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Sean Bruyea, a retired Canadian Forces captain, pauses during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Oct. 7, 2010. (Chris Wattie/Reuters/Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Sean Bruyea, a retired Canadian Forces captain, pauses during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Oct. 7, 2010. (Chris Wattie/Reuters/Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Veterans advocate Sean Bruyea settles privacy lawsuit with Ottawa Add to ...

A military veteran whose sensitive medical files were passed around by federal bureaucrats in an apparent effort to discredit him has settled his lawsuit with the government of Canada.

Sean Bruyea, a leading advocate for better treatment of wounded veterans and their families and a sharp critic of current government policy, announced the settlement Thursday.

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"My wife and I are relieved that after five years of despair we have taken back ownership of our lives," Mr. Bruyea said in a statement.

Bruyea, who served in the Gulf War, launched a $400,000 suit in September after he discovered that his files had been accessed by hundreds of federal bureaucrats, including policy-makers.

Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart ruled this fall that Mr. Bruyea's case was "alarming" and the treatment of his personal information was "entirely inappropriate."

"The veteran's sensitive medical and personal information was shared - seemingly with no controls - among departmental officials who had no legitimate need to see it," Ms. Stoddart said at the time.

His story generated a huge backlash when it was made public by the Canadian Press and Bruyea subsequently received a personal apology from Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn.

"We are so grateful and humbled by all the support we received from Canadians across the country," said Mr. Bruyea. "We are also truly thankful for the steadfast belief of the media and Canadians in my right to exercise freedom of expression as an advocate for veterans and improved government."

Terms of the settlement remain confidential but Mr. Bruyea said he'll continue his advocacy work on behalf of veterans. He had previously insisted he would not accept a settlement that included a gag order.

Mr. Bruyea thanked both Mr. Blackburn and Prime Minister Stephen Harper for helping find a "dignified and expedited closure to this matter."

In his suit, Mr. Bruyea alleged bureaucrats wanted to use his medical records, particularly psychiatric reports, to "falsely portray me and my advocacy to help other veterans as merely a manifestation of an unstable mind."

It has since been alleged that the personal files of other veterans, including former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran, were also misused.

Human rights lawyer Paul Champ, Mr. Bruyea's lawyer, said he was "delighted" with Mr. Bruyea's settlement.

"Veterans are extremely vulnerable," said Mr. Champ. "Their heath and financial security require them to share intimate information. Their privacy and dignity are exposed and they rely on the trust of Veterans Affairs officials to act appropriately."

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