Veterans board member Harold Leduc says his privacy raided in alleged smear campaign
February 12, 2012 00:02:00
THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA—A prominent, long-standing member of the country’s Veterans Review and Appeal Board had his privacy violated twice in an alleged smear campaign meant to discredit him using his private medical information as ammunition, The Canadian Press has learned.
The behind-the-scenes fight involving Harold Leduc has been so bad and so vicious that the Canadian Human Rights Commission quietly ordered the veterans board to pay the decorated former warrant officer $4,000, including legal costs, for harassment he’d suffered from other agency members.
Leduc, who spent 22 years in the military, claims he was a target for gossip, innuendo and intimidation because he often sided with veterans in his review decisions.
It is the latest, and potentially most wide-ranging, in a series of privacy breaches, which the Conservative government claimed was cleaned up at the department that oversees the care of ex-soldiers and RCMP.
In late 2010, following the privacy scandal involving advocate Sean Bruyea, the government said it instituted tighter controls over the personal information of veterans and who had access to files.
Yet, in the spring of 2011, an investigation report, which included Leduc’s personal information and examined the toxic in-fighting at the independent agency, was released uncensored following an access to information request.
“I am writing to notify you of a privacy breach that resulted in the improper disclosure of personal information,” said a July 6, 2011, letter to Leduc from the access co-ordinator of the veterans board, who apologized and described the incident as a clerical error.
Two years previously, the deputy chair of the board acknowledged in another letter that Leduc had been the victim of a more serious breach, where more than 40 officials accessed his file that included medical information. Some of the officials were from veterans affairs, others included those who oversaw the review and appeal board.
“I was devastated, because it was a huge breach of trust that they can’t go back on,” Leduc said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “I’m very embarrassed about my service-related disabilities and I don’t think that’s anybody’s business but mine. I was just shocked and devastated.”
Board chairman John Larlee declined a request for an interview, but spokeswomen for both the agency and the veterans affairs minister released statements in response to a series of questions posed by The Canadian Press.
Both Danielle Gauthier and Codi Taylor said safeguarding privacy has been of the utmost concern.
“When a privacy breach occurs, we take immediate steps to address it, including corrective actions and disciplinary measures where appropriate,” Gauthier wrote in an email Friday.
Neither of them would address Leduc’s circumstance, citing privacy concerns. They declined to explain how his privacy could have been violated twice or what measures were taken in response.
“Minister Steven Blaney believes that any violation of our Veterans privacy is totally unacceptable,” Taylor wrote in an email.
“Our government took action over a year ago to ensure disciplinary measures for those who violate the law. Our government wants to ensure that the privacy of all veterans remains protected which is why Minister Blaney instructed departmental officials to look at how the Privacy Action Plan could be updated.”
Taylor would not explain what new measures might be introduced, or when.