Author Topic: CVA Position Report - Harold Leduc - Veterans Review and Appeal Board 2nd Huma  (Read 2628 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Mike Blais

  • Administrator
  • Full Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 199
    • View Profile
CVA Position Report - Harold Leduc - Veterans Review and Appeal Board

2nd Human Rights Commission Investigation and subsequent RCMP inquiry

Veterans Advocate Harold Leduc recently distributed an open letter to the leaders of Canada’s Veterans organizations.

I want to address Harold’s concerns and reaffirm Canadian Veterans Advocacy’s unwavering support. With Mr. Leduc’s permission, we have been engaged at very high levels on his behalf and in our collective quest to have the VRAB reformed in a manner wherein the trust of disabled veterans, damaged irreparably by years of discord, can be restored.

Disabled veterans suffering from PTSD/Mental health issues lack confidence in the mandate of Veterans Review and Appeal Board as a consequence of serious lapses in judgment by Board Members and/or lack of leadership. The Leduc Case raises serious questions about the integrity of the VRAB’s legislated mandate, particularly as it affects those suffering from PTSD within the guidelines established through the Board’s legislative mandate.

Lest we forget the two trips abroad to attend the Cambridge Lecture series in 2009 and 2011 and the $7,285.97 the Chair felt obligated to reimburse the Government when it was publicly revealed that a family member joined him on the trip.

Lest we forget the Office of the Veteran’s Ombudsman scathing reports as a result of numerous complaints made by disabled veterans who felt they had not been given the benefit of the doubt as prescribed through Section 39 of the VRAB Act: the lack of providing reasons for denials, transparency. During the first three years of the current Chair’s tenure, not one single compassionate award was granted, between 2007 and 2012.  Only TWO files were forwarded to the Minister of Veterans Affairs for his reconsideration during this two year period: TWO.

Disabled veterans who have resorted to the Federal Court for justice incur substantial legal bills, a financially crippling recourse that is obstructive because many veterans can not afford the tens of thousands of dollars required and/or are not mentally/physically healthy enough to undertake such a daunting and formidable legal challenge.  A successful application through the courts does not guarantee success: only the prospect of another hearing before the VRAB.

Perhaps the most destructive aspect of the VRAB is the lack of accountability created by the quasi-judicial authority and the incendiary effects it has inflicted by generating mistrust in the veterans community.   Many Board Members reflect political patronage and do not have the qualifications to effectively assess the level of pain and suffering a veteran may be experiencing as a consequence of his or her military service to Canada.

This issue has been addressed to some degree by recent appointments as a response to the manner in which veteran Harold Leduc was treated both during and after his appointment.

Will veterans recently appointed to the Board become victims of harassment as Harold Leduc if they to adjudicate in favour of veterans to often? Should they apply the Benefit of the Doubt protocols as legislated?  Should they do the right thing?

Harold Leduc served Canada proudly and with distinction.  His credentials to sit on the VRAB were not based on political patronage: they were founded in service to this nation. Mr. Leduc served in the Canadian Airborne Regiment.  His 23 year military service was inclusive of deployments to Cyprus/Germany and culminated with investment to the Order of Military Merit and a serious lifetime disability.

His qualifications to serve veterans are reflected by the positions on his résumé: National President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Association, Chair of the Recognition and Remembrance Committee for Veterans Affairs Canada and member of the VAC-CF Advisory Committee Council. He was awarded the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation and the Veterans Ombudsman’s Commendation for his years of dedicated service.

What happened to Harold Leduc since his appointment to the VRAB, however, has proven to be a travesty of justice of the highest magnitude.  A recent VAC parliamentary committee report where Veteran Leduc appeared as a witness revealed there were approximately 60 breaches of his privacy.

Privacy Act violations, purportedly, were a very serious issue within VAC, particularly in the aftermath of the privacy breaches of Sean Bruyea, Patrick Stogran, Sylvain Chartrand amongst other prominent veterans advocates. Captain Bruyea’s case is noteworthy in the sense there are parallels to what has occurred to Mr. Leduc when he was a member of the VRAB: parallels that raise serious questions about the effectiveness of the departmental wide measures Minister Blaney implemented to prevent any further violations of trust.  Mr. Bruyea’s medical files were violated and the information about his medical condition used to discredit him and his reputation.

Despite ministerial measures, it has occurred again, worse, at a significantly more important level and under the auspice of the quasi-judicial VRAB. Mr. Leduc’s privacy was violated in a most heinous manner.  His service related condition of PTSD was used by public servants to discredit and harass him: the same public servants chosen to serve a quasi-judicial board. The consequences on Mr. Leduc’s health have significant.  The initial complaints levied through the Human Rights Commission have been justified when the VRAB {INSERT CANADIAN TAX PAYER} was ordered to cease and desist, cover Mr. Leduc’s legal fees and pay the $4000 dollars for the harassment that he  endured from Board Members.

The fact that the board’s leadership has not been questioned and those involved in this sordid incident have not been sanctioned does not reflect the pledges Minister Blaney proclaimed in the aftermath of the Bruyea incident nor, most recently in response to the continuing saga of Harold Leduc.

We must put this in perspective. A veteran suffering from PTSD is being harassed at a federal workplace specifically created to adjudicate claims wherein disabled veterans are approaching the board with PTSD related conditions. How can any disabled veteran appearing before the VRAB under such a toxic environment expect justice, compassion, understanding, application of Benefit of Doubt principles from any board member identified by the HRC original investigation who would harass a fellow board member and one of the few veterans appointed to the board because, as quoted in the CP, Harold Leduc too often sided with disabled veterans?

A second HRC investigation is underway, bizarrely, even though Mr. Leduc’s tenure on the VRAB has not been extended by the government –to the consequence to veterans- the harassment did not cease. To complicate the issue, the HRC has the discretion to involve the RCMP if their orders to cease and desist are not complied with and the commissioner has resorted to this extraordinary measure as a consequence of their secondary investigations.

Meanwhile, board members responsible for such dishonourable activities continue to stand in judgment upon our disabled veterans, many of who are suffering from mental health issues not restricted to PTSD. This creates, not without merit, the perception of extreme bias and questions, in the aftermath of the first HRC investigation, the credibility of the board’s leadership responsible for ensuring the integrity of the board.

While we are cognizant of the fact that a second Human Rights Commission investigation is under way in reference to continued alleged harassment against Mr. Leduc and are gravely concerned as to the criminal nature of the RCMP investigation, it is clear that the integrity of the board has been grotesquely corrupted and that disabled veterans appearing before any corrupt segment of the VRAB board for adjudication for mental health related issues cannot be confident justice will be served.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney’s duty is clear.

His duty is not to the VRAB or the political appointees that have brought the integrity of the board into such grave dispute or the current leadership, his duty is to the disabled veterans he has sworn a ministerial oath to represent.

The time for Ministerial action is now!

The current leadership must be relieved of responsibilities and a qualified person capable of restoring the broken trust appointed to guide the VRAB through the transformation this situation has demonstrated as so necessary. All members of the board identified in the first Human Rights Commission report and/or the ongoing HRC/RCMP investigation must be suspended from all adjudication responsibilities until they have completed special training on PTSD and mental health issues. Should they be found complicit in the second HRC investigation and/or the RCMP inquiry, there can be no other recourse but dismissal.

If ministerial action is not taken, how can Canada’s sons and daughters who have borne and suffered the terrifying mental scourge of war/peace expect justice for PTSD related from any adjudicator who would participate in such an unsavoury campaign? How can fairness be expected when this toxic environment, regardless of ministerial intervention, persists today?

The vile nature of this issue transcends the grey-zone parameters of quasi-judicial protocols, indeed, under the circumstances, direct questions about ministerial leadership and this government’s ability to fulfill their obligation to disabled veterans appearing before the VRAB now and until the VRAB’s integrity has been restored must be asked.

The trust between the VRAB and the veterans community it was struck to serve has been compromised and the consequences substantial.  Minister Blaney must take decisive action to resolve this situation. Lest we forget, it is his duty to restore the trust, to ensure the principles of VRAB mandate and the justice for Harold Leduc and the veterans appearing before the board are championed, not ignored.

Michael L Blais CD
Founder/President, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ont, Cda.
L2E 7K6 // 905-357-3306  // Cell 905-359-9247