Warning from chief adjudicator: Residential school students say they’ve been hurt by law firm

APTN National News
In June 13, Chief Adjudicator Daniel Ish issued a memo to the 200 lawyers who represent IAP clients.

“The courts have made clear that any assignment of Settlement Agreement funds is contrary to the Financial Accountability Act and the Settlement Agreement,” he wrote. “Thus, assignments or directions to pay third parties are illegal and unenforceable. In no circumstances should legal counsel pay compensation funds to anyone other than the claimant, beyond approved legal fees.”

Without naming names, the chief adjudicator confirmed that a number of the complaints made by the former students had been reported to him.

“It has been brought to my attention that at least one firm has delivered cheques for compensation funds, payable to the claimant, to a third party for ‘delivery’ to the claimant. The claimant is then asked to endorse the cheque to the third party for services rendered in processing the IAP claim,” Ish wrote. “This must certainly be an unethical practice. All compensation funds should be paid directly to the claimant and if any amount is payable to a third party, it is a matter to be dealt with between the claimant and the third party without assistance being provided by claimant’s counsel to the third party.”

He stated that lawyers could see their fees reduced if they did not provide adequate representation. Then he stated that he had received reports from adjudicators that clients were not receiving adequate representation.

“Canada’s 15 per cent contribution toward legal fees is not a guaranteed minimum irrespective of the adequacy and quality of legal services provided to claimants,” Ish wrote.

The chief adjudicator explained what had prompted him to write the memo.

“In some situations, a 15 per cent fee is not fair and reasonable because it over-compensates for the services provided,” he told the IAP lawyers. “While it is hoped that these situations are not common, they certainly include cases where counsel has had no communication whatever prior to the day of the hearing, where counsel appear at a hearing with the wrong claimant (in one case on more than one occasion relating to the same file), delays in the prosecution of files attributable totally to counsel inaction and false or altered certifications on applications.”

Oversight Committee minutes add more detail.

The minutes of a meeting on June 21 noted the memo and summarized it for the committee.

“As examples of conduct that might warrant such a reduction, he cited lawyers who repeatedly attended with the wrong client, claims where the application form bears no resemblance to the case, and application forms where the lawyers’ certification is signed by someone else, photocopied, or falsified. All of these are, regrettably, actual situations that have occurred.”

Minutes of an earlier meeting show that the committee was getting impatient with some firms.

“Six law firms are responsible for 70 per cent of the cases on hold. Meetings are being held with each. The Court Monitor may have to be engaged if the lack of response remains. Disclosure of the names of the firms, possibly on the website, was suggested.”

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.