Veteran gets apology from Canadian government over information leak

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The Canadian government has apologised to a veteran after the privacy commissioner found that it mishandled his sensitive personal information.

Veterans Affairs Canada passed the information of Sean Bruyea between various unauthorised employees, and also sent it to a hospital that it managed without his knowledge or consent, the investigation found. Then-minister Greg Thompson was also given extensive notes about Bruyea's medical and psychiatric condition.

“Sensitive personal information was inappropriately shared with departmental officials who would normally require only very limited or no access to medical information in fulfilling their duties,” said the commissioner's findings. “In fact, they had no need to know the complainant's medical information in order to add their contribution to the briefing notes.”

Bruyea was thrown into the spotlight after testifying against a new Veterans' Charter in 2005. He said that he had become “suicidal” after learning that his information had been mishandled.

“I was very troubled to learn that personal information concerning you was shared among public servants who had no need for this information in order to do their work,” said Jean-Pierre Blackburn, minister of veterans affairs Canada and minister of state for agriculture, on October 25. “I recognize that this information-sharing has caused you needless suffering and anxiety, and for that the government and I are truly sorry."

Bruyea contacted Harper's office four years ago about the issue. Documents he obtained revealed a meeting between senior political aides Keith Beardsley and Danielle Shaw to discuss his “alleged harassment” by Veteran Affairs.

He is now suing the federal government for CDN$400,000 as recompense for the mishandling of his data. His lawyer has said that the complaint could be settled out of court with a financial payout.

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