Indigenous

Woman files complaint about First Nations financial transparency group with B.C. Law Society

After waiting months for legal help or a refund, Rosalin Miles has filed a formal complaint to the Law Society of British Columbia about Rob Louie, the president of the Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC) and Chris Harvey, a lawyer BMAAAC introduced to Miles.

Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada aims to link people to legal services

Rosalin Miles has filed a complaint with the Law Society of B.C. against lawyer Chris Harvey and BMAAAC president Rob Louie. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

After waiting months for legal help or a refund, Rosalin Miles has filed a formal complaint to the Law Society of British Columbia about Rob Louie, the president of the Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC) and Chris Harvey, a lawyer BMAAAC introduced to Miles.

In her complaint, she alleges the pair had a breach of undertaking, delay/inactivity, failure to communicate and a failure to follow instructions.

"The Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC) should not exist because what it says it prevents, it actually inflicts on community members," said Miles, a Lytton First Nation member.

BMAAAC was founded in 2019 by Louie, a Ktunaxa man, and often challenges First Nation governments to adhere to their fiduciary obligations. It serves as a liaison linking band members to legal services and has a reputation for winning some high profile cases, which is why Miles turned to them in February. 

She was seeking the financial statements of the Ntlaka'pumux Nation Tribal Council and turned to BMAAAC for legal advice and help getting a demand letter — a type of formal request —  for the financial statements.

She said she had read good reviews of BMAAAC and saw it had recently partnered with a national bank to host a financial workshop. Miles spoke to Louie and he said they could help her.

Louie then introduced her to Chris Harvey of Mackenzie Fujisawa LLP.

Rosalin Miles is a research associate at the University of British Columbia. (LinkedIn)

After their first meeting, she said she sent a payment of $2,500 in late February to BMAAAC to help cover the legal fees. She also paid a fee to become a member of BMAAAC.

But after waiting for months, she sent a note in May for an update. In an email exchange obtained by CBC News, Harvey's team was unaware that Miles had made a payment. Miles forwarded her proof of payment to Harvey but she said she still did not receive a demand letter.

Miles said she's lost valuable time and money because she could have written the demand letter herself but wanted a lawyer's backing and she never received that.

"I was desperate for legal support," said Miles.

Miles emailed both Louie and Harvey in late May saying if she did not get a full refund in two days, she would go public. The refund didn't come so she wrote on social media that she was owed $2,500 from BMAAAC.

Complaint filed

Then in early August, she filed a formal complaint to the Law Society of British Columbia. In her complaint, she said she did not know Louie was served an injunction in 2017 not to represent himself as a lawyer or practise law. Miles said Louie was clear in their discussions that he was not a lawyer but she was unaware why he couldn't present himself as one.

Rob Louie founded BMAAAC in 2019. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The Law Society of British Columbia confirmed the injunction on Louie is still in effect but said it could not confirm or comment on an investigation. 

"The Law Society's top priority is ensuring that members of the public are protected from harm in the delivery of legal services to them," wrote Jason Kuzminski, director of communication for the law society. 

"While we are unable to confirm or comment on an investigation unless and until a citation is issued against a lawyer or a court application has been set to address the unauthorized practice of law, in general the Law Society reviews information it receives from any source to consider whether a lawyer or someone holding themselves out to be a lawyer has violated the Legal Profession Act or our rules and code of professional conduct."

2nd woman seeks refund

Sheryl Thompson is a 67-year-old Kwakwaka'wakw woman from the Wei Wai Kum community. She said she met Louie at a protest sometime in March where she was advocating for more financial transparency from her band.

She said Louie told her BMAAAC could help. She said BMAAAC had helped her niece solve a legal issue just the year before and she had read other success stories so she believed they could help her with her legal demands and she sent BMAAAC $600. 

Sheryl Thompson is a 67-year-old Kwakwaka'wakw woman who says she waited for months for a refund from the Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada. (submitted by Sheryl Thompson )

Thompson said Louie then began missing Zoom meetings and always had an excuse for why he couldn't show up. 

"Once I gave (BMAAAC) the money, there was little to no conversation with me," said Thompson.

She reached out to her niece, and she spotted Miles's social media posts. Miles and Thompson have since spoken to each other about their experiences with BMAAAC and Louie.

Thompson said she asked for her money back near the start of the summer but she didn't hear back. She said she's disappointed in Louie.

"He portrays that he's helpful to us Indians but he's not," said Thompson.

When CBC News reached out to Louie for comment, he said he was unwilling to comment on the allegations because he did not want to breach any confidentiality agreements with the two women.

Louie then emailed both women, cc'ing CBC News. In the emails, Louie writes "On behalf of BMAAAC, I never said that we would not refund you." 

"As mentioned, we operate on donations and our budget is very small. Most of the time, I invest my personal money into BMAAAC."

Thompson was given a full refund, while Miles was offered a partial refund.

In his email to Miles, Louie wrote that BMAAAC was to cover $7,500 and Miles was to cover $2,500 for Harvey's legal services. He wrote that legal services were provided to Miles by Harvey which amounted to $800.

"So, as mentioned, that would be deducted from your $2,500. That means $1,700 would be refunded to you," he wrote.

Harvey said in an emailed statement to CBC News that "Rosalin's expectations exceeded our ability to deliver so we regretfully had to withdraw (with clients consent)."

Thompson said she is happy she received a full refund and believes the investigation by CBC News may have spurred the reimbursement. 

Miles said she received $300 but feels she is still owed $2,500 and is awaiting what will become of her complaint. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe

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