Thunder Bay·Exclusive

Kenora Lawyer Doug Keshen under investigation

CBC News has learned Doug Keshen and his law firm Keshen and Major are being investigated after complaints about the treatment of residential school survivors.

Concerns raised by residential school claimants

Donna Rogers-Necan, Thelma Fair and Darlene Necan protested outside Kenora lawyer Doug Keshen's office last week. ( (Facebook/Darlene Necan))

CBC News has learned Doug Keshen and his law firm Keshen and Major are being investigated after complaints about the treatment of residential school survivors.

The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat launched the investigation into the Kenora law firm based on information provided by four residential school survivors in northern Ontario.

A spokesperson said the information provided by survivors raises various types of concerns "including, without limitation, that the Keshen firm may have provided loans directly to (residential school) claimants and/or facilitated loans with third party lenders (in some cases, with very high interest rates/administration fees) and then repaid loans/interest/administration fees directly from claimants...settlement proceeds."

"I believed this would ease their stress..."

In an interview with CBC News, Keshen said he has done nothing wrong.

"At no time did I personally receive any financial benefit when the loans were negotiated between the loaning institution and the client," Keshen said.

Keshen said he provided advances to some of his clients on the funds he expected them to receive through their claims.

"I believed that this would ease their stress and angry and frustration at the process for having to wait so long for their award of compensation," he said, adding he was "unaware" of any restrictions prohibiting the activity.

"I just wasn't aware of any provision that spoke about that issue," he said. "If they ask me about that, (during the course of the investigation), I'll simply tell them that."

"All her pain wasn't worth it..."

The secretariat said it has passed the information about the concerns on to the Ontario Superior Court for further investigation.

"The chief adjudicator supports the court monitor taking steps to protect claimants from practices which do not comply with the Indian Residential Settlement Agreement," spokesperson Michael Tansey said in an email to CBC.

Last week a small group of protesters, unrelated to the formal investigation, gathered outside Keshen's Kenora office.

Darlene Necan said Keshen mishandled her mother's claim by promising the 74-year-old survivor thousands of dollars more than she eventually received.

"And all I could think of was three generations of pure misery and all the hurt, all the pain all the anger my mom went through was only worth that much?" Necan said. "And mom was so honest through it all, all her pain wasn't worth it to be taken seriously."

Keshen said he wouldn't speak specifically about that case unless Necan signed a waiver, but he said he respects her and the other protesters.

"We all know the process had been horribly, horribly slow and frustrating," he said. "You know these are people that have waited and have experienced abuse and they're very, very frustrated and that's the way it is. I agree with them."