Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Harold Leduc poses in Ottawa, Tuesday Feb.1, 2012. Leduc, a prominent member of the country's veterans review and appeal board had his privacy violated twice in an alleged smear campaign meant to discredit him and his decisions using his private medical information.

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

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.

Mr. Leduc, who spent 22 years in the military, claims he was a target for gossip, innuendo and intimidation because he often sided with veterans in his review decisions.

Story continues below advertisement

It is the latest, and potentially the most wide-ranging, in a series of privacy breaches, which the Conservative government claimed was cleaned up at the department that oversees the care of ex-soldiers and RCMP.

In late 2010 following the privacy scandal involving 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 Mr. Leduc's personal information and examined the toxic in-fighting at the independent agency, was released un-censored 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Leduc had been the victim of a more serious breach, where over 40 officials accessed his file that included medical information. Some of the officials were from veterans affairs, others included those who oversaw the review and appeal board.

"I was devastated because it was a huge breach of trust that they can't go back on," Mr. 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."

Board chairman John Larlee declined a request for an interview, but spokeswomen for both the agency and the veterans affairs minister released statements in response to a series of questions posed by The Canadian Press.

Story continues below advertisement

Both Danielle Gauthier and Codi Taylor said safeguarding privacy has been of the utmost concern.

"When a privacy breach occurs, we take immediate steps to address it, including corrective actions and disciplinary measures where appropriate," Ms. Gauthier wrote in an email Friday.

Neither of them would address Mr. Leduc's circumstance, citing privacy concerns. They declined to explain how his privacy could have been violated twice — or what measures were taken in response.

"Minister Steven Blaney believes that any violation of our Veterans privacy is totally unacceptable," Ms. Taylor wrote in an email.

"Our government took action over a year ago to ensure disciplinary measures for those who violate the law. Our government wants to ensure that the privacy of all veterans remains protected which is why Minister Blaney instructed departmental officials to look at how the Privacy Action Plan could be updated."

Ms. Taylor would not explain what new measures might be introduced – or when.

Story continues below advertisement

The Canadian Press has obtained a series of documents, emails and findings, which stretch back almost four years and paint a picture of a 24-member board that has become a viper's nest of intrigue, division, and petty vendettas.

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'," Mr. Leduc said.

He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder following over two decades of service in the military. And it was the conversations with other board members that prompted him to begin asking questions of officials about his privacy.

The gossip escalated to outright harassment after the Conservative government re-appointed him to a five-year term in 2007, said Mr. Leduc, who has also been awarded a veterans ombudsman commendation.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Leduc said the country's privacy watchdog had told him that it was unable to investigate the initial leak of his personal information.

The assistant privacy commissioner, Chantel Bernier, provided clarification Feb. 13.

While for privacy reasons she would not address Mr. Leduc's specific case, Ms. Bernier said the concerns of a number of individuals had been brought to their attention and that they would addressed through the commissioner's full-scale audit of Veterans Affairs.

Mr. Leduc asked for a judicial investigation under the veterans review board legislation, but the chair, John Larlee, chose instead to hire an outside investigator to conduct "a workplace assessment," according to a Dec. 7, 2009 letter.

"This is a genuine attempt for an objective, independent 3rd party to assess VRAB as a workplace and make the Board a better more productive place to work for everyone," Mr. Larlee wrote.

But the situation dissolved into tit-for-tat harassment claims. At least two other board members filed against Mr. Leduc, who among other things was also being pressured to submit to a Health Canada psychological assessment.

Story continues below advertisement

He said the harassment was aimed at getting him to quit.

Philip Chodos, who was hired to do the assessment, took it upon himself to attempt to mediate among the warring parties, according to a series of emails.

What remains unclear was whether that was within his mandate. He eventually gave up on the mediation attempt and filed his investigation report with the board.

Mr. Leduc was told the document focused on him, but he could not see it. It was suggested he apply for a copy under access to information laws.

Before he got the chance last spring, the unedited copy was released to someone else, in violation of the Privacy Act. Federal officials won't say who obtained the document.

A veterans affairs official, speaking on background, claimed that staff had been disciplined in relation to the unauthorized release. But neither Ms. Gauthier, nor Ms. Taylor would confirm that.

Story continues below advertisement

The Canadian Human Rights Commission became involved in the summer of 2010 with a mediation of its own. It sided with Leduc and ordered the board to compensate him and cease harassment.

The document trail shows senior bureaucrats in PCO and in the veterans minister's office promised to try and bridge the divide, but to no avail.

"I'm sorry to learn about this situation and how it has affected you," former veteran affairs minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn wrote on July 19, 2010, referring to Mr. Leduc's first privacy breach.

"I note that the management of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board has taken this matter seriously and has conducted an investigation, apologized to you and put in place measures to prevent similar situations in the future."

When the second privacy breach occurred, Stephen Harper's office took notice.

"We are very troubled to review the concerns you outlined," wrote Salphie Stephanian, an assistant to the prime minister, in an Aug. 12, 2011 email. "Our government regards the protection of personal information as a priority. We have been in contact with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Hon. Steven Blaney. His office is aware of the situation, and you can be assured that an appropriate response is forthcoming."

Yet, when asked what action was taken, Ms. Taylor pointed out that the board was meant to be an "arms-length, quasi-judicial body."

Senior government officials say Mr. Leduc was offered further mediation last fall, but he declined.

In a letter to Mr. Harper, Mr. Leduc pleaded for a judicial investigation of the board, saying he didn't want to take legal action or go to the media.

He said later in an interview last week that he kept his silence for years because he believed going public would only harm veterans.

But with continued in-fighting and no action by government, he said he had no choice but to speak out.

"The matter needs to be investigated ASAP if the government and people of Canada truly care about veterans as they've stated in the law," he said.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the privacy commissioner of Canada was unable to investigate the alleged violation of Harold Leduc's privacy. This article has been amended to include a clarification.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies