By Kathleen Martens
Will he apologize or won’t he? That’s the question on the minds of residential school survivors mistreated by a Calgary lawyer.
Several survivors represented by David Blott in their residential school compensation cases plan to attend his resignation hearing June 13 in Calgary.
They’ve been warned there’s no guarantee Blott will say he is sorry for the pain and sorrow he’s caused to them and to thousands of other survivors across western Canada. Blott has agreed to resign from the profession instead of facing a disbarment hearing before the Law Society of Alberta.
Sources tell APTN Investigates Blott will agree to a negotiated statement of facts regarding legal and ethical misconduct, based on information gathered by investigators for the B.C. Supreme Court and by different investigators working for the Law Society of Alberta.
However, all of his misdeeds will not be read into the record, sources say, nor will survivors be allowed to speak to him or address the resignation committee. The hearing is open to the public.
The resignation means Blott will not be allowed to practice law in Alberta. However, he can re-apply down the road at a public hearing.
“If you feel that witnessing the resignation will bring closure and healing please attend but we do not want you to be disappointed if you do not receive an apology. This is a very technical presentation and a discussion of all the wrong that Mr. Blott did will not occur,” said a member of the Gowlings law firm.
Gowlings has been advising survivors about the resignation hearing. A partner in the firm, lawyer Max Faille, is spear-heading a class-action lawsuit against Blott seeking compensation for the disgraced lawyer’s nearly 6,000 former residential school clients. The class action lawsuit has yet to be certified by a judge.
“We are continuing our movement forward with our case against Mr. Blott and will advise you of the progress. Thank you to all of you that participated in the law society investigation and helped cause this resignation to occur,” the firm says in its letter.
Faille says apologizing to his victims would be the honorable thing for Blott to do.
“He went to sweat lodges with these people. He was taken to share in all the sacred ceremonies. He was entrusted with a very important mandate and he abused that trust,” Faille said from his Ottawa office.
It was Faille’s disgust with Blott’s negligence that motivated him to launch the civil suit. He said the reputation of the legal profession, along with the gravity of Blott’s offences, and the age and history of the victims, could not go undefended.
“Someone has to do the right thing by these people,” Faille said.
Meanwhile, this is the second lawyer accused of mishandling residential school cases to lose his law career.
Howard Tennenhouse of Winnipeg was disbarred by the Law Society of Manitoba in 2012. According to that agreed statement of facts, Tennenhouse took more than $950,000 in extra fees from 55 survivors. The law society repaid the clients and is trying to recoup the money from the lawyer.
And more lawyers are under investigation for the way they’ve dealt with survivors’ claims. Officials with the compensation program confirm they have a total of 30 lawyers and form-filling agencies on their radar for potential illegal activity.
While a number of law firms employed form fillers across the country, Manitoba Court of Queen`s Bench Justice Perry Schulman ruled last week that the use of form fillers working outside of a law firm was “illegal” and in some cases “unconscionable.”
The program is part of a $5-billion settlement agreement compensating some of the 80,000 First Nations and Inuit children forcibly removed from their homes to attend residential schools.