Author Topic: Clarification after minister’s visit  (Read 1344 times)

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Clarification after minister’s visit
« on: March 31, 2012, 08:41:30 PM »

Letters to the Editor
Clarification after minister’s visit
March 30, 2011

Thank you for your article on veteran’s issues (“Veterans affairs minister visits Alexandria, discusses department changes, challenges,” March 23). I would like to clarify a few facts that the article and the Minister of Veterans Affairs misrepresented.
Regarding an out-of-court settlement, there has been no public announcement of what constituted that settlement. As is custom I am not at liberty to discuss what was contained in any settlement. However, setting the resolution of my case aside, I am not aware of any settlement that provided the full amount of what was being asked. I humbly request you clarify this fact for your readers. I am and always was conscious that whatever I asked for was to come from Canadians' pockets. Justice was my guiding principle, not avarice.

Regarding the Privacy Act violations by Veterans Affairs officials, the minister does not speak to the facts. The so-called investigation of 614 individuals was restricted to just those individuals who accessed the computer system. This was an internal investigation that never consulted me, the person whose privacy was violated.
This ‘investigation’ did not follow any government investigative procedure or involve those trained in independent investigations to the best of my knowledge.

This so-called ‘investigation’ also has nothing to do with the damning findings of the Privacy Commissioner. Ms. Jennifer Stoddart found widespread breaches of the Privacy Act in briefing notes for ministers. At least an additional 250 individuals trafficked in my highly personal medical and financial information through emails and briefing notes.
The department refuses to confirm at this time whether anyone has been disciplined for breaking the law in these multiple breaches. In fact, the three key bureaucrats who orchestrated the briefing notes all received promotions since they committed the breaches.

The minister also justified widespread leniency in the disciplinary measures handed out claiming that the culture was one of not knowing or understanding the law. Of course, ignorance of the law has never been an excuse. Such actions are absolutely inexcusable for highly paid federal government employees entrusted with great power and knowledge over the lives of all Canadian citizens.

Furthermore, Canada’s privacy laws are nothing new as the minister claims. The current version has been in effect since 1985. Once again, 20 to 25 years to claim ignorance is even less of a non-existent excuse.
The minister also claims, “There is no one that used [his information] to reduce the services of veterans, or transmitted it in a public place. We looked at their intentions." The minister's statement is disingenuous at best. The briefing notes were part of a plan to inappropriately tie gross distortions of my medical condition to the reasons for my public efforts to help other veterans.
You see, I was not publicly advocating for my own services and benefits. The new veterans’ programs did not apply to me but to soldiers of Afghanistan.

However, the bureaucrats involved briefed ministers that the only way to deal with me was to force me into a week-long or more inpatient assessment in a Veterans Affairs facility. Results of that assessment were written up by non-clinician bureaucrats and provided to the minister before the assessment ever occurred. The pre-determined plan intended amongst other things, to cut off all my treatment at the time. If I refused, the minister was informed that Veterans Affairs would cease my treatment. These officials sought legal advice to carry out this plan.

As you can see it was a classic no-win situation for me. For the bureaucrats who broke privacy laws it was a win-win game, playing with my life.  I would be without treatment, therefore my condition would worsen if I refused. If I chose their assessment, the results would determine that I was not a credible voice for veterans for non-medically trained bureaucrats predetermined that I was mentally unstable.

Either way, I would not be able to speak credibly in defence of veterans or their families ever again.

Through the strength of my belief in Canada and the loving support of my wife I fought back.

After more than 14,000 pages of emails and notes obtained through the Privacy Act, I am able to provide these facts to you now, just as I provided them to the privacy commissioner who found in my favour.

What I also found was that although the minister claims my information was not transmitted in a public place, it was seen by at least 857 (and counting) individuals including two ministers, a Parliamentary Secretary, and served as briefing material for my Member of Parliament’s staff, the staff of Stephen Harper’s Prime Ministers Office and a high-ranking Canadian Forces general as well as other Canadian Forces personnel.

This was highly inappropriate since I had been out of uniform for more than 10 years at the time.

During the last six years, even after resolution of my case, not one individual form Veterans Affairs has ever sat down with me to seek resolution. VAC did it through lawyers. And in spite of the minister’s claims of compassion and understanding in this matter, none of the so-called internal investigations have ever involved speaking with me.

Can you imagine a police investigation that doesn’t involve speaking with the victim?

This is more serious than just my private information. The message is clear to bureaucrats throughout the federal public service whether they are looking at your soon-to-be submitted tax forms, your immigration papers, your old age and CPP information, your social insurance numbers or your disability medical files:  there is far greater reward through promotions and pay increases to break the law than there are punishments.

This is not the Canada I went to war to defend.

Sean Bruyea

Sean Bruyea is a freelance journalist, advocate for the rights of disabled veterans and a retired Intelligence Officer who served in the Persian Gulf War.
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

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