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Afghanistan veteran pushes ahead with lawsuit against Saskatchewan Legion and Veterans' Affairs

The first legion branch in Canada, located on the 1800 block of Cornwall St., is shown in Regina, Sask. on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. (Roy Antal / THE CANADIAN PRESS) The first legion branch in Canada, located on the 1800 block of Cornwall St., is shown in Regina, Sask. on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. (Roy Antal / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A Saskatchewan veteran says he’s still pursuing his lawsuit against the Royal Canadian Legion after he discovered a Legion staff member was snooping into his and other veterans’ records.

Internal Veterans’ Affairs Canada (VAC) emails shared with CTV News last year outlined a months-long investigation into breaches of the personal medical and other information of up to six veterans by one service officer at the Regina branch of the Legion.

The veteran who shared the information with CTV News filed a statement of claim against VAC and the Saskatchewan Legion last May, seeking damages in excess of $500,000.

In the lawsuit, the veteran is known only as C.D.

The privacy breaches stem from an agreement between the Legion and VAC that allows Legion service officers to access veterans’ personnel, financial and medical records in a federal government database in order to help them apply for benefits. They are required to have signed permission to represent a veteran before accessing files.

In its defence, Veterans’ Affairs says it moved swiftly once it discovered there were several privacy breaches from the Regina Legion branch.

“VAC was made aware of allegations that Paul Valiquette improperly accessed veteran records in 2021 – 2022,” the Veterans’ Affairs lawyer says in a statement of defence filed in October.

“VAC security promptly investigated the allegations and concluded that Paul Valiquette had improperly accessed the plaintiff’s CSDN file without a proper justification. Paul Valiquette’s access to the CSDN has been revoked and his reliability level security status is in the process of being revoked.”

In the internal emails the veteran shared with CTV News, one VAC staff member said they found Valiquette demonstrated “a lot of carelessness when accessing files” on the database.

Two Regina veterans were sent letters saying their private information was accessed “where there was no work-related requirement to do so.”

“We have discussed this in the past about how the RCL services officers seem to be overreaching … for their scope of work for VAC clients,” a staffer writes in an email from Sept. 2022.

In the 2022 investigation into the Regina Legion, VAC questioned the Legion’s Veterans Services Director Carolyn Hughes about why Valiquette needed to access certain files. She responded that in many cases he “could not recall why he would have accessed them in the past.”

Hughes also said previous staff at that Legion branch weren’t tracking their access at all.

“Unfortunately for the first several months he was working there, and also the previous officers, were not keeping any form of tracking whatsoever.”

A security officer at Veterans Affairs noted Valiquette included minimal detail when filling out the online forms required for access. Following its investigation, the federal department changed the rules to require slightly more detail from Legion service officers when accessing the database.

When contacted by CTV News last year, the director of the Legion’s Saskatchewan Command Chad Wagner said he had only received direct information about one privacy breach from VAC.

He declined to comment as it was still before the courts, but he did say that veterans were free to withdraw their consent from the Legion service officers at any time.

In its statement of defence filed in August, the Saskatchewan Legion took issue with C.D.’s choice to launch a lawsuit anonymously, saying it was “impossible for the … defendants to present and file a responsive defence, not knowing the identity of the plaintiff.”

The Legion also argues C.D.’s anonymity violates the rules of court. The Legion says his claim is improper, “a nullity,” and should be dismissed.

Despite calling for significant financial compensation from the Legion and Veterans’ Affairs, C.D. says what he really wants to see is a change to the agreement between the federal government and the Legion to prevent this kind of unregulated access to the private information of veterans — many of whom now suffer disability as a result of their service.

“I think ultimately if VAC was to see just how badly they’ve gone through that system and run amok with it, they’d just take it away. I would like both of the individuals from the Legion to lose their jobs. They should not be working in that space with a vulnerable population,” he told CTV News in March.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have control over that kind of stuff. So, that’s why we ended up asking for money, which is silly, because it’s never been about the money.” Top Stories

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