News Releases and Media Advisories
New measures to protect Indian Residential Schools claimants
October 21, 2013
Ottawa, October 21, 2013 – The Chief Adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) has announced new measures designed to protect claimants from lawyers who engage in unconscionable and illegal conduct. “The vast majority of lawyers representing claimants in the IAP are diligent and do excellent and highly ethical work,” said Dan Shapiro, who was named Chief Adjudicator in July. “However, a small minority of legal counsel continue to engage in practices that effectively deprive claimants of the benefits they are entitled to under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement,” he said.
The measures announced today are intended to curtail practices such as:
- Facilitating third party loans and cash advances to claimants, which result in assignments or directions to pay that violate the Settlement Agreement and the Financial Administration Act;
- Relying on non-lawyer form-fillers to solicit claimants, and facilitating the payment of significant fees by claimants -- often taken improperly from settlements they receive – to form fillers;
- Failing to disclose full information about all fees charged to claimants, which impedes adjudicators from carrying out their responsibilities in the legal fee review process; and
- Improperly charging claimants for disbursements.
Shapiro has updated Expectations of Legal Practice in the IAP, which sets out the minimum standards of practice in the IAP. The updates address issues related to contingency fee agreements, hearing locations, interpreters, legal fees, form fillers and changes of legal counsel.
The Chief Adjudicator has also updated a guidance paper on legal fee reviews which confirms the right of adjudicators to reduce legal fees to an amount lower than Canada’s 15% contribution in cases where a lack of preparation or expertise is evident. As well, legal fee review decisions will include new clauses to protect claimants from form-fillers and other lawyers.
In addition, Shapiro has met with representatives of Law Societies across Canada to raise awareness of the challenges faced by vulnerable claimants, and to ensure that swift action is taken to impose disciplinary measures when unethical practices by lawyers in the IAP are brought to their attention.
“These measures will have no impact on the vast majority of IAP lawyers, who serve their clients well,” said Shapiro. “For the few that persist in unconscionable and illegal conduct, they serve as a further indication that we will protect the integrity of the Process, and that the mistreatment or exploitation of vulnerable claimants will not be tolerated in the IAP,” he said.
The IAP was established in 2007 under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), the largest class action settlement in Canadian history. The IAP is a claimant-centred process that provides compensation to former students for abuse they suffered at Indian Residential Schools. The IAP also supports healing and reconciliation among former students, their families and communities.
The IAP is administered by the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (IRSAS), a quasi-judicial tribunal that operates independently from the parties to IRSSA, including the Government of Canada. The Secretariat reports to the Chief Adjudicator.
As of August 31, 2013, IRSAS had received 37,868 applications for compensation under the IAP. Of these, 23,268 cases have been resolved and more than $2.091 billion has been paid out in compensation by the Government of Canada.
Senior Communications Officer,
Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat
(613) 851-4587 (cell) Michael.Tansey@irsad-sapi.gc.ca