Ottawa negotiating with lawyer accused of over-billing for residential school work - APTN NewsAPTN News

Ottawa negotiating with lawyer accused of over-billing for residential school work

(Saskatchewan lawyer Tony Merchant.)

Kathleen Martens
Ottawa is currently negotiating a 60s Scoop compensation claim with a lawyer it says overbilled the government during the residential school process.

According to court records, the federal government is suing Tony Merchant, a Saskatchewan-based lawyer and spokesperson for a group of four law firms trying to reach a 60s Scoop deal, for fraud, misrepresentation and deceit.

The records state that Ottawa is trying to get millions back from the Merchant Law Group (MLG) from an earlier compensation program – the one for former students of Indian residential schools.

“The government is pursuing legal action against MLG in a matter arising from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). This matter is not related to the Sixties Scoop,” the department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs said in an email to APTN News.

“The Sixties Scoop negotiations are taking place in accordance with the federal court’s dispute resolution services and under the supervision of a federal court judge.”

The choice of lawyers belongs to class members, the department added.

Merchant, whose wife is Liberal senator Pana Merchant, has wide experience organizing and negotiating class-action lawsuits.

His firm represented more than 7,000 claimants under IRSSA and was paid $25 million in 2008.

But in 2015, Ottawa questioned that amount and filed a civil suit seeking that money back plus its legal fees between 1997 and 2005.

The claim alleges Merchant’s electronic billing statements were incorrect.

Especially after some lawyers billed out more than 24 hours in a day, and some records were back-dated by as much as two years.

“A large proportion of these time entries were intentionally inflated, duplicated or simply fabricated,” the claim reads.

The government is backed by reports from Deloitte which reviewed Merchant’s billing records.

Merchant Law denies the allegations and filed a counter-suit for $20 million, alleging Ottawa short-changed it by more than $50 million.

It claims the government defaulted on an original agreement from 2005 to pay Merchant Law $40 million for work it did on behalf of residential school survivors.

None of these accusations have been proven in court.

Merchant has also been disciplined three times by the Law Society of Saskatchewan.

Now, he is busy with ‘60s Scoop negotiations that he confirmed are confidential.

He said the four he speaks for are: Merchant Law, Koskie Minsky, David Klein and Wilson-Christen.

He said survivors won’t pay any legal fees if they apply for ‘60s Scoop compensation through one of the four firms.

In exchange for that exclusivity, the quartet has asked Ottawa for $75 million to cover their legal fees.

Each survivor should receive between $25,000 and $50,000, which the four firms maintain is more than claimants would have received by fighting in court.

Separately the four firms represent class-action lawsuits in various provinces, and they say the federal settlement of $750 million means those too will be settled rather than certified.

As well, Ottawa is designating $50 million for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation.

Survivors were at-risk children taken from their reserves by child welfare workers and adopted to non-Indigenous families beginning in the 1960s.

Those adoptees – an estimated 200,000 – are now adults seeking monetary damages for loss of family, culture and identity.

But Bill Klym, a Calgary lawyer with DD West, says his ‘60s Scoop clients don’t want to deal with Merchant.

However, he says he’s been unable to penetrate the official group.

“We tried to get a motion into federal court and couldn’t,” he said in a telephone interview

“We are adamantly opposed to the proposed settlement agreement Merchant had a role in drafting,” added Lee McMillan, an associate at Klym’s firm.

Klym couldn’t say what that would mean for the settlement agreement but suggested a judge was unlikely to sign off unless all members of the class were satisfied.

The settlement reached so far has been agreed to in principle and has a date with a judge to be finalized next spring.

Then the application process for compensation would begin.

Tags: , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Ottawa negotiating with lawyer accused of over-billing for residential school work”

    gary.robinson January 2, 2018 at 11:34 pm #

    government will wait till everyone die off like they did with residential then start paying off to old to spend just enough to cover funneral costs either way we indigenous lose

    gary sr robinson January 2, 2018 at 11:30 pm #

    is it gunna be like residential payment whereas the goverment waits till most people DIE off then start payment i was in residential never recieved any kind of payment sandybay first nation no records to be found

    Ron Burns January 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm #

    Straight talk
    In Canada it is alright to steal children from Indigenous Families, if it happened to non first nations children, the criminals would be incarcerated. The pittance amount the government is paying out is a shame. Tony Merchant should hide in shame for taking the government to fill out forms and charging the abused more than he should have. Where is the JUSTICE for the Holocaust survivors of CANADA.

    steve fobister sr January 1, 2018 at 5:21 am #

    what happen from the sixties scoop was result of of legislated acts by Ontario..All western law , human rights, contstitutional laws were designed for clonism and immigrants and aboriginal were never included. It was easy for child welfare agency to make a case and reason.s to remove children..because off their lifestyles and cultural. Theses law still exist as they were created 100 years ago. We were never part od any system or the right to own land and the contemporary living systems that satisies the laws of this land. For example Indian lived in log cabins no running water no beds, no baths, or any of the luxury the white society calls and takes for granted. In their laws everything was unfit and children needed protection otherwise. This all about assimulation as it was spoken in house of commence to make it so. They had neo understanding whatsoever about aboriginal what make the self sufficient…to now you have all the social ills today..homelessness. incarceration, welfare ans oup;ines etct etc..they sure did a good job on us and now where do start to clean up…they guilty of everything for the last 500 years

    Nathan Kinbasket December 31, 2017 at 12:57 am #

    I still haven’t received any money from merchant law I went to court in 2005 for rez school