Lawyer ac­cused of steal­ing $2.2M from town fund

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World -

A lawyer who over­saw a suc­cess­ful class-ac­tion law­suit con­nected to a ma­jor land claim dis­pute in On­tario has been ac­cused of mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing mil­lions of dol­lars from the set­tle­ment.

Hamil­ton po­lice say John Wal­lace Find­lay turned him­self in to the Law So­ci­ety of On­tario more than a year ago af­ter al­legedly spend­ing the re­serve funds from the 2011 class ac­tion filed by res­i­dents and busi­nesses in­volved in the years-long dis­pute near Cale­do­nia, Ont.

The Law So­ci­ety did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quest for com­ment, but po­lice al­lege Find­lay took roughly $2.2 mil­lion dol­lars.

Po­lice say they ar­rested the 64year-old lawyer on Wed­nes­day and charged him with crim­i­nal breach of trust, fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000. Find­lay was re­leased on bail and is slated to ap­pear in court later this month. He rep­re­sented the more than 800 plain­tiffs in the class-ac­tion suit and was re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing the dis­per­sal of the $20-mil­lion set­tle­ment reached with the On­tario gov­ern­ment in 2011.

In Fe­bru­ary 2006, mem­bers of the Six Na­tions re­serve near Cale­do­nia be­gan a block­ade of a nearby res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment called the Dou­glas Creek Es­tates, ar­gu­ing the land right­fully be­longed to them. Ottawa said the land had been sur­ren­dered in the 1840s. The protest sparked a bit­ter stand­off that at times flared into vi­o­lence, in­juries and prop­erty dam­age. It also be­came a point of po­lit­i­cal con­tention, with the op­po­si­tion ac­cus­ing the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment of mis­han­dling the sit­u­a­tion and the prov­ince ar­gu­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was partly re­spon­si­ble.

Some home­own­ers and busi­nesses near the site com­plained that pro­vin­cial po­lice weren’t en­forc­ing the law with Six Na­tions demon­stra­tors but were heavy handed with Cale­do­nia res­i­dents and their sup­port­ers. At one point in April 2006, pro­vin­cial po­lice moved in on the pro­test­ers in an early morn­ing raid, and made 16 ar­rests, but were forced to with­draw.

The class ac­tion was filed on be­half of about 440 res­i­dents, 400 busi­nesses and some sub­con­trac­tors, all of whom claimed the on­go­ing protests caused them sig­nif­i­cant in­con­ve­nience or even fi­nan­cial hard­ship. When the suit was set­tled in 2011, pro­ceeds were to be di­vided among res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers who suf­fered di­rect losses as a re­sult of the protests. Hamil­ton po­lice say Find­lay’s al­leged mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion took place af­ter at least one round of pay­ments. They al­lege the money he took was from re­serve funds left over in 2013.

John Wal­lace Find­lay

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