Indigenous law in Canada

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Complemented by the firm’s broad corporate and projects offerings and top-tier environmental law capability, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s practice brings together robust regulatory and transactional expertise in the indigenous law area. From Aboriginal consultation, through to due diligence, the team routinely advises a wide range of clients across the country on complex and strategic matters. The group is led from Vancouver by Roy Millen, who specializes in advising private sector clients on the indigenous law aspects of energy and mining projects. Sam Adkins, also based in Vancouver, has deep experience in consultation, negotiation and regulatory issues. Montreal-based Anne Drost and Calgary-based environmental law specialist Terri-Lee Oleniuk are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Roy Millen

Other key lawyers:

Sam Adkins

Key clients

Barrick Gold Corporation

H2O Power Limited Partnership

Pure Gold Mining Inc.

LNG Canada Development Inc.

Seabridge Gold Inc.

Six Nations of the Grand River / Six Nations Council

B.C. Treaty Commission

TransCanada Pipelines Limited

Sojitz Corporation

Washington Group of Companies

Work highlights

  • Represented Canadian Pacific Railway in defending a C$150m claim by an Aboriginal band regarding rights to oil and gas beneath CP’s rail lands that run through their reserves.
  • Represented several First Nations (Grand River Enterprises, Six Nations of the Grand River, Chapleau Cree First Nation, and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation) in proceedings in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking extensive declaratory relief on aboriginal and constitution legal issues, including the extent that a provincial government can legislate or regulate trade between manufacturers located on Indian reserve land.
  • Acted for the Six Nations of the Grand River in an action against the federal and Ontario governments pursuing an accounting and equitable compensation for alleged Crown mismanagement of Six Nations’ property set aside under the Haldimand Treaty in 1784.
  • Guided Seabridge Gold through federal and provincial environmental assessment and permitting processes for a proposed gold‐copper mine in northern BC.
  • Advised Pure Gold on its negotiation of a project agreement with two First Nations relating to its Madsen Project.


Fasken houses one of the largest indigenous law groups in the market, providing specialist expertise across all key areas of the practice area, including consultation issues, litigation, joint ventures arrangements and reserve land development. Acting for a mix of natural resources and energy companies, First Nations and public sector clients, the group is a top choice for support on major energy and natural resources projects, particularly in the mining space. Litigator Kevin O’Callaghan leads the practice from Vancouver and has deep expertise in precedent-setting Aboriginal law cases. Brenden Hunter, who is highly regarded for his experience in projects-related matters, is a key name in Calgary.

Practice head(s):

Kevin O’Callaghan

Other key lawyers:

Brenden Hunter

Key clients

British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority (BC Hydro) – Site C Clean Energy Project

Encana Corporation

Manitoba Hydro

De Beers Canada Inc.

Detour Gold Corporation

Hudbay Minerals

AltaLink Management Ltd. (Berkshire Hathaway Energy)

Cermaq Canada

Husby Forest Products Ltd.

Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. (“BGM”)

Work highlights

  • Acted for British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority on regulatory, litigation and other indigenous matters connected to the C$10.7bn Site C Clean Energy Project.
  • Represented Encana in Stoney Nakoda Nations’ C$450m claim regarding petroleum and natural gas rights that were originally transferred to Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • Advised Hudbay Minerals in three actions in which foreign indigenous plaintiffs are suing the parent mining company.
  • Represented Manitoba Hydro before the National Energy Board in its application for a new 500 kV international power line from Winnipeg to the Manitoba-Minnesota border.
  • Advised De Beers Canada on indigenous engagement and governmental approvals for exploration activities.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP is equally adept at advising indigenous communities, government bodies and industry participants on indigenous law issues. Particularly prominent in contentious matters, the group is also well versed in regulatory concerns, project development and due diligence issues. Spearheaded nationally by Montreal-based Nadir André and Vancouver-based Scott Kerwin, the department draws on the experience of Vancouver-based senior counsel Patrick Foy QC, who is highly regarded for his public law expertise. Senior counsel David Camp is another contact in the Vancouver office.

Practice head(s):

Nadir André; Scott Kerwin

Other key lawyers:

Patrick Foy QC


The team provides very professional service and explains matters at hand very well.’

Lawyers are very professional and down to earth. Very experienced in all matters that have came up with my community.’

Work highlights

  • Represented the Ministry of Justice – BC in a proceeding brought by Saik’uz First Nation and Stellat’en First Nation against Rio Tinto Alcan, relating to riparian rights arising from the operation of the Kenney Dam on the Nechako River.
  • Represented the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Management Board in a judicial review of the government’s total allowable take for polar bear harvesting.
  • Advised the Province of British Columbia on an Aboriginal title and rights case brought by the Haida Nation.
  • Advised Ridley Terminals on First Nations issues related to a project that would expand its marine facilities.


Dentons is consistently involved in major energy infrastructure projects, which sees it advising on a significant amount of indigenous law-related issues. In addition, the firm secures a steady stream of mandates involving the mining, transportation and forestry sectors. Montreal-based practice co-head Ann Bigué Ad E handles an array of contentious and non-contentious matters, with strong skill sets in Aboriginal relations, land claims and treaty rights. Regulatory specialist Bernard Roth in Calgary co-heads the team alongside Bigué.

Practice head(s):

Ann Bigué Ad E

Other key lawyers:

Bernard Roth

Key clients

Conuma Coal Resources Limited

Enbridge Inc.

Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

Northshore Forest Inc.

PETRONAS Canada (formerly Progress Energy Canada Ltd.)

Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Veresen Midstream

Vermilion Forest Management Company Ltd.

Work highlights

  • Advised Syncrude on all regulatory, environmental and Aboriginal law issues related to the Mildred Lake Extension Project.

Gowling WLG

Gowling WLG acts primarily for indigenous clients, but also advises government clients and corporates that work with indigenous communities. Hamilton-based Jaimie Lickers heads the practice group and has niche expertise in advising First Nations on trust and taxation issues. Vancouver-based litigator Maxime Faille is sought after for his broad indigenous law experience, while Cam Cameron in Ottawa has a strong track record on the economic development side.

Practice head(s):

Jaimie Lickers

Other key lawyers:

Cam Cameron; Maxime Faille


Gowling WLG possesses a strong Aboriginal law practice with a lens that is national in focus.’

The firm has taken to host indigenous law learning events that have proved to be successful, including hosting events to coincide with National Indigenous Peoples Day. The firm seems to take its diversity and inclusion commitments seriously.’

Cam Cameron has repeatedly responded to our ability to communicate with diverse populations, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations. Our contracts as well as our Memoranda of Understanding reflect cultural sensitivities and traditions.’

Cam Cameron is very knowledgeable on indigenous issues and takes a leadership role in advancing knowledge in this area. He is always available to provide support in a timely manner and his work is valued and trusted.’

Work highlights

  • Represented ‘Namgis First Nation in two judicial reviews at the Federal Court of Canada, challenging two different aquaculture policies.
  • Represented the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in the judicial review concerning Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project.
  • Represented the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in a matter involving the Innu of Quebec in their claim against Iron Ore Canada, relating to asserted rights in both Quebec and Labrador.

JFK Law Corporation

One of the leading firms advising First Nations, JFK Law Corporation provides comprehensive indigenous law advice from its offices in Victoria and Vancouver. The group advises First Nations’ organizations, Indian bands and individuals on an array of consultation and accommodation issues, constitutional law cases, treaty negotiations and economic development matters. Robert Janes QC, based in Victoria, is sought after for his strong record in complex litigation, while Vancouver-based Robert Freedman is noted for his focus on treaty negotiations. Up-and-coming litigator Karey Brooks is also recommended in Vancouver.

Practice head(s):

Robert Janes QC

Other key lawyers:

Karey Brooks; Robert Freedman

Lawson Lundell LLP

Lawson Lundell LLP’s signature mining service makes it as a top choice for advice on the indigenous law aspects of mining projects. Its strong regional focus on Western Canada, from office platforms in Vancouver, Calgary, Yellowknife and Kelowna, also generates a significant volume of energy and forestry-related matters. In Calgary, John Olynyk specializes in advising developers within the energy, natural resources and utilities industries on regulatory and indigenous law matters. Keith Bergner, who splits his time between Vancouver and Calgary, routinely advises governments, Crown corporations and private sector clients on consultation and duty to accommodate issues. Vancouver-based transactional specialist Lana Shipley is another key contact.

Other key lawyers:

Lana Shipley

McCarthy Tétrault

The increasingly active practice group at McCarthy Tétrault has equal strengths in advisory mandates and contentious work, where it can draw on the firm’s top-tier litigation offering. On the non-contentious side, the department is well versed in Aboriginal rights and treaty rights, consultation and accommodation issues, project approvals and transactional support. Vancouver-based counsel Stephanie Axmann focuses on project development and commercial work, while up-and-coming partner Bryn Gray in Toronto is noted for his experience in regulatory and contentious matters.

Key clients

Rio Tinto Fer et Titane

Bruce Power

Hydro One Networks Inc.

Government of Canada

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

KGHM International Ltd.

Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.

Hydrocarbure Anticosti Senc.

Work highlights

  • Advised Bruce Power on Aboriginal consultation and engagement for its major component replacement project and also on its 10-year licence renewal application with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
  • Represented Rio Tinto Fer et Titane in the defence of the legal challenge issued by the Innus of Ekuanitshit against a certificate of authorization.
  • Advised Hydro One Networks on Aboriginal law and policy issues for an application to the Ontario Energy Board.

Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

With an exclusive focus on indigenous law matters, Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP is consistently involved in high-profile and precedent-setting mandates. The Toronto-headquartered boutique advises on a wide range of regulatory, commercial and contentious work, and fields standalone offerings in treaty rights, economic development, resource and lands management and self-government. A name to note is Larry Innes, who has experience in matters involving the mining, forestry and energy industries.

Practice head(s):

Renée Pelletier

Other key lawyers:

Larry Innes

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s Aboriginal law offering, which forms part of the firm’s cross-practice regulatory, environmental, Aboriginal and land (REAL) group, specializes in providing support to energy producers, utilities, and resource developers on project approval processes. The team also handles in joint ventures, which recently included advising Henvey Inlet Wind on the C$1bn Henvey Inlet Wind project -- the largest on-reserve wind installation in Canada. Toronto-based Richard King, who co-leads the REAL group alongside Calgary’s Martin Ignasiak, is well versed in indigenous matters relating to large natural resource projects.

Practice head(s):

Martin Ignasiak; Richard King

Key clients

Riversdale Resources and Benga Mining (1167150)

Teck Resources

Henvey Inlet Wind LP

Prosper Petroleum

EPCOR Natural Gas Limited Partnership

Five Nations Energy Inc. & Five Nations Development Inc.

TransCanada Corporation

Kinder Morgan Canada / Trans Mountain

Work highlights

  • Advised Riversdale Resources, and its subsidiary Benga Mining, on the Aboriginal law aspects of its proposed new open-pit coal mine, the Grassy Mountain Project.
  • Acted for Teck Resources on Aboriginal and environmental issues related to its proposed Frontier Oil Sands Project.
  • Acted for Henvey Inlet Wind, which is a joint venture between Pattern Energy Group and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Henvey Inlet First Nation, on the C$1bn financing for the 300 MW Henvey Inlet Wind project.

Bennett Jones LLP

Bennett Jones LLP’s national group, which is mainly split between Vancouver and Calgary, utilizes the firm’s signature natural resources offering to advise corporate clients on the indigenous law aspects of energy, mining and utilities projects. It also has experience in acting for First Nations, particularly in relation to land and resource development policies and economic development. Jointly led from Vancouver by David Bursey and Radha Curpen, the team also includes impressive senior associate Sharon Singh, who is noted for her mining sector expertise.

Practice head(s):

David Bursey; Radha Curpen

Other key lawyers:

Sharon Singh

Key clients

ATCO Group

Encana Corporation

MEG Energy Corp.

Nexen Inc.

Japan Canada Oil Sands Limited

Williams Energy (Canada)

Mackenzie Valley Aboriginal Pipeline Group

EOG Resources Canada Inc.

Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Capital Regional District

Pacific Traverse Energy

Conuma Coal Resource

Work highlights

  • Advised Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation on the environmental assessment and First Nations community relations related to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project.
  • Appointed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to be counsel to the Federal Review Panel in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act review of the Taseko New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project.
  • Advised the Capital Regional District and the Project Board on the environmental regulatory requirements and approvals to upgrade the wastewater system for the Victoria region in British Columbia.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Mining powerhouse Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP has a robust Aboriginal law practice, which routinely advises energy and natural resources companies on consultation matters, access agreements and exploration agreements, among other issues. It also has experience acting on behalf of government clients. Vancouver-based Thomas Isaac is recommended.

Practice head(s):

Thomas Isaac

Mandell Pinder LLP

Respected boutique Mandell Pinder LLP has over three decades of experience advising First Nations clients on complex constitutional matters. The Vancouver-based firm is also increasingly active in economic development, governance issues and Aboriginal institution-building. Names to note include managing partner Brenda Gaertner, who advises First Nation governments on Aboriginal title and rights, natural resource management and economic development, and talented associate Elin Sigurdson.

Practice head(s):

Brenda Gaertner

Other key lawyers:

Elin Sigurdson

Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright has experience across the spectrum of Aboriginal law, covering all the key elements of regulatory, transactional and contentious matters. Best known for representing industry participants, particularly mining and energy companies, it also advises local government clients on indigenous law issues. The group is led from Quebec City by Pierre-Christian Labeau, who is currently acting as the Quebec government negotiator in land claims.

Key clients

Mine Canadian Malartic Corporation

Iron Ore Co. of Canada, a majority owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto, and the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway

Government of Quebec

Alberta Electric System Operator

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada.

Municipality of Saint-Augustin, Province of Quebec

Justice Canada

Hillcore Group Holdings Ltd.

Rio Tinto (RT)

Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA)

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

J.1. Properties Inc.

Work highlights

  • Represented Mine Canadian Malartic on issues related to the validity of First Nations’ claims over its project and on the negotiation regarding an agreement which shall provide economic opportunities for the Algonquins communities.
  • Represented the Iron Ore Company of Canada in a C$900m case brought by Innu communities alleging breaches of their Aboriginal rights.
  • Advising the Municipality of Saint-Augustin on the creation of an Indian reserve under the Indian Act.

Pape Salter Teillet LLP

The experienced practice group at Pape Salter Teillet LLP exclusively acts for First Nations from its offices in Toronto and Vancouver. The team boasts a full-service offering, but is particularly strong in litigation, treaty negotiations, and consultation and accommodation related matters. Co-managing partner Jason Madden in Toronto is noted for his specialist expertise in Métis rights law.

Practice head(s):

Nuri Frame; Jason Madden

Ratcliff & Company LLP

Aboriginal law is a mainstay at North Vancouver-based Ratcliff & Company LLP, which specializes in representing First Nations governments, organizations and tribal councils throughout British Columbia. Managing partner Gregory McDade QC routinely advises on impact benefits agreements, and Aboriginal consultation and accommodation litigation connected to major resource projects.

Practice head(s):

Gregory McDade QC

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP’s group is particularly active in litigation, and regularly represents First Nations and industry clients. It also advises on treaty negotiations, regulatory matters and corporate support. The department is jointly led by Calgary-based litigator Heather Treacy QC and Vancouver-based transactional specialist Robert Banno QC.

Key clients

Imperial Oil Resources Limited


Encanto Resources Ltd.

Campbell River Indian Band

Brascan Corporation

Yukon Energy Corporation


Gingolx Village Government

Peguis First Nation

Work highlights

  • Represented Imperial Oil Resources in an action commenced by the Attorney General of Canada concerning an underpayment of royalties arising out of gas production on the Pigeon Lake Indian Reserve occupied by the Louis Bull, Ermineskin, Samson and Montana Bands.


The compact but effective group at Torys LLP handles consultation, and advises on project developments and contentious matters. Spearheaded from Toronto by litigator John Terry and power specialist Valerie Helbronner, the group also benefits from the experience of senior counsel Frank Iacobucci QC, who was formerly a justice of the Supreme Court.

Practice head(s):

John Terry; Valerie Helbronner

Other key lawyers:

Frank Iacobucci QC

Key clients

Government of Ontario (Ministry of Northern Development & Mines)

Nodin Kitagan Limited Partnership and Nodin Kitagan 2 Limited Partnership

Government of Yukon

Province of Ontario

Government of Canada

Wataynikaneyap Power

Work highlights

  • Engaged by the Government of Canada to advise on consultations with a number of Aboriginal communities regarding the expansion of the TransMountain Pipeline.
  • Advised Wataynikaneyap Power, a partnership of 22 First Nation communities, on all commercial and regulatory matters in connection with the development and financing of a transmission line in Northwestern Ontario.