FEDERAL (Canadian OH&S News)
An outspoken veteran and member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board will not have his tenure with the agency renewed, which some allege is due to his past comments on how the federal government treats its embattled vets.
Harold Leduc, a member of the appeal board since 2005 and a disabled veteran who has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, was recently sent a letter from Steven Blaney, minister for veterans affairs, informing him that his tenure would not be renewed.
The independent appeal tribunal hears cases from ex-soldiers who are dissatisfied with their disability pensions awarded from Veterans Affairs Canada.
“With everything that’s going on, I wasn’t surprised. But it is actually a little devastating because there’s no real reason,” Leduc contended. “As a disabled veteran, I’m exactly what they’re looking for, so there’s no reason, and they kept others on whose terms were up at the same time.”
Leduc has often voiced his concerns over how Veterans Affairs disrespects former soldiers and had breached his privacy. The latter climaxed when Leduc filed a complaint with the human rights commission, arguing that his private medical information and PTSD diagnosis were being used to discredit him as a board member because he often disagreed with the federal body’s decisions. He won that case.
“There was a settlement and from that point forward, the chair and everybody had a duty to siphon the poison from the work environment. Instead, the adverse behaviour increased,” Leduc said. “They’ve stonewalled me. [This] is part of workplace bullying and there’s no way around that. These are people that are out of control: schoolyard bullies who have now grown up.”
Peter Stoffer, the NDP’s veterans affairs critic and MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia, said that Leduc’s termination reflects a toxic culture.
“I’m absolutely disgusted with the government and the way they treat people who speak their minds clearly, honestly and openly. Harold Leduc is a well-respected, well-medaled veteran who served his country bravely,” Stoffer contended.
Stoffer recently introduced a private members bill that would obliterate the board because of inefficiency and a lack of accountability, he said.
“One of the biggest challenges facing veterans is the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. This is a politically-appointed, non-accountable, arms-length — as they call it — board,” he said. “Eliminate the board, get rid of it completely and change the atmosphere. You see these men and women with their head down and their cap in hand, and it’s almost like they’re begging, the men and women who apply for these benefits. I just want to streamline that process.”
Speaking as a disabled veteran rather than a board member, Leduc disagreed with Stoffer’s proposed legislation, saying that his fellow ex-soldiers want an independent place to go outside of the national department when they feel the department has got it wrong.
Danielle Gauthier, head of communications for the review board, defended the board, saying that such a body is unrivalled when it comes to its accountability for the health and safety of Canadian Forces veterans.
“The board plays a critical role in ensuring that veterans and their families receive the benefits they’re entitled to for service-related disabilities,” she said. “The board’s process is designed to give a fresh new look to cases already ruled upon by Veterans Affairs Canada, and provides veterans with final opportunities to receive or increase disability benefits.”