Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gun Violence in the City of Toronto

Gun violence and the gun culture in the City of Toronto or for that matter in the Greater Toronto Area is not new. As a criminal defence lawyer, a lawyer who also act for victims of crime and a Black man in Toronto, the recent shootings and gun violence is not new to me nor is it surprising.

What is surprising is that the three levels of government has done little to deal with the issues that the Black Community brought to its attention five years ago that spoke about deeper issues that drive these young people to a culture of guns, drugs and gangs. Those issues include lack of enough adequate after-school programs, being kicked out of school under the draconian Education Act, being recially profiledby the police and other law enforcement authorities, being labelled and stereotyped - self-fullfilng amongst other issues.

The Federal Parliament made amendments to the Criminal Code as a result of the enactment of Bill C-2 which came into force on May 1st 2008 that increases the ‘minimum terms of imprisonment’ that must be imposed for various firearms and prohibited/restricted weapons offences, particularly where the offence has been committed with a restricted or prohibited firearm, in connection with a criminal organization, or by an individual with a previous conviction or a firearms and/or prohibited/restricted weapons offence. 

With ten shootings in the past week in Toronto, the mandatory minimum penitentiary sentencing regime is attractive to those dangerous criminals. However, the principle of general deterrence does not really apply because it does not appear that the majority of them gets it -  so we have a disproportionate amount of Black men being killed by gun violence and being jailed for being the perpetrators: NOT GOOD!!!

I have posted below a press release we sent out in August 2005, you will see that the issues raised then still exists today!!!!

Coalition of African Canadian Community Organizations Speaks out on Gun Violence and Calls for a Summit with all three levels of government

Toronto, August 22, 2005:   We have come together as a coalition of African Canadian community organizations to express our support and empathy for the youth, families and communities who have been impacted by the recent spate of violence across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In particular, we express our deepest sympathy to those families who have lost loved ones. These incidents of violence and loss of life threaten our collective consciousness as a community.

We wish to make it clear that we consider the escalating violence and criminal behavior being experienced as unacceptable and a situation that must be of concern to all residents. These challenges to community safety cannot be allowed to go on unchecked and must be addressed under the provisions of the laws of this country.

We must emphasize however, that these activities are not disconnected from the broader and more entrenched socio-economic conditions that adversely impact our community. Limited opportunities; lack of access to jobs, services and programs; the increased targeting and systematic expulsion of our children under the Safe Schools Act, among other conditions, deprive our young people access to the privileges and opportunities afforded others in this society. These factors have left our community particularly vulnerable.

We believe that it is the collective responsibility of governments, institutions and communities to develop and implement strategies and measures that will address the systemic and root causes of youth violence and criminal activity. In addition, all three levels of government must act aggressively to determine the sources of the supply of guns that are being made accessible to young people and to stop the flow of these weapons.

We intend to fully engage all three levels of government, the police, the private sector, the media and our communities in developing a fully integrated response that empowers the African Canadian community to define and deliver community-based solutions. This must be done in a partnership in which governments and institutions, including the private sector play an enabling role in the funding of services and programs.

It is the fundamental responsibility of government at all levels to address the issues that continue to marginalize the African Canadian community and we look forward to and expect a strong and sustainable partnership between government, community organizations and our communities as we work together to safeguard and enhance the future of our youth and the African Canadian community.

The Coalition calls:
  • For a summit to be convened with all three levels of government within the next 30-days to discuss and fully develop integrated strategies to address the issues raised by the Coalition;
  • On all levels of government, public institutions and the private sector to play a leading and continuing role in the funding of services and programs that impact the African Canadian community;
  • For better policing that is among other things, accountable to an independent, public oversight body. To ensure community safety, the relationship between the police and the African Canadian community must be improved. 
  • On all three levels of government to work collaboratively and hastily to identify the sources and methods of the supply of guns so readily available in our cities and to stop their supply; and
  • On the Ontario Ministry of Education and Boards of Education to discontinue the Application and Implementation of the Safe Schools Act  which discriminates against and disenfranchise African Canadian youth.

There is no need for further reports or studies. The time to act is now!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Brief look at LSUC disciplinary matters involving Black and VM lawyers including Real Estate Fraud and Misappropriation

I saw this AD at the Train Station tonight and could not help but feel sad about the lawyers that actually makes such a claim illusory. See, for example: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire, 2011 ONLSHP 69 (CanLII);  Law Society of Upper Canada v. Ernest Guiste, 2011 ONLSHP 24 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Ernest Guiste, 2011 ONLSHP 74 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Selwyn Milan McSween, 2010 ONLSHP 111 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Charles Ato Amissah-Ocran, 2011 ONLSHP 9 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham (a.k.a Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham-McBean), 2011 ONLSHP 26 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham (a.k.a Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham-McBean), 2010 ONLSHP 97 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Meera Bharadwaj, 2011 ONLSHP 4 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2004 ONLSHP 25 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2004 ONLSHP 13 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Dunstan Dan Senjule, 2010 ONLSHP 18 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Winston Gauntlett Mattis, 2009 ONLSHP 5 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire, 2008 ONLSHP 70 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Pretam Kaur Purewal, 2008 ONLSHP 132 (CanLII)

Suspensions and Revocation – a cause for concern

All of the cases above involved lawyers who are Black or visible minority. The Ornstein Report prepared for the LSUC reports that the Black community only made up 1.9% of all lawyers in Ontario in 2006, representing an increase of only 0.01% from 2001. In Ontario "there is wide variation between visible minority groups. There is one Black lawyer for every 750 members of the Black community, one for every 627 South Asians and one for every 755 members of the Chinese community. Incontrast, there is just one Filipino lawyer for every 2,730 members of that community, one ...for every 1,649 Latin Americans and one for every 994 Southeast Asians."

I recently spoke on the disproportionate number of Black lawyers subject to regulatory proceedings, investigations and disciplinary proceedings at the Law Society of Upper Canada. I was asked whether or not Black lawyers are over policed by the society.[1] I tend to think not because of what I observe personally and read from the disciplinary reports. The Law Society, with the exception of spot audits, member annual report and certain obligations it places on lawyers, is reactive. It responds to complaints not necessarily initiates it.

Section 49.3 of the Law Society Act enables the Law Society to conduct an investigation into a Licensee's conduct or capacity if the Society receives information suggesting that the Licensee may have engaged in professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming of a lawyer.

Too many Black and conscious lawyers from the diaspora and other racial minority communities are getting into trouble with the Law Society of Upper Canada for various illegal, wrong or unethical conduct including failing to respond to law society complaints,[2] failing to maintain books and records in compliance with By-law 18,[3] overbilling,[4] be duped by an unscrupulous client, suspended and/or disbarred for frauds[5] and/or misleading clients.[6]

Money for work to be done must be put in trust.  All kinds of contingencies can arise, including your client switching lawyers.  The money is not yours until the work has been done and the client billed.[7]

It is clear that a cloud of distrust exists when and where there are or allegations of misallocation of funds, misappropriation of funds, or inappropriately withdrawing monies from a client’s trust account.

If allegations of improprieties or unlawful or illegal conduct on the part of a lawyer, regardless of whether that lawyer is Black or not, come to the attention of the Law Society, it have a responsibility to look into the allegations and do all it can to safeguard or restore the integrity and credibility of the profession.

The Law Society has a duty to act and with expediency in those instances where clients and others are at risk of fraudulent behavior by lawyers.

* (c) 2010 - Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., Barrister, Solicitor & Notary Public - is a sole practitioner in the City of Toronto.
[1] One lawyer accused the LSUC of racially profiling him: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, 2008 ONLSHP 30. He was, however, recently found guilty before a panel composed of the only Black Bencher (at the material time), Joanne St. Lewis: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, 2010 ONLSHP 13 (CanLII) Paul Legall, Aziga's lawyer facing bar society discipline, Hamilton Spectator, January 23, 2009. The Spectator reported that “As part of its investigation, the law society appointed a forensic accountant to the case. Hamalengwa, a sole practitioner, refused to meet with him or open the books unless the accountant made a fuller disclosure about the nature of the investigation. He has since co-operated with investigators and the law society hasn't yet decided whether he'll be charged in relation to the women's complaints.”
[4] Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire, 2008 ONLSHP 70 (2 months suspension for overbilling in addition to various licence restrictions). I was sharing space with him on a sublease, and the landlord took possession of the premises presumably because he was not paying the rent for the leased premises. I not only lost my office space but also came off a murder trial on which I was co-counsel with this lawyer: On June 01, 2010, another Notice of Application was issued against Bagambiire alleging seven count of professional misconduct. A hearing is scheduled to be held from December 13 - 17, 2010: see, Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire. My getting off the case was the subject of judicial and news comments: See, R. v. Aziga, 2008 CanLII 39612 (ON S.C.); R. v. Aziga, 2008 CanLII 53125 (ON S.C.) and newspaper articles: Defendant seeks another delay, Hamilton Spectator, Oct 1, 2008; Barbara Brown, Jail's not nice, judge agrees, Hamilton Spectator, August 7, 2008; 8th lawyer off HIV murder case, Toronto Sun, August 7, 2008. There certainly is a lesson to be learnt here and sometimes it is  not about race, it is about the integrity of the person.
[5]Law Society of Upper Canada v. Glen Hugh Peter Abrahams, 2008 ONLSHP 81 (CanLII) – Black Jamaica lawyer who was highly regarded and Malcolm v. Abrahams, 2010 ONSC 4091 (CanLII) Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2004 ONLSHP 25 (CanLII), 2004 ONLSHP 0025, 2009 ONLSHP 16 (He was a pillar in the Guyanese and West Indian Communities in Toronto). Mr. Baksh appealed. The decision of the Appeal Panel in the matter of: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2006 ONLSAP 6 (CanLII), 2006 ONLSAP 6 provides as follows: “[132] A solicitor's participation in multiple mortgage frauds can only be regarded as serious.  That seriousness is compounded when the facts reveal that the solicitor was not merely an unknowing dupe.  Protection of the public compelled the Hearing Panel to consider disbarment as a potential disposition.  The appellant's attitude towards his own misconduct reinforced the view that protection of the public could only have been served by terminating his ability to practise law.” See also, Law Society of Upper Canada v. Winston Gauntlett Mattis, 2009 ONLSHP 5 (CanLII)
[6] Law Society of Upper Canada v. Jonathan Wade Strug, 2008 ONLSHP 88 (disbarred for phantom cases). I represented on of the victims in this case: Robert Todd, Law Times – Lawyer strung clients along with phantom cases. 25 Oct., 2007
[7] Gary Lloyd Gottlieb, Bencher's Diary: A day of discipline, Law Times, February 13, 2009.