By Kathleen Martens
WINNIPEG –Two lawyers and a form-filling company are under investigation for allegedly financially abusing Indian residential school survivors.
APTN Investigates has learned Winnipeg-based lawyer Ken Carroll and representatives of First Nations Residential School Solutions Inc. have been ordered to appear before Justice Perry Schulman of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
Court documents show the lawyers and the company have been the target of a probe by the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (IRSAS) for several years. IRSAS oversees financial compensation for adult survivors of residential schools across the nation.
A hearing before Schulman is scheduled for April 17 in Winnipeg. He is the western supervising judge for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), which oversees compensation through the Independent Assessment Process (IAP).
Brian Gover, a Toronto lawyer and the court monitor for IRSSA, explained the court action in a letter obtained by APTN Investigates.
He said it was ordered following “…a request for direction [from the court] initiated by the Chief Adjudicator in relation to practices allegedly engaged in by lawyers and form-fillers assisting claimants involved with the IAP.”
The relationship between the lawyers and the form-filling firm is not clear at this time. APTN Investigates has been denied access to court documents outlining the case.
Carroll did not respond to a voicemail message seeking comment left on his office phone. His lawyer Steve Vincent said he was retained only recently and could not discuss the case without his client’s permission.
The attorney for John Michaels, the second Winnipeg lawyer named in a court document, described his client as “a minor player.”
Blair Graham said the case was “fairly complicated.”
IRSAS has been busy policing lawyers and form-filling agencies – companies that charge survivors for filling out their compensation forms – during the five-year life of the IAP. Its role has evolved from one of administrative work to active oversight after the first major scandal erupted in 2011.
That’s when the first of three lawyers so far was exposed for a fee-grabbing scheme involving their services and/or those of affiliated companies.
Hundreds of survivors have been affected.
IRSAS has argued in previous cases that form-fillers are third parties who are not needed and are simply after money. Further, the form-fillers were allegedly paid directly from survivors’ compensation proceeds – something forbidden under the settlement agreement.
Lawyers, on the other hand, receive 15-per-cent of the settlements for processing each claim. They are eligible to receive as much as an additional 15 per cent directly from the survivor for cases of exceptional complexity.
Carroll was on the list of suggested lawyers to use for IAP claims in Winnipeg.
IRSAS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars making its legal arguments when lawyers are suspected of breaking the rules. One lawyer was kicked out of the IAP, a second is being supervised, and a third was disbarred by his provincial law society.
No criminal charges have been laid in any of the cases.
A spokesman for IRSAS declined to comment on the Manitoba case because it is before the courts.