High-profile Hamilton lawyer loses licence after allegedly misappropriating funds in Caledonia lawsuit

A Hamilton lawyer connected to a class-action lawsuit over a land dispute near Caledonia has lost his licence to practice law.

Ontario’s Law Society Tribunal released the decision on Tuesday to revoke John Wallace Findlay’s licence claiming “professional misconduct” and ordering the attorney to pay $1.75 million in reparations and $52,000 in tribunal legal costs.

Findlay represented over 800 plaintiffs in a land dispute that began in 2006 and ended with a $20-million settlement reached with the Ontario government in 2011.

Findlay was responsible for overseeing the dispersal of the multi-million-dollar settlement to some 400 residents and 400 businesses who claimed to have suffered damage after members of the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve near Caledonia began a blockade of a nearby residential development called the Douglas Creek Estates.

Members of Canada’s largest First Nations reserve argued the land rightfully belonged to them and launched multiple demonstrations, which allegedly deteriorated into violence, injuries and property damage.

In May 2017, Findlay admitted to spending about $2 million of the reserve fund money in 2013 that was left over from the settlement and reported himself to the Law Society.

Hamilton police charged Findlay, 64, last year with criminal breach of trust, theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000.

Findlay was not present for Tuesday’s hearing.

He is expected to appear in court May 7 to face fraud and theft charges.

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