OTTAWA – The Mounties have been called in to investigate allegations that a long-time veterans advocate continues to be harassed, even after he won a human-rights case against a federal review panel.
The RCMP probe was initiated at the request of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is carrying out a separate review of fresh allegations by Harold Leduc.
Leduc is the outspoken former warrant officer who created a political storm last year when he claimed members and management of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board leaked private information about his post traumatic stress diagnosis.
He alleged the leak was made in order to discredit his decisions at the board, which takes a second look at the rejected benefits claims of ex-soldiers.
The human rights commission had previously ordered the veterans board to pay Leduc $4,000, including legal costs, for harassment he’d suffered from other agency members.
But he claims the harassment did not cease, even though his position with the board was not renewed last fall.
“The retaliation I’ve faced is all about discrediting me as a person because of my disabilities,” Leduc said in an interview.
He would not be more specific about who might be responsible for the alleged, ongoing slurs or the nature of them. But he noted he has both written and oral evidence, all of which has been handed over to both the RCMP and the commission.
“The process has rigorous screening and if there wasn’t something there, I don’t think they would continue,” said Leduc, who was interviewed by an investigator in January.
The RCMP would not confirm or deny the investigation.
Legislation governing the commission gives it the discretion to call in the Mounties if its orders to cease harassment of an individual or organization go unheeded.
It is a highly unusual, if not unprecedented step for a probe to take place, says a human rights lawyer.
“I’ve never heard of the RCMP or any other police force actually prosecuting one of those cases,” said Paul Champ.
That section of the legislation was intended to prevent the intimidation of witnesses in human rights cases, and is somewhat more broad than harassment as it’s defined in the Criminal Code, said Champ.
The results of the investigation will be handed to the federal justice minister, but Champ said he hopes the decision on whether to lay charges will be made by the independent public prosecution office.
A spokeswoman for the veteran review board said there was little that could be said because of the matter was still under investigation.
“The board is aware of the process initiated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to follow up on this complaint made under the Canadian Human Rights Act by a former board member,” said Danielle Gauthier.
“We have been advised by the Commission that this is the way it deals with such complaints.”
While Leduc would not name his alleged harassers, he did point fingers at the Harper government, saying it failed to halt the bitter infighting which wracked the board and contributed to a decline in his health.
He said Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney has also not held anyone responsible for the breach of private medical information, which Leduc claims was used to smear him because he too often sided with disabled veterans.
“The minister has a responsibility under the (veterans review and appeal legislation) to deal with members’ behaviour. He has refused my many requests to do that,” said Leduc.
His point of contact has been with Blaney’s chief of staff, but Leduc says nothing has been done.
“They just don’t want to deal with this,” he said.
But a spokesman for Blaney said when the matter went before the human rights commission, the decision was made to stand back and let the system do its job.
“When this matter was first brought to our attention, we sought legal advice and were advised to allow the arms-length complaint process to continue,” said Niklaus Schwenker.
“As this work continues, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”