OTTAWA – A Canadian soldier is suing the armed forces for $60,000 in damages after enduring “harassment”, “emotional pain and suffering” when colleagues and superiors allegedly spread confidential information about a “medical crisis” he suffered last year.
When Master Warrant Officer Gregory Boucher suffered a medical emergency at his home on Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden on Nov. 16, 2019 and was hospitalized for several days, he and his wife expected the event to stay private.
What the member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for nearly thirty years did not expect was that “many persons at his workplace were aware not only that he had been hospitalized, but also of the medical reason for his hospitalization and specific confidential details surrounding his medical crisis,” reads a lawsuit filed to the Federal Court earlier this month.
The documents do not detail the nature of the medical emergency apart from noting that Boucher suffers from “service-related injuries” and that he was brought to the hospital following a welfare check from military firefighters and police officers.
But not only did “a very broad number” of his military colleagues and superiors know intimate details of the emergency, their spouses did too and would “repeatedly” approach Boucher and his wife to inquire about his wellbeing.
Beyond feeling “betrayed” by his colleagues, Boucher “became deeply upset, embarrassed, and suffered great discomfort and humiliation,” the lawsuit alleges. This “ultimately hindered both his performance at work and interfered with his peaceful enjoyment of his off-duty hours on base.”
Another issue was the soldier had little to no idea who had allegedly disclosed all the confidential information related to his November health crisis.
The first was sent to DND’s director of privacy, whose investigation concluded last June that there had been “unauthorized disclosure” of Boucher’s confidential information, and that his privacy rights had been breached, the lawsuit says.
The second was a harassment complaint filed with the CAF and other high-ranking brass at DND. According to Boucher’s lawsuit, this investigation concluded that he had been harassed because of the “disclosure of confidential medical information.”
To make matters worse, court documents say the investigations determined that Boucher’s medical information was disclosed to his colleagues without his knowledge nor consent “as many as four” times.
The lawsuit details multiple breaches that occurred during meetings involving the Company Sergeant Majors of his unit, during at least one telephone conversation between some of his superiors and also during a variety of conversations between his superiors and colleagues.
Despite these conclusions, none of the investigations provided Boucher with the identity of all those who had “unlawfully” disclosed intimate details about his medical crisis, nor did they provide him with any compensation, his court filing explains.
Boucher says he only knows of one colleague — Chief Warrant Officer Steve Tremblay — whom he alleges “widely” propagated his private information “on several occasions” in the days following his medical emergency. In court documents, Boucher refers to the other unknown alleged perpetrator as “John Doe”.
“Both John Doe and CWO Tremblay’s conduct unlawfully invaded (Boucher’s) private affairs in a highly offensive way and caused distress, humiliation and anguish to (Boucher) and his spouse,” the lawsuit claims.
“Despite likely being aware of (Boucher’s) complaints of harassment and privacy breach, John Doe has not identified himself/herself. Neither John Doe nor CWO Tremblay have apologized … nor have they expressed remorse.”
Boucher has turned to the Federal Court to demand $20,000 in general damages from the CAF, Tremblay and “John Doe” for “emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and diminution of reputation”.
He’s also requesting $25,000 for the “invasion of medical privacy” which led to “substantial suffering”, as well as $15,000 in punitive damages.
“(Boucher’s) medical records reflect the psychological harm these breaches of medical privacy have caused him, which has further aggravated (his) existing medical condition,” reads the lawsuit.
“(Boucher) has suffered, and continues to suffer psychologically and emotionally, as a direct result of the conduct of (the CAF, Tremblay and John Doe).”
None of the above allegations have yet been proven in court, and none of the defendants have yet filed their defences.
As the matter is now before the court, both the CAF and Boucher’s lawyer refused interview requests and declined to comment. Neither accepted to provide National Post with copies of the two investigation reports.
Source: NATIONAL POST