By Kathleen Martens
WINNIPEG – Another investigation into a law firm’s handling of residential school compensation claims has been approved by an Ontario judge.
Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto green-lighted the move today (Sept. 9) by approving a consent order.
Now Crawford Class Action Services, the court-appointed monitor of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, can review the work of Doug Keshen and his Kenora, Ont., law firm Keshen Major.
The investigation was welcomed by Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who holds the justice portfolio for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) that represents First Nations people in northwestern Ontario.
“It is unconscionable that legal firms would take advantage of the victims of the residential school system, many of whom are marginalized and lack adequate legal representation,” Fiddler said in a news release.
“These survivors lost their childhood; they must not be robbed of their future.”
So far, four former Indian residential school students, who live within NAN’s territory, have complained about the financial arrangements for their Independent Assessment Process (IAP) compensation claims. The compensation is available for the worst kinds of physical and sexual abuse inflicted at the schools.
They allege Keshen wrongly charged administration fees, arranged loans with third parties at high interest rates, and offered personal loans with interest against their IAP awards. Extra fees, loans and third-party costs against the awards are not allowed under IAP rules.
Keshen told APTN Investigates he was unaware of the prohibition.
The veteran lawyer said he didn’t benefit financially from loans to survivors made by third parties. Nor was that the reason he made personal loans.
“(Claimants) were angry and frustrated by how long it would take to receive their compensation. They wanted the money – some money – right away,” he said.
The Keshen firm handled just over 200 IAP claims.