A Calgary judge has certified a class-action lawsuit against a former residential school lawyer.
“I don’t see how justice can ever be obtained for the Blott clients other than through another class proceeding,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Justice A. D. Macleod in a written decision released Tuesday.
The lawsuit means 5,600 former residential school students – mostly from the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta – can seek damages from former lawyer David Blott of Calgary.
APTN Investigates broke the story of how Blott’s firm was mishandling residential school abuse claims in 2010.
APTN News continues to follow the story.
The problems began when Blott opened a satellite office on the First Nation to process applications under the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which was created by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
That agreement settled a class-action lawsuit on behalf of students Canada forced into schools who lost family, culture, language and experienced physical and sexual abuse.
But instead of helping vulnerable claimants achieve justice, they allege he failed to represent them properly and, in some cases, charged excessive fees.
Blott “revictimized” and treated them “like cattle,” two previous investigations found.
“…Mr. Blott lacked an understanding of what it means to be a lawyer,” the judge wrote in his decision.
“He had set up his practice in such a way to maximize profit and minimize the effort required.”
Blott was ultimately kicked out of the IAP but not before reportedly earning $21 million from the federal program.
He resigned as a lawyer after his work was probed by the Law Society of Alberta, but denied any wrongdoing.
He offered to settle but that was rejected by the plaintiffs – some of whom have since died since the lawsuit was filed in Calgary in 2013.
Their lawyer, Maxime Faille of Gowling, is representing the group on a pro bono basis.
He said general and punitive damages could end up in the tens of millions of dollars.
The judge understands why.
“Rather than provide them with the support to which they were reasonably entitled as clients, they were preyed upon and exploited…,” Mcleod added.
Turning “what was supposed to provide reconciliation and closure into another traumatic experience,” he said.
Still, it could be years before the case is resolved.
Chief Adjudicator Dan Shapiro, says it remains a black eye on the residential school compensation process.
“The vast majority of lawyers representing claimants in the IAP are diligent and have done excellent and highly ethical work,” he said in an emailed statement.
“However, a small minority of legal counsel have engaged in unconscionable conduct that effectively deprived claimants of the benefits they are entitled to under the settlement agreement.”
APTN has been unable to contact Blott.
- APTN News – Shocking details released in Blott case