Disabilities and the Canadian Forces Medical System


  • Stanley J. Blythe




This article examines and challenges some of the assumptions, procedures and standards implicit in the Canadian Forces (CF) treatment of the disabled. From a human rights perspective, the CF classification system can exclude an individual from joining the CF or may result in the release of a serving member from the CF. The author develops this article in the context of evolving Canadian human rights law and its inherent conflict with the traditional role of the CF. The author views the CF's primary role as being prepared for combat with the forces of a national enemy. At the root of this article is whether CF members are to be considered "soldiers first" or are to fit within the current legal standards and societal norms recognizing disabled persons' rights in the workforce. The author reaches the conclusion that the CF is unique among Canada's employers. While not called upon very often, the primary role of the CF is to provide an armed force for Canadian defence. Although there should be appropriate variations for the responsibilities of individuals in peacetime and wartime periods, a high standard of medical fitness is justified for Canadian service members. Finally, despite the fact that many military decisions regarding the disabled have been upheld in our courts, the author proposes several reforms to enhance the military's sensitivity to its disabled recruits and serving members.