Immigration lawyer admits to mishandling files, resigns from law society

Immigration lawyer admits to mishandling files, resigns from law society

A Vancouver lawyer has lost the right to practice for at least two years after admitting to mistakes he made with several immigration files because he was overwhelmed with the workload.

The information came to light Thursday after the Law Society of British Columbia sent out a press release including an agreed statement of facts from October 2017 about the case.

Daniel Kar-Yan Kwong will not be able to practise anywhere in Canada until after April 6, 2020, when he can reapply to be reinstated if he meets conditions, according to the agreed statement of facts from the law society.

Kwong stopped practising law in February 2017 after he told to the law society 11 months earlier that he made misrepresentations to six different clients about the status of their immigration applications.

'Disappointed in myself'

In those cases, he told them documents had been filed when they hadn't, and he improperly withdrew funds that had been placed in trust as payment, according to the statement of facts.

In an interview, Kwong told CBC News that he knows he let his clients down, adding he was going through personal difficulties and had fallen behind in his work.

"Everything that I did I take full responsibility for," Kwong said. "I was disappointed in myself. I've made some changes and I'm trying to move on from that.

"I was going through a difficult time personally... I should have sought help earlier. I fell behind and it got out of control ... Obviously, I screwed up," he said.

He said he's contacted all the clients involved and made amends in every way he could. 

Contrary to code

In one case, a Swiss couple who bought a lodge in B.C. hired Kwong to assist them with immigrating to Canada. 

Kwong told them repeatedly he had filled applications but he had not. 

In another case, Kwong was working with a client to sponsor a man's wife and son. When the man's wife delivered a baby in a B.C. hospital, it turned out she did not have health coverage due to Kwong's misrepresentations and she had to pay for the hospital services.

In the agreed statement of facts published by the law society, Kwong admits he failed to provide his clients with the quality of service expected of a competent lawyer, contrary to the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

Kwong was educated in Ontario and practised there for more than eight years, before transferring to B.C. in 2013.

'Mitigating circumstances'

The agreed statement of facts noted Kwong had no history of discipline, no outstanding complaints and no restrictions on his practice in Ontario, according to a certificate that was issued by the Law Society of Upper Canada when he moved to B.C. 

Kwong also had two medical assessments that diagnosed him as having "an underlying condition associated with significant avoidance."

The statement of facts noted as mitigating circumstances that Kwong cooperated in the investigation and he provided a detailed report of his own misconduct to the law society.

The discipline committee of the law society agreed to allow Kwong to get a job working for the B.C. Ministry of Labour, filling in for an employee on leave.

"Mr. Kwong was open and honest with his supervisor at the Ministry of Labour regarding his suspension from practicing law... He is not working as a lawyer," said the ministry in a statement.