(Vancouver lawyer Stephen Bronstein seen entering court. APTN photo)
By Paul Barnsley and Kathleen Martens
VANCOUVER – Vancouver lawyer Stephen Bronstein’s representation of survivors of sexual and/or physical abuse at Indian Residential Schools will be reviewed by investigators.
The order came down on Feb. 22 from B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown. Included in the order was a clause that ended the publication ban against naming Bronstein that Brown put in place on Jan. 18. A ban still exists on reporting specific details before the court of complaints made by clients or on the identity of the clients who made the complaints.
APTN does not know what is before the courts. All of the information it has turned up was obtained through independent sources not involved in the court process.
The lawyer and his law firm – Bronstein & Company – will be required to provide information to investigators employed by Crawford Class Actions Services, the company retained by Justice Warren Winkler, the Ontario judge charged with monitoring the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Justice Brown is one of eight judges across the country that represent Justice Winkler on regional matters.
Bronstein has now been named as the lawyer who allegedly worked with Ivon Johnny, a convicted murderer who, it’s alleged, extorted money from survivors he signed up for the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) of the IRSSA.
After two-and-a-half days of negotiations, last Friday Bronstein’s lawyer Mark Andrews signed an agreement that his client will abide by the conditions of the court order.
The order made nine demands of Bronstein which must be met by March 15:
– The lawyer must provide “any record of communication” between Bronstein and Johnny to the court monitor investigators.
– The lawyer must provide “any agreements made between Mr. Johnny and Bronstein & Company with respect to services to be provided, and remuneration, expenses or other monies to be paid to Mr. Johnny.”
– He must provide a description of all services provided to Bronstein & Company by Johnny.
– He must disclose all “remuneration and other monies paid” to Johnny.
– He must disclose “any such agreements with other persons” who have worked as form fillers for the firm.
– Bronstein must disclose all services provided by those “other persons” and how much they were paid.
– Bronstein must turn over all information related to “loans made by Bronstein & Company to IAP claimants secured by repayment from settlement funds” if any exist.
– He must provide any information that might show “whether the advance of loans was ever used by Bronstein & Company for recruitment of clients.”
– He must turn over any information in his possession – if any exists – related to “any arrangements consensual or otherwise made between Mr. Johnny and any Bronstein claimant with respect to Mr. Johnny receiving any form of benefit, remuneration or share of a claimant’s award or settlement.”
Court monitor investigators have been given clearance to interview Bronstein and Johnny.
An independent lawyer or “practice advisor” must be hired – and paid – by Bronstein to develop a plan to complete existing IAP cases and to “re-certify” any claims in which Johnny participated. That plan must be in place by April 11, the judge ordered.
Three parties signed the order: Andrews for Bronstein & Company, and lawyers for Canada and Crawford. Dan Ish, the chief adjudicator of the IAP Secretariat, did not sign it. He wanted the judge to order a full-scale investigation.
“I don’t think it goes far enough,” he said of the negotiated agreement.
Other parties, including the Assembly of First Nations, have not yet stated their positions. The AFN did not have a lawyer present for the negotiations.
The hearing that began Feb. 20 in Vancouver was marked by an unusually high level of secrecy. Allegations against the lawyer were to be presented to the judge who would then provide direction on how to proceed. Parties were expecting the judge to order a full-scale investigation like she did before in the case of Calgary law firm Blott & Company, and its affiliated form-filling company Honour Walk, who were eventually banned from the IAP.
But not this time. Brown urged everyone to try and resolve the issue or at least narrow the scope of the probe. The judge did not explain her reasons but cited the “extensive” and expensive nature of ordering a full investigation.
The review was sparked by complaints that residential school survivors in several B.C. communities near Williams Lake were being intimidated and threatened to hand over some of their compensation money to the convicted killer. APTN has learned it’s alleged Johnny dealt with at least 284 people.
“Mr. Johnny scared a lot of people,” Ish said.
Parole Board documents show that Johnny, 62, was on parole at the time. He told the board he worked for a lawyer distributing and collecting compensation application forms using a truck the lawyer bought him.
He denies allegations he extorted funds from residential school survivors, forced them to drop their lawyers to sign on with his, or exaggerated their claims of abuse to receive more compensation.
The compensation is paid by Canada for serious physical and sexual abuse suffered by children who were forced to attend residential schools.
Johnny’s full parole was revoked by a parole board last month after the extortion allegations became public. Justice Brown also suspended him from participating any further in the IAP.