(Doug Keshen, centre, in an undated photo.)
Some residential school survivors are angry and confused about a deal made April 25 to stop a disciplinary hearing against a Kenora lawyer.
“It’s really Mickey Mouse,” said Garnet Angeconeb, who speaks on survivor issues in Northwestern, Ont. “They are hurt, they are angry, they are confused. They feel they were led along the garden path.”
Angeconeb is a survivor, but was not a complainant in the Law Society of Upper Canada’s case of alleged professional misconduct against Douglas Keshen.
He was however, a spokesman for survivors and someone the Law Society consulted with during its investigation.
In fact, Angeconeb said lawyers from the Law Society visited his home prior to dropping the discipline proceedings to deliver the bad news.
See related story: Law Society, lawyer forge deal to avoid formal discipline
“I felt a little sick,” Angeconeb told APTN Investigates via the phone. “This has been three years in the making. Survivors were encouraged to make complaints. They were told they were doing
the right thing.”
Law Society treasurer Paul Schabas acknowledged that hurt in a telephone interview Monday.
“We had evidentiary issues that arose,” he explained, noting that can happen in any case. But to happen here, he agreed, would affect the trust between the Law Society and survivors.
“We must do better,” he said, in the spirit of “reconciliation.”
Schabas couldn’t explain why it took so deep into the case to recognize these issues. Nor did he have a pricetag for the investigation that will be paid by Law Society funds that come from dues paid by
lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.
He did say an internal review was underway to determine how best to investigate cases going forward that rely on evidence from survivors in a more culturally sensitive way.
He expected results would be in place for the next case involving complaints about the way an Ontario lawyer handled residential school compensation.
”We’re moving quickly,” he said.
A request to interview Keshen on the telephone for this story was denied by his Toronto-based lawyers, Robin Parker and Daniel Naymark.
“He is focusing on getting back to work right now, and has asked that we speak to the press as his counsel,” Parker said in an email.
Both she and Naymark asked to accompany Keshen to the three healing circles with survivors he agreed to attend as part of the resolution of the case.
Darlene Necan said it’s frustrating to see her Anishinabek culture used in this way.
“There are more steps to healing than a circle,” she said from Thunder Bay. “This is about his spirit. He must spend time in the Shaking Tent. And he must do a sweat.”
Necan said she filed a complaint with the Law Society about the way Keshen handled her mother’s residential school compensation case but it was not included in this case.
She says no one from the Law Society followed up, and her mother has since died.
“This system is not working. It’s not working for survivors. They are vulnerable.”
Angeconeb agrees: “My feeling and experience has been healing sessions don’t just take one session.”
APTN requested interviews with Keshen’s former legal partner, Greg Rickford, and Chief Edward Machimity of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen First Nation because both provided character references
Those messages were not returned by deadline.
Meanwhile, Angeconeb said the repercussions are still being discussed and Aboriginal leaders in Treaty 3 territory are weighing their legal options.
They don’t necessarily trust the Law Society to review its own, self-admitted, flawed practices.
“Somebody needs to look at what happened. There needs to be analysis. We need to ask what happened, too.”