The doors of Victoria’s oldest school of traditional Chinese medicine have closed, and after more than a year, there are no plans to reopen them.
Legal machinations continue between the former principal of the Canadian College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the former board of the college’s operator, the East West Medical Society; the building that housed it is the subject of a court-ordered sale.
The college, which was among the oldest in Canada, operated for nearly 30 years, and moved in 2002 to Chatham and Government streets, where the building is listed for sale at $1.495 million. (That’s down from $1.7 million last March, said real estate agent Griff Lewis of DTZ Barnicke, who is handling the sale on behalf of the receiver.)
The B.C. Supreme Court ordered the sale and receiver Marty Eakins of Hayes McNeill & Partners Ltd. said he was unable to discuss the issue because of ongoing litigation.
Former principal Dr. Xiaochuan Pan said he rescued the college from financial failure, but has paid a steep price for his efforts.
Pan, 55, who operates his own clinic of traditional Chinese medicine on Government Street, is suing the East West Medical Society for $386,717 for loans and other money advanced to the school between 2004 and 2009. In a countersuit filed with the B.C. Supreme Court, the society denies owing any money to Pan and asks for damages.
Pan said he injected major money into the society’s account — staving off bankruptcy — in 2004 and did not draw a salary for five years as principal. In return, he said, there was an agreement that he would be able to buy the building and the school at a favourable price down the road.
The lawsuits and countersuits are complex enough to have generated “thousands of pages” of disclosures by both sides, said lawyer Sinclair Mar, who is representing Pan.
The college closed suddenly in May 2011, sending students and teachers into a panic, recalled Sherry Gaudet. Like most students, she was placed at another local school. Thanks to tuition coverage from the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of B.C. — a Crown corporation that regulates private colleges — few lost time or money.
Still, “everyone was freaked, sad and angry,” Gaudet said.
Seven students made claims for compensation to continue their education elsewhere, for a total of just under $20,000, said agency registrar Karin Kirkpatrick.
“At the time of closure, the school had refund cheques prepared for students but could not deliver them as they had been served with a court order for preservation of all assets by Dr. Pan’s lawyer, so we ended paying out of the [agency] fund instead,” Kirkpatrick said in an email to the Times Colonist.
LEGAL FIGHTS GO ON
In January 2010, Pan sued the East West Medical Society, one of its directors and a former director for inducing breach of contract.
In its statement of defence, the East West Medical Society argued that Pan repudiated the contract made in 2004 by requesting to purchase only the property and not the college. Pan “declined to receive compensation of any type whatsoever” when it tried to pay him a salary, the society said, and it denies any unjust enrichment due to its relationship with him.
Further, in a counterclaim, the society claims Pan was suspended as college principal for cause on Dec. 16, 2009, citing breach of his financial duties, significant overcharges for herbal medicines he supplied and frustrating the society’s attempt to refinance operations with the Royal Bank of Canada.
Pan counterclaimed that if the society suffered any damages or losses, it was its own doing.
Victoria lawyer John Adams, who represents the East West Medical Society, said he was not able to discuss the lawsuit with the media.
Pan, who immigrated to Canada 12 years ago, said he put most of his family’s money into the college.
Five years into his relationship with the Canadian College, both finances and academics were “going really well,” he said in an interview, noting that the school was already associated with two universities in China.
But in late 2009, Pan was banned from the college property, and some board members determined he could no longer buy the property, said Mar, his lawyer. Pan’s statement of claim says the society no longer honoured the agreement and demanded a purchase price of $1.4 million.
In May 2012, the new board applied to place the society into receivership. The receiver has continued the claims against Pan and his wife, Mar said.
“Apart from any legal issues in action, the question remains as to whether there was fair treatment for Dr. Pan for his financial support and personal dedication over the five years without pay,” Mar said.
Ultimately, the courts will decide.
© Copyright 2013