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Potential class action against Calgary lawyer seeks millions for ‘re-victimized’ residential school survivors

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About 30 men and women from the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, most of whom are residential school survivors, listen closely as their lawyer Max Faille briefs them on what’s next in their class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges their former Calgary lawyer and several other defendants failed to advocate for them and charged excessive fees.

It was launched several years ago on behalf of thousands of residential school survivors, who allege David Blott abused their trust, put his own financial interests ahead of theirs, charged excessive fees and helped issue illegal loans to claimants ahead of their settlements.

On Wednesday, the survivors’ current lawyer Max Faille told the group gathered at the Kainai Continuing Care Centre in Standoff, Alta., that a date has been set for certification in May, a necessary next step if this lawsuit is to proceed.

“In our view this is a very simple and straightforward matter in terms of the merits of it,” said Faille.

“There has already been a court determination of his mishandling of these cases so there really should not be any issue in that regard.”

Clients were treated ‘like cattle’

Blott was representing at least 4,600 people who were applying for compensation for the residential school settlement program in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

He resigned in 2014 while the Law Society of Alberta was investigating his conduct.

It found he re-victimized his residential school clients and treated them “like cattle.”

“It’s been a long time. I lost my wife in the process too. She passed away last December,” said Andrew Bull Calf, who spent several years at a residential school on the Blood reserve, as early as age five, and only coming home during the summer months.

“But I’m still going, still haven’t given up.  I’ve got a lot of faith in our lawyers,” added Bull Calf.

Lawyer Max Faille is representing residential school survivors who allege a former Calgary lawyer abused their trust. (Reid Southwick/CBC)

The suit was filed in Calgary in 2013. Since then, many survivors have died, waiting for some type of resolution.

In the suit’s statement of claim Bull Calf says he and others hired Blott to help them apply for federal compensation for the abuse they suffered while attending the residential school.

Bull Calf says he was told he was going to receive $175,000 in compensation but ended up with $50,000 after paying off legal fees and high interest loans he received through one of the people named in the suit.

Bull Calf says since launching the class action lawsuit Blott has come forward with an offer to settle, but the group felt it was not adequate so they refused it.

At this latest meeting he felt a tinge of hope that justice is in sight, although he believes it may still be a few years away.

There’s probably no amount of money that can properly compensate people for the harms that they endured.– Max Faille, lawyer

“In a way it is frustrating,” said Bull Calf.

“At least I know where we stand now and from where I see we still got a long way to go.”

Faille says he understands people’s frustrations with the time it’s taking to resolve this case.

“It’s always a balancing act of ensuring it’s done properly and ensuring that all avenues have been explored without going to court so there are some inherent delays in the process and then we are subject to the availability of the courts and counsel.”

As for the amount the class is seeking, the lawyer would only say it’s in the tens of millions of dollars.

“First of all, I would say that there’s probably no amount of money that can properly compensate people for the harms that they endured and the re-victimization that they endured at their hands, unfortunately of their legal counsel, for what we say is the the severe mishandling of their claims,” said Faille.

“But the compensation would take various forms, certainly first and foremost our position in the lawsuit is that any amounts that he was paid, that Mr. Blot was paid, by way of legal fees should be properly reimbursed to those individuals,” added Faille.

Faille says they are also seeking general damages and punitive damages.

Plus he argues some residential school survivors weren’t properly compensated by Blott.

A hearing date for certification has been set in Calgary for May 24.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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