Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Privacy violated, ex-officer alleges

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OTTAWA -- A prominent, long-standing member of the country's Veterans Review and Appeal Board says he had his privacy violated twice in an alleged smear campaign meant to discredit him using his private medical information as ammunition.

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.

In late 2010, following the privacy scandal involving veterans' 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 infighting 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 over 40 officials accessed his file that included medical information.

"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."

The board is the place veterans can turn to if they're unhappy with the decisions of department bureaucrats. Two-member review panels and three-member appeal panels adjudicate their grievances.

If one member says "yes," the decision must go in favour of the veteran, regardless of how other members feel.

"I was told -- I think as far back as January 2007 -- directly by one of my colleagues, who said: 'A bunch of us are keeping an eye on you because we've been told you have certain conditions and so we think you are biased,' " Leduc said.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following more than two decades of service in the military.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2012 A9

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