Doug Keshen's residential school disbursements raise questions
Kenora lawyer says he did no wrong
The court monitor for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement is seeking direction from the Ontario Superior Court after four clients complained about Kenora law firm Keshen and Major.
Court documents, obtained by CBC News, indicate the former residential school students received thousands of dollars less in settlement payments than they were issued.
In one case, a complainant was issued $190,000 by Canada through the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). The direct payment from Keshen and Major was $48,166.12.
The rest of the money is alleged to have gone to such things as cash advances, administration fees, loans and interest. The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement says that's not allowed.
Keshen denies wrong-doing
Doug Keshen told CBC News he has not done anything wrong.
"It may appear that the client didn't receive a substantial amount of their settlement amount," he said. "But it's because they directed the amount to go to third parties, not myself."
Keshen said some clients asked him to buy vehicles or snowmobiles on their behalf.
"Some of the funds were directed to the purchase of goods," he said. "Not in one instance did I receive a personal benefit."
'How can I confront him?'
But Frederick Thomas said there is no explanation for the discrepancies in his payment through Keshen's firm.
"He took advantage of people," said Thomas, who works with other survivors who are pursuing residential school claims.
The Lac Seul First Nation man said he felt compelled to write a report about Keshen when he heard others were concerned about their payments as well.
"It affects you when you find out later after your settlement that the disbursement looks different," Thomas said. "You ask yourself how can I go through this? How can I confront him?"
Thomas said the ability of residential school survivors to raise their concerns now shows that they are gaining strength and finding a measure of healing.
"We were victimized as little children, that's why we applied for compensation and now we expect to be represented in a very honest way because of our past childhood sexual abuse," he said.
"We had a lot of courage to come forward and mention our experience and so now we find another system that we have to confront. That bit of healing that we have made us go forward with this issue."
Court monitor asks to handle remaining payments
The court monitor is asking the court to investigate the complaints.
It's also asking for all residential school payments still outstanding to be paid directly to the court monitor for disbursement to Keshen clients.
The documents say Keshen and Major handled 246 IAP files, and had completed 172 as of May 16.
Keshen said he will be filing a response to the court monitor.