By Paul Barnsley
The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) has amended an allegation it made against Douglas Keshen, a Kenora-based lawyer with an extensive First Nation practice.
On June 10, the law society’s tribunal hearing division released a notice of application informing Keshen an investigation into complaints made by 17 Independent Assessment Process (IAP) clients about him had convinced them there was grounds for a professional misconduct hearing. A hearing date has not yet been set.
The IAP was established under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to compensate former students who suffered serious physical and/or sexual abuse in the schools.
Six allegations were made by the law society.
On June 22, almost two weeks later, the tribunal hearing division released a revised notice of application with a significant change to the sixth allegation.
“The notice of application was amended so as to avoid any confusion as to which attorneys the law society was referring in paragraph six. The amendments did not change the law society’s position,” the LSUC told APTN Investigates in an emailed statement.
The wording of that allegation was open to misinterpretation. It originally read that Keshen had transferred the client’s money to “his attorneys.”
The word “his” could mistakenly be understood to refer to attorneys at Keshen’s firm when it fact the word referred to other attorneys working for the client.
The amended allegation makes it clear the law society is saying that Keshen transferred the money to a person holding a power of attorney over a survivor’s financial affairs “when it was apparent that all of the monies transferred were not for the benefit” of the client.
Daniel Naymark, a Toronto lawyer acting for Keshen, in a letter to APTN, said the law society has misread the situation.
“The law society does not allege that Mr. Keshen or any other lawyer with whom he is affiliated ‘pocketed’ the funds in question. Rather, the law society apparently alleges that relatives of the client in question misused a power of attorney authorizing them to direct the spending of the client’s IRS settlement funds by spending the money on themselves, and that Mr. Keshen should have noticed this theft and stopped it,” he said. “The relatives whom the law society accuses of stealing the client’s money include a very prominent member of the Treaty 3 community. Mr. Keshen has the utmost respect for this individual. He does not doubt that he and the other relatives accused by the law society spent the settlement funds with their vulnerable relative’s interests at heart. He believes the law society’s allegations against these respected community members reflect a lack of understanding of Ojibway culture.”
But the law society disagrees with that reading of the amended allegation.
“The law society is concerned with Mr. Keshen’s conduct and not the conduct of the individuals appointed under the power of attorney,” the LSUC email states.