Author Topic: 2011-03- Veterans Affairs Minister Blackburn once again proves inept.  (Read 1447 times)

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Veterans Affairs Minister Blackburn once again proves inept

The case of Sean Bruyea may have come to an ignoble end this week. Jean Pierre Blackburn, Minister for Veterans Affairs, announced the long awaited sanctions against those within his department deemed guilty of violating Canada’s Privacy Act in reference to Veteran Bruyea’s confidential VAC medical files. Bruyea’s files were accessed thousands times and confidential information was circulated at the highest bureaucratic/ministerial levels to discredit the staunch advocate’s dire warnings about the grotesquely flawed New Veterans Charter.

Prime Minister Harper and Minister Blackburn immediately condemned the violations as unacceptable. The Harper Government subsequently, and with extraordinary alacrity it might be noted, streamlined an out of court settlement to compensate Mr. Bruyea for the manner in which his privacy rights were violated. Minister Blackburn’s theatrical performance at the time was impressive, inclusive of threats of dismissal and a vigorous campaign to ensure Canadians understood the government did not tolerate such behavior. He promised that justice would be served to veterans whose confidence had been betrayed by the very ministry created to serve them when they were injured in the service of Canada and Canadians.

Months later, Veterans Affairs Minister Blackburn declared justice was served and the case closed. What did Minister Blackburn’s version of justice look like and did it fulfill his promise to veterans and Canadians?

In total, 54 sacrificial lambs at VAC were awarded at worst three day suspensions WITH PAY and most were merely given a letter of reprimand!

The three senior Veterans Affairs Canada bureaucrats cited in Mr Bruyea’s lawsuit would not be dismissed, but have instead been promoted!

Does this sound like justice to you?

Minister Blackburn justified these inept sanctions by claiming that officials never intended to harm Mr. Bruyea. The Minister’s eager defence of the lawbreakers is out of touch with the facts. The Ministerial briefing notes circulated amongst virtually every senior manager in Veterans Affairs clearly stated that the Departments actions were causing grave harm to Mr. Bruyea. This did not stop the bureaucrats from continuing with their malicious plan. The disturbing tone of thousands of emails revealed within the 14,000 pages of documentation Mr. Bruyea attained through his Privacy Act requests reinforces the bureaucrats’ widespread knowledge of the harm they were causing Mr. Bruyea.

Nor was Mr Bruyea the only victim. Tom Hoppe won the Medal of Bravery and Meritorious Service Cross rescuing children while under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1994. Mr. Hoppe would also be singled out and discredited by bureaucrats and his loyalty to VAC questioned simply over the fact that he had appeared with Mr Bruyea at a press conference denouncing the New Veterans Charter. Not even Patrick Stogran’s confidential medical files have been secure…and he was Canada’s first Ombudsman.

This is the government which claims it is “tough on crime”? Is this the freedom of expression so many young Canadians have lost their lives defending on foreign battlefields?

There is and was only one credible course of action for Minister Blackburn and the Harper government to take once the Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, identified federal laws had been breached on multiple and widespread levels:

Summon the RCMP and launch a formal criminal investigation.

No one is above the law.

Tragically, this honourable course of action has thus far been declined. In October last year, Stogran spoke of a brave veteran with ALS who used his failing health to condemn the insensitivity and indignity of dealing with Veterans Affairs. For veterans, Colonel Patrick Stogran’s prophetic words have once again rang mournfully true.

“Without substantive and enduring cultural changes to the system that mistreats our veterans, however, any promises of improvement are as shallow as Brian Dyck’s final breaths.”

Minister Blackburn refused to take this opportunity to make substantive and enduring cultural changes to the system that surely mistreated Sean Bruyea and the other veterans whose privacy rights were violated. And yes, the Minister’s melodramatic promises about justice and departmental improvement months ago have proven to be as shallow as Brian Dyck’s last breath.

Lest we veterans and the rest of Canada forget…On election day.

Veterans Advocate Michael L Blais CD
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

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