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An impoverished First Nation is going to court to recoup millions of dollars it obtained through loans secured with the help of a Toronto architect who now stands accused of diverting the money to her own companies and alleged co-conspirators.
Kashechewan, a fly-in community on the western shore of James Bay that is constantly being evacuated due to flooding, says Ellis Galea Kirkland – who took her own life this Jan. 1 – and a number of her associates obtained, or tried to obtain, loans of as much as $11,083,709.72 to rebuild decayed infrastructure and to build a new community centre.
Even though most of the money was placed under Ms. Kirkland’s control in 2014, and millions were disbursed, a statement of claim filed by the First Nation in the Ontario Superior Court says “none of the defendants provided any goods or services, or any material value, to Kashechewan.”
Leo Friday, the current chief, said the community “was deeply impacted by the events surrounding Ellis Kirkland’s involvement, both financially and in terms of a loss of trust. Our council felt that we had a duty to our community members to seek answers and, if the court finds wrongdoing, make those responsible for what happened accountable.”
Ms. Kirkland was a Harvard-educated philanthropist – she helped build a suicide barrier on Toronto’s Bloor Viaduct – and architect who was once president of the Ontario Association of Architects as well as vice-president of the NATO Association of Canada, a non-governmental organization that promotes understanding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
In March, 2016, at the age of 61, she was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault after stabbing the doorman of her posh Toronto condo with a kitchen knife. She was the subject of a spectacular arrest when police rappelled down to the 27th floor balcony of the hotel room where she was holed up after the assault.
In June, 2017, a judge ruled that she was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the stabbing and was not criminally responsible.
Ms. Kirkland is the first among 25 defendants named in the lawsuit launched by Kashechewan. Nine of the other defendants are companies she controlled.
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