than what we’re getting.” At the time of the incident, Elrick claims that former Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier assured him that his injuries wouldn’t prevent him from maintaining a job with the Forces.” His performance reviews in 2009 and 2010 indicated that he should be promoted, that he had leadership potential and that he was fulfilling duties normally reserved for a sergeant. (David Pugliese, “Military turns blind eye to unfit soldiers at headquarters, ex-ombudsman says,” Ottawa Citizen, 19 June 2011 and Allan Woods, “Wounded soldier sues over military discharge,” Toronto Star, 18 June 2011.)

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5 Responses to “Wounded Soldier, ex-Ombudsman challenging CF 'Universality of Service' policy”

  1. BillsterBC Says:

    There is deep compassion for injured members of the CF, and no one is thrown on the scrap heap as one here suggests.

    Wounded, injured and otherwise ill members are retained and looked after until it is clear beyond a doubt they can no longer serve and meet the specifications for their military occupation and those for deployability set for service members. If that point is reached members are released and pensioned (if applicable) and become clients of Veterans Affairs. Treatment for illness and disability continue and the operational needs of the CF continue to be met.

  2. Michael Gilfillan Says:

    I absolutely agree with Caroline (and thank you for stating it so well).
    I do take issue with one aspect of the story however. I do not like nor appreciate the comments of Pat Strogran that characterizes some of those in headquarters as “fat plugs at [headquarters] who are not deployable”. Using unsubstantiated insults to support another who is being treated unjustly is juvenile and couterproductive.
    The policy of Universality of Service should be scrapped, and efforts made to find work for wounded veterans who are willing; strenuous efforts.

  3. Caroline Says:

    Regarding Scott Brown’s comments and more:
    It is certainly important that information should be accurate – but in this case officer or not is in fact irrelevant to the main point – that is that a soldier who has been wounded, gravely, in the service of his country is being shoddily treated by his country. Over and over again I have heard the injunction to “support the troops” from politicians and civilians alike – supporting our troops it seems is merely to keep silent on the futility and illegality of this war in Afghanistan and does not extend to actually materially supporting the men and women who will suffer the effects as long as they live. If we are willing to send our young men and women into harms way for whatever reason we should be giving them every possible support when they are wounded on have to leave the service.

  4. Scott Brown Says:

    You may want to check the facts of the story before you publish them. He was not an Intelligence Officer, he was an Intelligence Operator.

    Cpl. Ryan Elrick was a Non Commission Member of the Canadian Forces, he is not an officer.

    Non Commission Members of the Intelligence Branch of the Canadian Forces are known as Intelligence Operators.

  5. D S Griffiths Says:

    What kind of country has Canada become.Where has the compassion gone.We hear all the retoric about our brave soldiers when one of then dies in Afghanistan.but where is the respect and reverence when they are injured and thrown on the scrapheap?….DSG