Indigenous law in Canada

Ratcliff & Company LLP

The boutique based practice at Ratcliff & Company LLP has long-standing experience in advising First Nation clients throughout British Columbia and Yukon, among other jurisdictions. The team’s expertise encompasses Aboriginal titles and rights, as well as claims relating to both historic and current land issues. Its strong contentious knowledge also benefits clients seeking business litigation expertise. The team is headed by Aboriginal, Indigenous and First Nations law expert, Maegen Giltrow, whose practice focus lies with the protection of Aboriginal rights. In addition, she is often sought by national and international conferences to speak on Indigenous consultation and environmental impacts.

Practice head(s):

Maegan Giltrow

Key clients

Huu-ay-aht First Nation

Blueberry River First Nation

Stellat’en First Nation

Maa-nulth Treaty Society (five First Nations)

Lax Kw’alaams First Nation

Esquimalt First Nation

Okanagan Indian Band

Tsawwassen First Nation

Kistelas First Nation

Kitsumkalum First Nation

Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation

Saik’uz First Nation

Work highlights

  • Acted for Blueberry River First Nation in a precedent-setting litigation that established that the cumulative encroachment of Blueberry territory by provincial development projects effectively barred members of the Nation from exercising their rights and amounted to a breach of Treaty 8.
  • Represented Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership, a limited partnership beneficially owned by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, in the acquisition of an incremental ownership interest in TFL 44 Limited Partnership and TFL 44 General Partner Inc. from Western Forest Products Inc., for $22.4m.
  • Acted for Blueberry River First Nation in a Treaty Land Entitlement claim that seeks compensation for the Government of Canada’s failure to provide the amount of reserve land promised under Treaty 8.

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP‘s team has an extensive understanding of Aboriginal law with its expertise is sought by Fist Nation governing bodies, First Nation-owned businesses and non-profits, natural resource entities and developers of pipelines. Aboriginal consultation, taxation issues, commercial ventures, industrial and infrastructure project initiation and project financing are some of the many matters the experienced team oversees. The Vancouver-based group is well-positioned to advise over the full spectrum of Indigenous-related matters across all provinces, and this extends to contentious work. Leading the team is Roy Millen who is equipped to handle the most sensitive of disputes, having represented clients in the natural resource and energy project space before the courts. Sam Adkins expertise includes advising on aboriginal negotiations for large-scale LNG projects.

Practice head(s):

Roy Millen

Other key lawyers:

Sam Adkins; Rochelle Collette

Key clients

Barrick Gold Corporation

B.C. Treaty Commission

Fission Uranium Corp.

FPX Nickel Corporation

Grand River Enterprises

H20 Power Limited Partnership

LNG Canada Development Inc.

Mowi Canada West Inc.

NexGen Energy Ltd.

Seabridge Gold Inc.

Six Nations of the Grand River / Six Nations Council

Teck Resources Limited

TransCanada PipeLines Limited

Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance

Work highlights

  • Advised NexGen on its Rook I uranium project in northern Saskatchewan.
  • Advised ABO with respect to providing legal and regulatory advice for applications to the Alberta Utilities Commission to construct and operate the 514.6 MW Buffalo Plains Wind Farm project located near Lomond, Alberta.
  • Advised on Indigenous negotiations and consultation on major LNG developments in Canada, including LNG Canada.


The sizeable team at Fasken spreads across its Canadian offices including Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Toronto and Quebec. Its wide presence enables an unrivalled national outreach, with clients also benefitting from the teams’ broad understanding of Indigenous issues and sector expertise. The group often advises players in the energy, oil and gas, mining, forestry, real estate and fisheries sectors. Focus lies within providing due diligence on Indigenous issues that arise from M&A, securities and tax transactions. In addition to non-contentious matters, the team consists of experienced litigators who are well versed in the handling of injunctions and regulatory proceedings. The practice is led by Kevin O’Callaghan whose expertise includes judicial review, negotiations and injunction proceedings, in addition to the handling of environmental assessments and consultations with Indigenous peoples; he is supported by Brenden Hunter whose practice focus lies within regulatory, Indigenous and environmental law. The team also welcomed Pierre-Christian Labeau in June 2022, a lawyer often engaged in territorial negotiations with indigenous communities on behalf of the Government of Quebec. 

Practice head(s):

Kevin O’Callaghan

Other key lawyers:

Brenden Hunter; Tracy Pratt; Kai Alderson; Emilie Bundock; Bridget Gilbride; Pierre-Christian Labeau


‘The lawyers have excellent experience.’

‘Strong understanding of Indigenous culture and attitudes, and relationship-driven, value-focused approach which assists greatly in negotiations.’

‘Kai Alderson is extremely knowledgeable and has a strong understanding of his client’s business and invests his time in building knowledge and capacity of his clients in addition to providing guidance.’


Work highlights

    Gowling WLG

    Gowling WLG is home to a well-established, highly reputable practice. The team is noted for advising a vast array of clients including First Nation, Métis and Inuit governments, Indigenous political organizations, business and individuals across Canada. Its client base also extends to both corporate and governmental bodies that aid Indigenous communities and its breadth of expertise includes negotiating claims and self-government agreements, overseeing vehicles for the management of Indigenous wealth, environmental assessments and consultation to First Nation and project proponents. Litigation is also an acclaimed service for the group; cases include disputes of Indigenous title and treaty rights, membership and Indian status and class actions. Paul Seaman leads the team, splitting his time between the Vancouver and Toronto offices; his work focuses on transactions and projects where the Crown’s obligation to consult with Indigenous peoples is involved. Cam Cameron, based in Ottawa, is noted for his contracts, gaming law and commercial Indigenous matter expertise. Alex O'Reilly was promoted to partner in January 2022.

    Practice head(s):

    Paul Seaman

    Key clients

    Nunatsiavut Government

    Mi’kmaq First Nation’s Assembly of Newfoundland

    Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nation

    Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

    Carrier Sekani Family Services

    Whitecap Dakota First Nation

    Alexander First Nation

    Westbank First Nation

    Cheyenne Walters, Lori-Lynn David

    Gwich’in Tribal Council

    Sumas First Nation

    Tsilhqot’in National Government

    CGL First Nations Limited Partnership

    Metlakatla Development Corporation

    Work highlights

      Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

      The team at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP advises a range of clients including project proponents, key stakeholders, the Crown and Indigenous groups. Expertise includes permitting and approval matters where projects may affect Aboriginal and Treaty rights. The practice is also sought by Indigenous governments, private entities, organizations and agencies to oversee environmental assessments, project financing, acquisitions of indigenous land and accommodation processes. Cherie Brant leads the team from Toronto. Her expertise includes the provision of strategic policy and governance counsel to Indigenous groups that wish to exercise their authority and jurisdiction. Patrick Foy KC focus lies within Indigenous-related appellate and judicial review; he is based in Vancouver.

      Practice head(s):

      Cherie Brant

      Other key lawyers:

      Nadir André; Julie-Anne Pariseau; Patrick Foy KC

      Key clients

      Canada Infrastructure Bank

      British Columbia Housing Management Commission and Provincial Rental Housing Corporation


      Atikamekw of Opitciwan Band

      Rockyview Resources Inc.

      Metis Nation of Ontario

      BC Rail

      Kitgan Zibi Anishnaabe

      Graymont Western Canada

      Ridley Terminals Inc

      BCR Properties

      Capital Regional District

      BC Environmental Assessment Office

      Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government

      Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

      North Coal Limited

      BC Ferries

      Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat

      Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Development Corporation

      ARC Resources

      Work highlights

        Lawson Lundell LLP

        The practice at Lawson Lundell LLP stands out for its ability to oversee significant natural resource development projects in the infrastructure, mining and oil and gas sectors. The team often advises Aboriginal governments and organizations, as well as corporate clients. Both Keith Bergner and John Olynyk head the practice, from the Vancouver and Calgary offices respectively. Bergner often advises those in the private and public sector, as well as government entities on regulatory and Indigenous law matters. Olynyk’s expertise includes both environmental and Indigenous law. Lana Shipley is a notable corporate and commercial specialist who handles Aboriginal law related matters.

        Other key lawyers:

        Lana Shipley; Laura Duke

        Key clients

        Canadian Energy Regulatory

        BC Hydro

        Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

        Baffinland Iron Mines Ltd.

        Agnico Eagle Mines Limited

        Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

        Canadian Natural Resources Limited

        Canadian Pacific Railway Company

        KGHM International Ltd.

        Chevron Canada Resources and Woodside Energy

        Pine Point Mining Inc.

        Government of Alberta – Ministry of Indigenous Relations

        Work highlights

          McCarthy Tétrault

          The team at McCarthy Tétrault serves as a one-stop shop, advising clients on all Aboriginal law matters and assisting them through evolving laws and policies. The team has overseen Aboriginal water title claims, the impacts on Aboriginal and treaty rights, risk management, the assessment of right assertions and issues arising from the Indian Act; it is also noted for its comprehensive understanding of the financing process in Indigenous owned projects and the acquisition of interests within such projects. Bryn Gray leads the group from Toronto, boasting specialist knowledge of both Aboriginal law and commercial litigation.

          Practice head(s):

          Paul Cassidy

          Other key lawyers:

          Selina Lee-Andersen ; Marc-Alexandre Hudon

          Key clients

          Newcrest Mining Limited

          Vale Canada

          Skeena Resources

          CN Rail

          Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

          Infrastructure Ontario

          Tataskweyak Cree Nation

          Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

          Bruce Power

          Foran Mining

          Work highlights

          • Acted for Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, and Neskantaga First Nation as representative plaintiffs in $8 bn settlement in damages from the federal government for failing to provide adequate access to potable water on various First Nations’ reserves in Canada.
          • Advised Skeena Resources Limited on the negotiation of several agreements with the Tahltan Central Government for the Eskay Creek Project and in respect of the negotiation between the Province of British Columbia and the Tahltan Central Government on a regulatory consent agreement for Skeena Resources’ Eskay Creek Project under the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
          • Advised Newcrest Mining Limited on consultation and engagement strategy with Tahltan Nation, Tsetsault Ski Km La Ha, Nisga’a Nation and Gitanyow Heridtary Chiefs in connection with the acquisition of the Brucejack Mine.

          Bennett Jones LLP

          Bennett Jones LLP handles a broad scope of Indigenous related matters, with particular focus on the accommodation of communities’ interests concerning development projects, transactions and commercial agreements. The team is also skilled in advising communities on governance and Aboriginal rights-related matters. Sharon Singh and David Bursey are based in Vancouver, while Deirdre Sheehan is in Calgary, the trio jointly co-head the practice. Radha Curpen is another key contact.

          Practice head(s):

          David Bursey; Deirdre Sheehan; Sharon Singh

          Other key lawyers:

          Radha Curpen

          Work highlights

            Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

            Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP advises a vast array of clients, including federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, Indigenous groups and businesses. Sector expertise includes forestry, fishing, agriculture, mining and both renewable and non-renewable energy. The team oversees matters from all sectors and has experience advising on transactions and public policy decisions affected by Aboriginal law. Vancouver-based Thomas Isaac advises on related environmental and regulatory issues.

            Other key lawyers:

            Thomas Isaac

            Key clients

            Metro Vancouver / Greater Vancouver Regional District

            Métis Nation – Saskatchewan Secretariat Inc.

            Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

            Canadian National Railway Company

            Metis National Council Secretariat Inc.

            Trans Mountain Corporation

            Generation Mining Inc.

            Ongoing strategic advice for various corporate clients

            Work highlights


              The practice at Dentons integrates its Aboriginal law expertise with its environmental and regulatory law experience to provide clients with seamless project planning advice in matters of natural resource development and transportation. Key strengths include the provision of land claims and treaty rights advice, the negotiation of impact and benefits agreements and the evaluation of Aboriginal risks arising from project financings. The team is led by Bernard Roth who practices from Calgary. Roth’s focus lies within energy regulation and administrative processes, while Laura K. Estep is best known for advising energy clients on project approval phases.

              Practice head(s):

              Bernard Roth

              Key clients

              Enbridge Inc.

              Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

              PETRONAS Canada (formerly Progress Energy Canada Ltd.)

              Syncrude Canada Ltd.


              Work highlights

              • Drafted written submissions to the British Columbia Oil and Gas Appeal Tribunal to oppose the standing of a trapper to appeal a pipeline permit issued to PETRONAS.
              • Represented and advised Hydro-Québec in five litigation matters brought by the Innu of Pessamit in relation to their assertion of Aboriginal title and rights on lands affected by hydroelectric projects of Hydro-Québec, and which involve claims in damages of approximately $500m against the hydroelectric company.
              • Represented Hydro-Québec in four litigation matters brought by the Innu of Uashat and of Mani-Utenam in relation to their assertion of Aboriginal title and rights on lands affected by hydroelectric projects of Hydro-Québec, and which also involve claims in damages of approximately $2bn dollars against the hydroelectric company.

              Norton Rose Fulbright

              The team at Norton Rose Fulbright has particular expertise in project and land development matters that affect Aboriginal or treaty rights protected by the Canadian Constitution. It deploys its broad knowledge of Aboriginal law to guide clients across an array of sectors such as energy, mining, dispute resolution, environment and litigation. Calgary-based Ray Chartier and Vancouver-based Emily Chan co-lead the practice. Chartier has particular expertise in ESG compliance while Chan, who recently made partner, possesses experience in Indigenous consultation and negotiation.

              Practice head(s):

              Ray Chartier; Emily Chan

              Other key lawyers:

              Max Collett 

              Key clients

              Justice Canada

              Rio Tinto

              Province of Alberta

              Government of Quebec


              Work highlights

              • Advised Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on federal affordable housing initiatives, including COVID-19 emergency housing relief, Indigenous housing, and other housing initiatives across the country.
              • Retained by Hydro-Quebec, one of the one of the world’s largest hydroelectricity producers, to defend a $4bn action filed by Innu Nation on behalf of the aboriginal Innu of Labrador.


              Torys‘ practice handles both contentious and non-contentious matters such as Indigenous risks and aspects arising from M&A, investments, commercial arrangements, projects and restructurings. Indigenous entities also often rely on the team to oversee dispute resolution and counsel, including land claims and Indigenous consultation. Valerie Helbronner and John Terry lead the team from Toronto. Helbronner’s focus lies within the involvement of Indigenous communities in infrastructure projects. Terry’s litigation expertise extends into constitutional and treaty rights. Brianne Paulin joined the team in February 2022 from Aldridge & Rosling.

              Practice head(s):

              John Terry; Valerie Helbronner

              Other key lawyers:

              Frank Iacobucci; Michael Fortier

              Key clients

              Nation Rise Wind Farm Limited Partnership

              Algoma Power Inc.


              First Nations Tax Commission and First Nations Infrastructure Institute

              First Nations Major Projects Coalition

              Goldwind USA, Inc.

              Enwave Energy Corporation

              Oneida Energy Storage LP

              The Government of the Northwest Territories

              The Government of Yukon

              Work highlights

              • Advised Nation Rise Wind Farm and its owner EDP Renewables Canada in the sale of a 50.01% interest to Chi-Nódin Limited Partnership, an entity owned by the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation.
              • Advised Algoma Power Inc. on regulatory and commercial matters in relation to a planned Distribution Expansion Project, which includes the design, procurement and construction of electricity distribution facilities to connect and serve two large industrial customers, including related regulatory, permitting and Aboriginal matters.
              • Retained by Allens, an international commercial law firm, to advise on cultural heritage legislation.

              DLA Piper (Canada) LLP

              DLA Piper (Canada) LLP‘s team is best-known for its stellar understanding of the issues and interrelationships that arise between Indigenous communities, governments and industry players. Calgary-based Heather Treacy leads the team, often advising over land and reserve issues, consultations, legislative regimes and First Nation governance issues. Josh Jantzi joined the team from Gowling WLG in May 2022.

              Practice head(s):

              Heather Treacy

              Key clients

              Imperial Oil Resources Limited

              MNP LLP

              Encanto Resources Ltd.‎

              Campbell River Indian Band

              Brascan Corporation

              Yukon Energy Corporation


              Gingolx Village Government

              Peguis First Nation ‎

              Work highlights

              • Defended Imperial in royalty payment issues on First Nation reserve lands and specific ‎issues surrounding the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulatory regime.‎
              • Advised on governance matters and representation issues involving the Hereditary Chiefs ‎Council.‎
              • Acted for various regulators and public entities involving duty to consult obligations with ‎indigenous peoples and when government action may trigger the duty to consult and ‎accommodate, where applicable.‎