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Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s ‘excellent strength in depth’, ‘strong national expertise’ and ‘dedicated and well-informed lawyers’ stand out as key attractions for clients. The firm fields one of the largest Aboriginal law practices in the market, numbering 35 lawyers, and covers the full spread of energy and natural resources, fisheries and aquaculture, real estate and transport matters. Vancouver-based Kevin O’Callaghan heads the national group and recently advised Encana on a C$450m claim brought by Stoney Nakoda Nations relating to petroleum and natural gas rights that were originally transferred to Canadian Pacific Railway. Also in Vancouver, Charles Willms is a ‘very strong lawyer’ and is leading the firm’s advice to BC Hydro and Power Authority on the Aboriginal law aspects of its C$8bn Site C Clean Energy Project, which has involved nine judicial review applications to date - all of which have been dismissed or discontinued. In Toronto, Tracy Pratt provides ongoing advice to De Beers Canada in Aboriginal law matters relating to its exploration work. The group also includes Montreal-based Jean Gagné, Toronto-based Neal Smitheman and ‘impressive’ Vancouver-based senior associate Bridget Gilbride.

Led from Vancouver by Roy Millen, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s Aboriginal law group also benefits from strong expertise in its Calgary, Toronto and Montreal offices. In Calgary, regulatory star Sandy Carpenter is highly sought after for his strong reputation in Aboriginal law matters and represented TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, Petroleum Geo-Services and Multiklient Invest in defending a challenge to block a seismic study in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. In Montreal, Anne Drost is acting as Aboriginal law lead to TransCanada PipeLines in its C$15bn pipeline project. Ben Jetten is a key contact in Toronto.

Among the best in the area’, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Aboriginal law group comprises ‘highly knowledgeable and experienced specialists’. Toronto-based Adam Chamberlain is ‘very strong’ and heads a national team that draws upon the experience of ‘market-leader’ and public law expert Patrick Foy QC in Vancouver. Foy recently represented Canadian Kailuan Dehua Mines in a case brought by West Moberly First Nations challenging the validity of permits issued to the company for its development of a coal mine in the Peace River region. Other key names include David Camp in Vancouver and Montreal-based Nadir André.

Widely acclaimed as a ‘top-tier boutique’, British Columbia’s JFK Law Corporation provides comprehensive coverage of Aboriginal law issues from its offices in Vancouver and Victoria. Treaty negotiations, First Nation economic development, constitutional law, environmental matters and dispute resolution are all key areas of expertise, and it routinely represents First Nations, Indian bands and individuals in landmark cases. Names to note include the ‘extremely committed’ Robert Janes QC, who is a ‘superb litigator, with a sharp mind’, and Robert Freedman, who brings to bear a strong record in treaty negotiations – particularly in the oil and gas and mining areas. Karey Brooks is also a senior member of the team. Among its headline cases, the firm acted for the Mikisew Cree First Nation in its ongoing challenge to the federal government’s decision to overhaul environmental protection laws without consulting First Nations. The firm has also undertaken work for White River First Nation and Gitxaala Nation.

Vancouver-headquartered Lawson Lundell LLP leverages its supplementary offices in Calgary and Yellowknife to provide comprehensive coverage of Aboriginal law issues across Western and Northern Canada. Leading light Keith Bergner splits his time between Vancouver and Calgary; he maintains a broad practice with a strong skill set in advising government bodies and private sector clients on duty to consult issues relating to major projects. In Calgary, John Olynyk is ‘excellent’, and Brad Armstrong QC is recommended in Vancouver.

Another highly rated boutique, Mandell Pinder LLP has a long-established track record in representing Aboriginal governments, organizations and peoples in an array of complex and day-to-day issues. Areas of particular expertise include treaty rights, indigenous laws and governance, and land and resource management – it also routinely advises on business and economic development. Key names in the Vancouver-based team include Rosanne Kyle, who has a diverse practice with a strong litigation bent, and experienced associate counsel James Reynolds, who acts as general counsel to the Musqueam Indian Band.

Specialist firm Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP is largely centred in Toronto, but it also has an office in Yellowknife. The firm’s exclusive focus on Aboriginal law translates into a broad practice, which routinely advises indigenous communities on a wide range of land claim negotiations, duty to consult matters and litigation. Toronto-based Larry Innes is extremely experienced and maintains a diverse national practice; significantly, he has been called to the bar in Ontario, Alberta, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador. The firm also benefits from the expertise of Toronto-based Kate Kempton, who regularly advises Aboriginal clients on negotiations and contentious matters.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s national regulatory, environmental, Aboriginal and land group has well-staffed platforms in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Calgary-based Martin Ignasiak jointly chairs the practice and is advising Teck Resources on the Aboriginal law aspects of its C$15bn Frontier oil sands project – several First Nations and Metis groups have submitted comments on the environmental assessment process. Co-chair Richard King is based in Toronto, and the team also includes regulatory star Shawn Denstedt QC and litigator Maureen Killoran QC – both of whom are based in Calgary. In 2016, Thomas Isaac joined Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP in Vancouver.

Bennett Jones LLP distinguishes itself through its ‘deep understanding of Aboriginal law issues’ and its ‘strong knowledge in supplementary areas including tax and banking’. In Vancouver, ‘fantastic’ group co-head David Bursey brings to bear a strong skill set in energy and natural resources-related work; he was retained by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) to advise the Federal Review Panel on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act review of Taseko’s New Prosperity mine project. Radha Curpen, also in Vancouver, co-leads the group. ‘Phenomenal’ Vancouver-based associate Sharon Singh is ‘very perceptive and highly respected in the Aboriginal communities in which she has worked’.

According to clients, Gowling WLG is ‘more focused and detail driven than other firms’, and it also stands out for its ‘diverse client base’, which includes First Nations, indigenous political organizations, government entities and corporations. In Vancouver, indigenous law lead Maxime Faille has ‘very good knowledge of national precedents and how they apply to the client’s situation’; he advised the Kaska Dena Council on litigation relating to a treaty transfer of land involving China Minerals Mining. In Ottawa, senior figure Brian Crane QC brings ‘vast experience and authority to the table’.

McCarthy Tétrault’s environmental, regulatory and Aboriginal law group has a broad national footprint and calls upon specialists in the firm’s Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver offices. Toronto-based group co-head Peter Brady is a respected name for regulatory litigation and is particularly recommended for mining-related matters. In Vancouver, counsel and ‘rising star’ Stephanie Axmann also has a strong focus on Aboriginal law. The firm advises Spectra Energy on Aboriginal matters throughout Canada, including impact benefit agreements and consultation agreements with First Nations.

From its bases in Toronto and Vancouver, Aboriginal law boutique Pape Salter Teillet LLP handles the full spread of self government, economic development and contentious work for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. In Toronto, Colin Salter and co-managing partner Jason Madden are high-profile experts in the area, and senior counsel Jean Teillet has a pre-eminent reputation in Vancouver.

Aboriginal law work is a mainstay at Vancouver’s Ratcliff & Company LLP. The firm routinely acts for First Nations governments, organizations and tribal councils on a diverse range of rights and land claims, treaty negotiations, economic development issues and civil litigation. Gregory McDade QC is the name to note.

In a significant boost to its Aboriginal law capability, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP hired sector specialist Thomas Isaac from Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in 2016. The firm regularly advises corporations, governments and Aboriginal peoples on mining and energy related matters.

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP’s diverse client base encompasses First Nations, tribal councils and Aboriginal organizations on the one hand, and major industry proponents on the other. Representative names include Campbell River Indian Band, Encanto Resources and Imperial Oil Resources. Heather Treacy QC and Robert Banno QC are recommended in Calgary and Vancouver respectively.

Dentons regularly advises companies on land claims, treaty rights and agreements with Aboriginal groups. In Montreal, Ann Bigué Ad E has a strong reputation in the area, and energy regulation expert Bernard Roth is a key contact in Calgary. The firm is particularly well known for advising energy and natural resources companies on the Aboriginal law aspects of major project developments.

Pragmatic and experienced’, Norton Rose Fulbright scores highly for its ‘good size, which enables access to several expert lawyers as required’ and also for its ability to provide ‘valuable advice in a timely way’. Pierre-Christian Labeau chairs the Aboriginal law group from Quebec City and is acting as the Quebec government negotiator on several cases relating to land claims and consultation.

At Torys, senior figure Frank Iacobucci and civil litigation specialist John Terry are highlighted for their ‘wide contextual knowledge and practical guidance’ – both are based in Toronto. The firm is representing the government of Ontario in discussions with the chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council on the Ring of Fire project and related resource development.

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