A Federal Court judge has delivered a sharp rebuke to the military for its treatment of a soldier who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after years spent investigating child pornography and sexual exploitation in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Paul Stemmler, a retired corporal, was cut loose two years early and offered a $25,000 cheque for what Canada's top general even deemed to be "inappropriate" treatment, according to a recent Federal Court ruling on his case. Stemmler had requested a judicial review of his dismissal from the military.

Justice Denis Gascon suggested that while the military's actions were wrong, they were defensible under its current administrative legal regime.

"While I sympathize with Cpl. Stemmler and deplore the unfortunate circumstances of his early release from the CAF, I must dismiss the application," Gascon wrote in a 38-page decision. "I cannot conclude that the chief of the defence staff decision on Cpl. Stemmler's grievance was unreasonable or that the reasons supporting the granting of the ex gratia payment are inadequate."

Stemmler had served as a police officer in the military since 1984. He developed work-related mental health issues, including PTSD, major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, that ultimately made him medically unfit for service by 2009 under the military's requirements for universal readiness to deploy.

Canadian military

Lawyer and retired colonel Michel Drapeau says the military's grievance system is broken. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada)

Stemmler was put on a three-year program to transition from the CAF to civilian life called a period of retention (POR), but that time frame was subsequently accelerated by two years despite his record as a "competent, dedicated and hard-working soldier throughout his career in the CAF," the ruling reads.

When he appealed the decision, Stemmler was offered a lump sum of $25,000 from the Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

'Broke my spirit'

That treatment has left the ex-soldier feeling bitter and financially short-changed.

"The $25,000 award I received was 'shut up and go away' money and does not compare to the financial loss I suffered," Stemmler said in a statement to CBC News. "I not only lost my full salary for more than two years, but also between $400 - $600 per month in pension adjustments. The way that the Canadian Forces dealt with me was a big letdown, and broke my spirit."

According to the Federal Court ruling, Vance said his hands were tied even though he thought the early termination was "unreasonable" and that Stemmler's "right to procedural fairness had been violated."

"[The chief of defence staff] visibly regretted the situation. However, though he found that the cancellation of the POR was inappropriate, [Vance] determined that it was not illegal and that the release of Cpl. Stemmler therefore had to stand."

Performance, work ethic

The ruling noted that Stemmler's strong performance and willingness to work was noted throughout the process.

The ruling states that the chief of defence staff was "deeply disappointed" that Canadian military authorities chose to "unexpectedly and unilaterally" terminate Stemmler's service. After leaving the military police, he had been posted to Cornwall, Ont., as a service technician. The decision to speed up his release two years early was made after he raised concerns about the impact of a proposed transfer to Trenton, Ont., on his health and separation from family. 

Vance believed once the three-year period of retention was approved, it should never have been cancelled unless Stemmler's medical condition deteriorated to the point where service was no longer a viable option, according to the court ruling. The chief of defence staff flagged it as a "systemic issue" and asked for followup.

Lawyer and retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who represented Stemmler at the judicial review, said the $25,000 was "clearly insufficient" to make up for his treatment. He blamed a rigid, "broken system" that fails to support soldiers.

System 'does not work'

"The military grievance system simply does not work," Drapeau said. "We're denying these individuals who have no union, no association, no real right to speak ... and that's what they're stuck with."

He said Stemmler's case underscores the need for greater flexibility and leadership command that understands and adapts to the nuances of individual cases instead of "the most bureaucratic laden system that God has created on this side of the ocean."

Drapeau urged parliamentarians to push for changes in the system to ensure it does better for those who deserve fair, respectful treatment and are "crying for justice."

CBC News requested comment from the military, but has not yet received a response.