Indigenous law in Canada
Known for its work on natural resources development projects, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP advises on Aboriginal consultation and accommodation considerations, joint ventures for business with Indigenous peoples, governance and taxation issues. The group also has a strong track record in litigation encompassing aboriginal legal issues such as challenges to government permits for natural resource development. Roy Millen, who leads the group from Vancouver, advises private-sector clients across Canada on the indigenous law aspects of energy, mining and other major projects. Sam Adkins, also based in Vancouver, focuses on aboriginal and project development matters for clients in the resource sector. Toronto-based Ben Jetten is the name to note for disputes in this space.
‘They are always helpful and have a friendly approach to working with others. I am aware of a major project and the community individuals they work with there; the community has nothing but good things to say about the law firm and individuals.‘
Barrick Gold Corporation
B.C. Treaty Commission
Grand River Enterprises
H20 Power Limited Partnership
LNG Canada Development Inc.
NexGen Energy Ltd.
Pure Gold Mining Inc.
Seabridge Gold Inc.
Six Nations of the Grand River / Six Nations Council
TransCanada PipeLines Limited
Fission Uranium Corporation
Seven Leaf Medical Cannabis
- Assisted Seabridge Gold Inc. with federal and provincial environmental assessment and permitting processes for one of the largest proposed gold-copper mines in northern BC.
- Advised Seven Leaf Medical Cannabis, Canada’s first Indigenous owned and operated producer of medical cannabis, on all taxation and regulatory issues arising from the establishment of the business on reserve.
- Acting for Fission Uranium Corp. as it develops its Patterson Lake South uranium deposit, in northwest Saskatchewan, providing the company with aboriginal and regulatory advice.
Fasken's indigenous law practice handles work across the country, with growing activity in resource development projects in the north of the country. The team handles a broad range of work, including advising on consultations, joint ventures, taxation issues and equity participation. A key distinguishing feature lies in the group's litigation work: Kevin O’Callaghan, a respected litigator who leads the Indigenous law group from Vancouver, represents clients in the forestry, mining, and oil and gas sectors in project development matters ranging from Indigenous consultations to environmental impact assessments. Calgary-based Brenden Hunter is noted for his work on renewable energy and oil and gas projects. In addition to its natural resources work, the team also acts for clients in the real estate, transportation, forestry and fisheries sectors.
Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Limited (a TC Energy subsidiary)
British Columbia Hydro & Power Authority
De Beers Canada Inc.
Kirkland Lake Gold (formerly Detour Gold Corporation)
Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd.
Ovintiv Corporation (formerly Encana Corporation)
Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines
Sidewalk Labs (Alphabet Inc.’s urban innovation organization)
Galaxy Resources Limited
- Advised Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Limited on the implementation of an injunction order and engagement with Indigenous protestors regarding blockades.
- Advised BC Hydro on Indigenous issues including consultation throughout the multi-year federal-provincial environmental assessment process.
- Acted for Critical Elements Lithium Corporation in the negotiation and drafting of various agreements to foster collaboration with the Cree Nation of Eastmain and Cree Nation Government.
Standing out 'at the forefront of innovative service', Gowling WLG fields a large team of indigenous law specialists, who 'consistently deliver sound legal advice' primarily to First Nations clients. The practice group advises on a wide range of matters, including treaty rights, land claims, self-governance, economic development and environmental law issues. Vancouver-based litigator Maxime Faille has extensive experience representing Indigenous governments and businesses across Canada; and Cam Cameron in Ottawa is recognized for his 'pragmatic advice' on economic development projects. Jaimie Lickers took an in-house role at CIBC in October 2020.
‘The partner we work with is able to understand our work in Indigenous health and support the work we do. With his guidance, we were able to develop a purchase of service contract for our Indigenous consultants that incorporated OCAP principles, recognizing traditional language as an important part of the Indigenous culture.‘
‘From my experience, I have found the Gowling WLG team has diverse expertise that has consistently delivered sound legal advice on complex and multi-jurisdictional projects that we confront in our organization. Their expertise related to modernization of gaming throughout Ontario related to Indigenous rights puts Gowling WLG at the forefront of innovative service from what I have seen, a go-to option for this type of work when compared to other firms in our market. My work with the Gowling team, in particular Cam Cameron, has centered around Duty to Consult Assessments and several larger projects related to negotiations. The advice provided is pragmatic with an emphasis on maximizing the right opportunities beneficial to all parties involved.‘
‘Cam Cameron is a partner at Gowling WLG with expertise in Business and Indigenous Law. We were fortunate enough to have Mr. Cameron on a periodic secondment for a period of nearly 6 years — this strengthened our business rapport and established a lasting collaboration between our two entities.‘
‘We have appreciated the deep knowledge the team holds of regulatory and Aboriginal law, and have always had the utmost confidence in Gowlings. Scott Smith and his team have brought a creative, progressive and highly strategic approach to our litigation as well as other tables, developing a robust and multifaceted legal strategy for us as a client.‘
‘Scott Smith brings an exceptional strategic mind to his work, advising his clients with a bigger picture in mind and always prepared for several steps ahead. Scott is able to advise on multiple facets of a situation and identify new opportunities to further our mandate, creating a robust legal strategy for us as his client. Scott shines in the courtroom as a litigator; he is persuasive, confident, and creative.‘
‘Paul Seaman and Keith Brown are both effective communicators who are skilled at relaying otherwise complex legal scenarios to their clients. Keith demonstrates patience and confidence during stressful and hectic times, always exuding respect and making time to answer questions and follow up to ensure we understood. Paul Seaman prepared his client for a cross examination in an effective and clear way, creating confidence and reassurance in an otherwise daunting experience.‘
Roger Augustine, and Claudette Commanda and Mariette Buckshot
Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nation
Carrier Sekani Family Services
Government of Newfoundland & Labrador
Gwich’in Tribal Council
CGL First Nations Limited Partnership
Former clients of David Blott in Indian Residential School claims process
Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland
Marten Falls First Nation
Government of Nunavut
Métis Settlements General Council
- Led the historic class-action suit that sought to redress the damages and abuses suffered by Indigenous students forced to attend federally operated Indian Day Schools across Canada.
- Acted as lead counsel to the Partnership in respect of to its potential equity participation in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project.
- Acted as counsel to Marten Falls First Nation on its environmental assessment and related land use plan being developed by MFFN and Ontario.
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
The multi-disciplinary service group at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP has extensive experience advising on environmental approvals and permitting, strategic partnerships, taxation and project financing, and unresolved land claims and historic grievances. Indigenous groups, project proponents, project stakeholders and the Crown have been among the team's clients. Vancouver-based litigator Scott Kerwin has considerable expertise in Indigenous rights and title claims, and Nadir André in Montréal specializes in natural resource development involving Indigenous communities and businesses. Patrick Foy QC, also in Vancouver, has a robust disputes practice focused on Indigenous law.
Dentons' Aboriginal law group advises clients on land claims and treaty rights, the negotiation and drafting of agreements and risk management issues related to project financings. The practice group has further expertise in regulatory and environmental law matters, and also represents clients before administrative and rule-making bodies. Montréal-based Ann Bigué has a strong reputation representing clients in the energy, natural resources and mining sectors. Practice head Bernard Roth in Calgary also has extensive experience in oil and gas-related matters.
Other key lawyers:
Conuma Coal Resources Limited
Enbridge Pipelines Inc.
Northshore Forest Inc.
PETRONAS Canada (formerly Progress Energy Canada Ltd.)
Syncrude Canada Ltd.
Vermilion Forest Management Company Ltd.
- Advised PETRONAS on Aboriginal law issues related to the 2021 System Expansion Project, which involves approximately 350 km of new pipeline, three compressor station additions, and associated facilities including valve sites and pipeline tie-ins.
- Advised Syncrude on all regulatory, environmental and Aboriginal law issues related to its proposal to develop two additional mining areas within and adjacent to the existing Mildred Lake Project site.
JFK Law Corporation specializes in Indigenous and constitutional law, with a particular focus on advising First Nations clients on negotiations with government and industry participants, economic development and governance matters, among other issues. The practice stands out for its expert litigators: Robert Janes QC has a strong record in constitutional litigation, as does Karey Brooks. Robert Freedman focuses on treaty negotiations. The team is split between offices in Vancouver and Victoria.
With offices in Calgary, Vancouver, Yellowknife and Kelowna, Lawson Lundell LLP is noted for its expertise in acting for clients in the mining, energy—particularly oil and gas—and forestry sectors, assisting with the Indigenous law aspects of project development matters. John Olynyk in Calgary advises railways, mining companies and natural resource developers on Indigenous law matters; Keith Bergner advises governments, Crown corporations and private sector clients on their duty to consult; and Vancouver-based Lana Shipley has extensive experience negotiating agreements with First Nations.
Other key lawyers:
McCarthy Tétrault's Indigenous law practice stands out for its track record in complex contentious matters, including disputes arising from treaty rights and revenue sharing arrangements. In addition, the team advises on relationship building with Indigenous groups, and has experience negotiating and drafting commercial and business agreements. Paul Cassidy in Vancouver chairs the practice group and has extensive experience in the areas of mining and resource extraction. Toronto-based partner Bryn Gray is recommended for his expertise in matters relating to energy and infrastructure project development. Stephanie Axmann left the firm for a role at the Ministry of Attorney General. Peter Brady left for an in-house role in November 2020.
Rio Tinto Fer Titane
KGHM International Ltd.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.
Tataskweyak Cree Nation
Newcrest Mining Limited
Enbridge Pipelines Inc.
- Acted for Rio Tinto Fer & Titane in a duty to consult challenge relating to an approval for the expansion of a tailing site.
- Assisted a mining company with its consultation strategy and the negotiation of impact benefit agreements.
- Assisted a renewable energy company with the negotiation of leasing arrangements under the Indian Act for a renewable energy project on reserve.
Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP
Based in Toronto, Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP has developed a reputation as a destination firm for First Nations clients. Headed by managing partner Renée Pelletier, the team is experienced in advocating for treaty rights, assisting Indigenous clients with land and resource management, and advising on impact and benefit agreements. It also represents First Nations in class action litigation. Also recommended is Larry Innes, who has acted for First Nations dealing with major mining, forestry and energy developments.
Other key lawyers:
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
The regulatory, environmental, Aboriginal and land group at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP advises industry clients on the Indigenous law aspects of energy, natural resources and infrastructure projects and transactions. Martin Ignasiak in Calgary has extensive experience obtaining regulatory approvals for oil sands facilities, coal mines, pipelines and electric generation facilities. Ignasiak co-chairs the practice with Richard King in Toronto, who focuses on consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal groups.
Bennett Jones LLP
Bennett Jones LLP acts for project developers and non-Indigenous companies in their interactions with Aboriginal groups, having developed particular experience of natural resources and transportation issues. The practice group also assists First Nations with land and resource development matters and internal governance. The team is jointly led by Vancouver-based Radha Curpen and David Bursey, and Deirdre Sheehan in Calgary. Also recommended is Sharon Singh, who was made partner in the Vancouver office in March 2020.
Other key lawyers:
Business Council of British Columbia
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Capital Regional District
Conuma Coal Resource
EOG Resources Canada Inc.
Global Container Terminals
Japan Canada Oil Sands Limited
Mackenzie Valley Aboriginal Pipeline Group
MEG Energy Corp.
Mining Association of British Columbia
Nisga’a Lisms Government
Pacific Northern Gas Ltd.
Pacific Traverse Energy
Polaris LNG Ltd.
Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation
Williams Energy (Canada)
- Advised Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation on the five-year harmonized federal/provincial environmental assessment and First Nations community relations related to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project.
- Advised Pacific Traverse Energy on the development of a liquid propane export project on the West Coast of British in collaboration with the Haisla First Nation.
- Advised Polaris on the development of the Cedar Liquified (LPG) export project in Kitimat British Columbia, which Polaris is developing in collaboration with the Haisla Nation.
Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP
Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP is known for handling Indigenous law issues in the context of energy and mining sector mandates. The practice group is also experienced in assisting government clients with Aboriginal consultation and accommodation processes. Vancouver-based Thomas Isaac heads the department.
Mandell Pinder LLP
Focused on Aboriginal-side work, Vancouver-based Mandell Pinder LLP is well known for advising First Nations on land and resource management and business and economic development. Led by managing partner Brenda Gaertner, the practice group also assists with inter-tribal relationships and administrative reform. Associate Elin Sigurdson has experience in aboriginal and constitutional litigation.
Other key lawyers:
Norton Rose Fulbright handles consultations and negotiations, as well as commercial litigation for government entities and corporates in the mining and energy sectors. The practice group is chaired by Aldo Argento and Ray Chartier in Calgary, and Quebec City-based Pierre-Christian Labeau, who acts as Quebec government negotiator in numerous land claims. Senior associate Emily Chan is recommended is the Vancouver office; she is developing a reputation for representing clients in proceedings before federal and provincial tribunals.
Other key lawyers:
‘Pierre-Christian Labeau has been involved in many negotiation situations and is a very good advisor for our team.‘
Iron Ore Co. of Canada, a majority owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto, and the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway
Government of Quebec
Prince Rupert Port Authority
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
Equator Principles Association
Rio Tinto Fer et Titane
Mine Canadian Malartic Corporation
- Represented the Iron Ore Company of Canada in legal proceedings instituted by two Innu communities claiming damages in the amount of C$900m for alleged breaches of their Aboriginal rights.
- Acted as the Quebec government negotiator with respect to land claims negotiation with the Canadian government and three Innu communities.
- Represented the Government of Canada in several multibillion-dollar claims related to oil and gas development and production from First Nations’ lands in Alberta.
Pape Salter Teillet LLP
Pape Salter Teillet LLP specializes in representing First Nations from its bases in Vancouver and Toronto. Key areas of work include advising on internal governance policies and handling treaty negotiations, and assisting with land use plans and resource sharing arrangements. The group also handles Indigenous rights litigation. Jason Madden is known for his work in Métis rights law.
Ratcliff & Company LLP
Based in Vancouver, Ratcliff & Company LLP is well known for representing First Nations in British Columbia. Key areas of work include land claims, treaty negotiation, governance issues and civil and commercial litigation. Managing partner Gregory McDade QC has extensive experience in Aboriginal consultation and accommodation litigation.
The Toronto-based Indigenous law group at Torys is integral the firm's ability to provide comprehensive legal service on transformative natural resources transactions and infrastructure projects, where the practice group regularly advises on Aboriginal consultation. The firm also handles commercial disputes, acting both for Indigenous groups and non-Indigenous companies. Power and projects expert Valerie Helbronner co-chairs the team with John Terry, who advises on the duty to consult and corporate social responsibility issues.
Other key lawyers:
Government of Ontario (Ministry of Northern Development & Mines)
Government of Yukon
Province of Ontario
Government of Canada
Government of Northwest Territories
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Ontario First Nations (2008) Limited Partnership (OFNLP) (a partnership of the First Nations in Ontario other than the Chippewas of Rama First Nation)
- Appointed by the Government of Canada to advise on the design of the consultation process with Indigenous groups in connection with the Trans Mountain Pipeline project expansion (TMX Pipeline), as well as oversee the consultation process itself.
- Project counsel to Wataynikaneyap Power, a partnership between 24 First Nation Communities and FortisOntario Inc., on various commercial, regulatory and strategic matters related to the partnership and the development, construction, financing and operation of the C$1.9bn Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project.
- Provides Canadian tax advice, regulatory advice and Indigenous law advice in relation to the proposed offtake arrangements between CNOOC and Woodfibre LNG and its affiliates.
DLA Piper (Canada) LLP
DLA Piper (Canada) LLP's group handles litigation on behalf of First Nations and non-Indigenous clients, particularly in the oil and gas sector. In addition to advising on Aboriginal rights and various land issues in relation to oil and gas assets, the practice group also has experience counselling First Nations on governance matters. Litigator Heather Treacy QC heads the team from Calgary.
Other key lawyers:
Imperial Oil Resources Limited
Encanto Resources Ltd.
Campbell River Indian Band
Yukon Energy Corporation
Gingolx Village Government
Peguis First Nation
- Defended Imperial Oil Resources in royalty payment issues on First Nation reserve lands and specific issues surrounding the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulatory regime.
- Acted for Da’naxda’xw First Nation in governance matters and representation issues involving the Hereditary Chiefs Council.
- Acted for various regulators and public entities in relation to duty to consult obligations with indigenous peoples.