Monday, April 23, 2012

Letter of Support for Class Action in Alberta

The Foster Care Council of Canada has written a support letter for submission to the court in Alberta regarding a certified class action law suit against their child welfare authorities.

The court will decide in mid May whether or not to allow the lawyer to charge a fee of 25% if the lawsuit is a success.

Some scenarios listed on the lawyer's website in relation to this lawsuit are as follows:

  • Child Welfare not apprehending you and protecting you from abuse, when they ought to have
  • Child Welfare apprehending you and keeping you from your family when they should not have
  • Child Welfare apprehending you and then allowing you to be abused or neglected
  • Child Welfare failing to protect your legal rights

 The letter of support written by the Council is included below, and anyone else who wishes to encourage the judge to allow the lawyer to proceed is welcome to make submissions as soon as possible.


Justice Graesser
Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
1A Sir Winston Churchill Sq.
Edmonton, Alberta
T5J 0R2

Date: 2012-04-30

RE: Lawyers Fee for Child Welfare Class Action

As an organization made up of former foster children and their supporters who advocate for transparency and accountability in child welfare services across the country, we encourage the court to approve the 25% fee being asked for by the lawyer -- Robert P. Lee -- in relation to the child welfare class action lawsuit. We have no relations with Mr. Lee, other than our knowledge of this matter, and a couple of discussions on the phone with him regarding it.

The reason we urge the court to approve of the 25% fee which will enable these victims to even continue with the current matter, is because of the fact that we know how difficult it is for many current and former foster children to initiate and maintain a legal proceeding against those who are, or who were at one time responsible for their safety and the protection of their rights, especially when you take into consideration the extreme power and financial imbalance between the parties.

Thousands of current and former foster children and youth will never see any compensation for the violations against them which they suffered while under the authority of child welfare officials because they are too emotionally damaged to even initiate such a proceeding, believing that nobody will even listen to them, or care about what they have to say. Additionally, the thought of even entering a court room to confront those who caused them to suffer damages for many of these victims is overwhelming. It is our experience that even those who are fortunate enough to have the fortitude and or wherewithal to initiate such a proceeding will find extreme difficulty in locating a lawyer who will be even willing to take on such a case.

A 25% fee for the thousands of vulnerable victims who were children or youth when they suffered damages at the hands of child welfare officials, at least affords these victims the opportunity to access the justice system at minimum, and ultimately, to finally have the suffering they have experienced acknowledged, considered, and compensated for should they be successful.

We also support the lawyer, Robert P. Lee charging a 25% fee in relation to this matter despite the potential that he could make a considerable profit from the eventual outcome because to date, over the past few years, he has diligently invested more time and energy on behalf of vulnerable current and former foster children than any lawyer we are aware of in Alberta.

At this time, we are only aware of one other lawyer in the entire country who has and continues to diligently defend the rights of child welfare and other institutional abuse victims, and that is Ontario-based lawyer, Loretta Merrit of Torkin Manes Barristors & Solicitors in Toronto. ( http://www.torkinmanes.com/lawyers/default.asp?load=l_merritt ) However Loretta Merrit is licensed to practice in Ontario, leaving the class members in Alberta with only Robert P. Lee to continue to uphold their rights.

It is our hope, and belief, that by permitting the requested 25% fee, doing so would encourage more lawyers across the country to work as diligently as Robert P. Lee has for the rights of those abused by governments or private agencies and institutions across Canada, victims who typically can not afford the financial or emotional investment it takes to bring their grievances before the courts in pursuit of justice, and, more importantly, would act as a specific and general deterrent for those who would otherwise wilfully turn a blind eye to the abuses and neglects which happen too often in child welfare and other institutional settings because they know that the chances of legal repercussions are slim to none at best.

Simply put, permitting the requested 25% fee would go a long way to preventing abuse and neglect, wilful or otherwise, of vulnerable children and youth whose very lives are constantly under the control of, and affected by, the actions and inaction of child welfare authorities.

As victims ourselves of abuse and neglect while in child welfare, to date we have been very impressed by Robert P. Lee and the courts providing these vulnerable victims an opportunity to at least have access to justice in the initial stages of this matter and hope that what we see as a technicality -- the fee charged and potential profit Robert P. Lee stands to earn -- does not slam the door shut on their continued access to justice.

Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
Foster Care Council of Canada


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