News Release
April 20, 2020

A hearing panel of the Law Society has ordered that former Nanaimo lawyer James Leslie Straith be suspended for professional misconduct. The panel ordered that the two month suspension commence May 1.

Straith failed to identify who his client was in the course of providing legal services to a group so-called “Lost Canadians,” individuals who believe they were unfairly excluded from Canadian citizenship, He was also found to have acted in a conflict of interest by representing one of the group members in a judicial review and by failing to ensure that she knew she was entitled to his undivided loyalty while he was taking instructions from the leader of the group. He was also found to have provided advice to the leader that conflicted with the group member’s interests when she decided to change counsel.

The hearing panel also found that Straith had breached trust and other accounting rules when handling funds received from the group’s members and supporters, committing a pattern of breaches throughout his retainer from 2012 to 2015. He did not keep proper records and accounts. He deposited payments into his general account rather than into his trust account, when the funds should have been treated as trust funds. After his retainer was terminated, Straith commenced a civil action against the leader of the group to collect on a bill that was never finalized, signed and delivered to the client and that did not take into account all funds he had already received. He never provided a full accounting of all funds received to his client and did not finalize and issue a proper bill, which prevented his client from challenging his account and ask for the return of overpayment in fees.

In ordering the two month suspension, the panel considered the serious nature and gravity of the misconduct and the need for general deterrence. At the time of the hearing, Straith was a practising member but he retired and terminated his membership effective January 1, 2020.

Written reasons for the hearing panel’s decision available here.


For further information contact:

Vinnie Yuen
Communications Officer