B.C. judge gives 147 unfiled residential school compensation cases a reprieve

More than 100 residential school cases on the brink of being permanent barred from the compensation process will get a final chance to be reviewed, according to a court ruling issued last Friday.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown ruled the 147 cases would be handed over to lawyers to review and then submitted to the compensation process by Sept. 14.

The 147 cases were initially identified by Calgary law firm Blott and Company as not qualifying for compensation and were never filed. 

In her Friday ruling, Brown said the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat had until Oct. 1 to determine which of the IAP cases qualify for compensation. The ruling also stated claimants had until Oct. 15 to request a review of a negative decision with Dan Shapiro, the chief adjudicator for the secretariat.

“We have given these claimants an opportunity to have their claims reviewed,” said Peter Grant, chair of independent counsel, in an emailed statement.

“What we accomplished was a success in that all parties to [the residential schools settlement agreement] agreed to the terms of this order.”

The secretariat did not respond to a request for comment.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office initially raised concerns about the cases being permanently barred from the compensation process.

“The government of Canada is pleased that all parties involved in these discussions were able to find a solution to ensure survivor claims are treated fairly,” said Bennett’s office in an emailed statement.

Calgary firm’s cases transferred

Blott and Company and its form-filling subcontractors were banned in June 2012 from handling residential school cases over “manipulative” practices and issuing loans to survivors against future compensation payouts.

Retired B.C. justice Ian Pitfield was appointed to handle the transfer of thousands of Blott and Company’s residential school cases to other lawyers.

In June, Pitfield filed a request for direction with the B.C. court to rule the 147 cases be “forever barred” from entering the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which was created by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.  

While Pitfield conducted no legal review of the 147 cases to independently establish whether they were properly categorized, he initially found the determinations of not qualifying “could be acceptable as reasonable.”

However, the secretariat said in its own court submission that the 147 cases have the “greatest likelihood” of proceeding to an IAP hearing and obtaining compensation, from a group of claims that were once handled by Blott and Company and remain to be filed.

Shapiro, in his own court submission, said the Blott firm’s categorizations could not be trusted.

So far, 13 separate cases that were initially categorized by Blott’s firm as not qualifying for the IAP have gone through the compensation system and six received awards ranging from $16,000 to $124,000, according to the secretariat’s filing.

Under Brown’s ruling, it will be up to Pitfield to transfer the 147 cases to new lawyers for submission with the IAP.

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