Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not Now. I'm Having a Bad Day.

Look, I'll talk to all of you tomorrow. Right now, I'm going back to bed. It's barely morning and already there are all kinds of signs that the day is not going to go well.

First, a blow to women executives everywhere. Hillary Clinton sends the message that, even if you break through the highest of glass ceilings and become Secretary of State, no one will help you with your hair:

All across Canada, board search committees are looking at this photo and thinking, maybe we don't need to address gender diversity on our board of directors right now.

Then, I read that some mandarin within the federal government has been picking on a veteran, causing me to wonder whether veterans are as poorly served by the legal profession as they seem to be.

According to this morning's Globe & Mail, some chuckleheads within Canada's Veteran Affairs ministry decided that it was perfectly fine to use personal medical information about veteran Sean Bruyea in a briefing to the Minister in charge. At the time (2005), Mr. Bruyea was a vocal critic of Ministry's draft Veterans Charter and presumably, ministry officials were looking for a way to silence him.

To be clear, this is not a matter of a few overzealous bureaucrats digging for dirt. The Globe reports that 614 people in Veterans Affairs accessed personal data, which included Mr. Bruyea's psychiatrist's notes. 150 of them shared emails about his medical treatment and Veteran's pension, and a further 243 liberal and conservative party staffers appear to have received briefing notes containing the same materials. It's a systemic disregard for privacy rights.

How is this possible? Somewhere, somehow, someone decided it was acceptable to have Veterans sign away broad rights to their data if they wished to get Veterans benefits. And somehow, we've led an entire ministry to think this is acceptable. Don't even get me started on how this kind of widespread abuse impacts Canada's reputation as a leader in other emerging areas such as telemedicine, where control of medical records and data is important. Thank you very much indeed, Veterans Affairs.

As lawyers seek out new practice niches, may I suggest some of you take a look at how specializing in veterans matters? Yikes.