Robert Lapper told Convocation, complaints to the law society went down overall by eight per cent in 2014, but mortgage scam related grievances stayed consistent with previous years.
While the decrease in overall claims is good news, Bencher Adriana Doyle said she was “discouraged” by the fraud complaint figures.
“These numbers are very staggering,” she said, and asked Lapper if the complaints were based on recent incidents. Lapper said he couldn’t say, but noted his sense is that they’re not all recent.
Currently, the law society has 80 mortgage fraud investigations involving 102 cases in its inventory. Last year saw some high profile real-estate related complaints, including a case involving $15 million in missing condo deposit fees.
From Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2014, the law society received a total of 4,000 complaints, a decrease from the 4,357 received in the period the previous year.
“We can’t call it a trend,” Lapper said, adding the number of complaints has fluctuated in the past.
Some 3,090 of the complaints received in that time period were against lawyers and 444 were against paralegals. The rest of the complaints related to applicants seeking to become lawyers or paralegals.
Since 2013, the law society has seen an uptick in the number of complaints from Indian Residential School survivors against their lawyers. There are currently 50 complaints about 10 lawyers from Indian Residential School survivors in the intake and investigation process.
For these complainants, navigating the law society procedures is not easy, Lapper said.
“The complainants are facing unique challenges in communicating with the law society,” he said in his report. “The challenges include the fact that many live in remote communities that are difficult to access from the outside. They may not have telephone or other communications available to them personally.