Indigenous law in Canada

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

With deep knowledge of Indigenous issues, tribal rights and governance mattes, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP is a go-to destination for clients involved in the development of large-scale natural resources projects and consequential transactions taking place in Canada. The Vancouver-based team provides nationwide coverage, and is well-placed to assist with the gamut of Aboriginal matters, including advising on the management of Indigenous-related risks in the context of M&A deals, consultation obligations, and impact and benefit agreements. Project financing, taxation issues and commercial ventures with First Nations are other areas of expertise for the group, which also houses litigation specialists that are skilled at defending industry clients against challenges to government permits. Leading the practice is Roy Millen, who is proficient in assisting with project approvals, commercial agreements and claims brought by Indigenous communities. Corporate lawyer Sam Adkins  is another name to note in the team; he has a wealth of experience in the energy and mining sectors, and routinely advises on Aboriginal law issues and project development.

Practice head(s):

Roy Millen

Other key lawyers:

Sam Adkins; Ben Jetten

Fasken

With unparalleled geographical reach across Canada, Fasken is recurrently retained by large corporations operating in the energy, oil and gas, mining, forestry, real estate and infrastructure sectors facing major legal challenges pertaining to Indigenous law. The team has an impressive track record of negotiating IBAs on behalf of industry players, and providing due diligence related to Indigenous issues arising from M&A, securities and tax transactions. On the contentious front, the group is a strong performer acting for private-sector clients in Aboriginal claims, injunctions and regulatory proceedings. Practice head Kevin O’Callaghan offers legal support to clients throughout Western and Northern Canada in relation to Indigenous law, project development, litigation and corporate social responsibility issues; he is based in Vancouver. Brenden Hunter is a key contact in the Calgary office, who regularly appears before regulatory tribunals and assists with Indigenous consultation obligations.

Practice head(s):

Kevin O’Callaghan

Other key lawyers:

Brenden Hunter; Tracy Pratt; Kai Alderson; Emilie Bundock; Bridget Kilbride

Testimonials

‘I work with Tracy Pratt at Fasken. She has a lot of experience with Ontario First Nations and understands how to make an early exploration agreement with Ontario First Nations in a timely fashion and that does not result in excessive costs and obligations. She is an excellent Indigenous Law lawyer. ’

‘Tracy Pratt goes the extra mile to ensure we get our agreements completed on time.’

Key clients

Boart Longyear Canada

Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Limited (a TC Energy subsidiary) (“CGL”)

AltaLink Management Ltd. (Berkshire Hathaway Energy Canada)

BC Hydro

Gazoduq inc.

Manitoba Hydro

Cermaq Canada

Assembly of First Nations

Ovintiv Corporation

Work highlights

  • Advised Boart Longyear in respect of a joint venture with the economic development arm of Matachewan First Nation to deliver drilling services to mining operators in northeastern Ontario.
  • Advised Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Limited (a TC Energy subsidiary) (“CGL”) on many issues relating to a major natural gas pipeline project including blockades, injunctions and agreement negotiations and implementation
  • Aacting as lead counsel to AltaLink in relation to a number of new 240 kV transmission line projects proposed for central Alberta (the Provost to Edgerton, Nilrem to Vermilion and Central-East Transfer Out projects).

Gowling WLG

Gowling WLG ‘s leading practice is noted for its representation of Indigenous clients, including Indigenous businesses, organisations, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments, in the entire spectrum of non-contentious and litigation matters. The team balances a busy workload that features mandates pertaining to the negotiation of Indigenous equity participation and joint venture agreements, tax issues, title and treaty rights, impact benefit agreements and class action litigation. The service offering also extends to project proponents, industry players and governments in relation to consultations and regulatory advice. Vancouver-based Paul Seaman, who focuses on regulatory, transactional and constitutional matters, was recently appointed practice leader. Also in Vancouver, Aaron Christoff is routinely retained by First Nations clients engaged in litigation. Cam Cameron is a noteworthy practitioner in Ottawa that leads the team involved in the Indian Day School class action. Vancouver-based Scott Smith has combined expertise in Indigenous law, energy and environmental matters.

Practice head(s):

Paul Seaman

Testimonials

‘My work with the Gowling team, in particular Cam Cameron, over the last 12 months or so has centered around Duty to Consult Assessments and Revenue Share Agreements with certain First Nations. The advice provided is pragmatic with an emphasis on maximizing the right opportunities beneficial to all parties involved. Mr. Cameron’s insight into Indigenous matter and OLG allows him to clearly outline risks while proposing solutions.’

‘Cam Cameron is a partner at Gowling WLG with expertise in Business and Indigenous Law. Mr. Cameron’s unique perspective and unmatched knowledge relating to gaming law, coupled with his Indigenous background provides an invaluable insight into OLG’s strategic initiatives. Mr. Cameron’s legal work has taken him across Canada to various Indigenous communities which enables him to consider all perspectives when providing advice. ’

Key clients

Chief Edward Hall, Kwikwetlem First Nation

First Nations Health Authority

Alexander First Nation

Kivalliq Inuit Association (“KIA”)

Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nation

Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

Carrier Sekani Family Services

CGL First Nations Limited Partnership

Whitecap Dakota First Nation

Former clients of David Blott in Indian Residential School claims process

Gwich’in Tribal Council

Sumas First Nation

Métis Nation of Ontario

Nunasi Corporation

Takla Nation

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP acts for a stellar client base, comprising project proponents, Indigenous groups and the Crown, in a host of Aboriginal law and treaty rights mandates, most notably project permitting and approval issues. Recent areas of growth include advising Indigenous-owned businesses operating in the oil and gas, energy, infrastructure, banking and cannabis industries in relation to strategic partnerships with industry clients. The team’s impressive litigation track record is also noteworthy, as is its ability to assist with Northern Land Claims Agreements. The indigenous law group is spearheaded by Cherie Brant in Toronto, whose experience covers transactions, financing and land development on First Nations territories. Montréal-based Nadir André is go-to counsel for both Aboriginal clients and corporations involved in land claims’ negotiations in Québec and elsewhere in Canada, and in connection with natural resources development. Patrick Foy QC in Vancouver has notable expertise in appellate and judicial review matters involving Aboriginal law.

Practice head(s):

Cherie Brant

Work highlights

Dentons

Dentons fields a team made up of Aboriginal, environmental and regulatory law experts, which is particularly skilled at advising on natural resources and infrastructure project development. Recent work demonstrates the group’s strength in land claims and treaty rights, negotiation of agreements between industry clients and Aboriginal groups, and management of Indigenous law risks in the context of major project financings. Bernard Roth, who specializes in energy regulation and administrative proceedings, oversees the national group out of Calgary. In the same office, Laura K. Estep  is noted for assisting energy clients throughout all stages of project approvals. Joe Sebestyan splits his time between Calgary and Vancouver; main areas of activity include project approvals, duty to consult claims and Indigenous ownership agreements.

Practice head(s):

Bernard Roth

Testimonials

‘Strong legal minds and high level of dedication towards achieving the client’ objectives.’

Key clients

Enbridge Inc.

Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

PETRONAS Canada (formerly Progress Energy Canada Ltd.)

Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Hydro-Québec

Work highlights

  • Represented Hydro-Québec in five 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.
  • Acted for 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.
  • Advised PETRONAS Canada in relation to all regulatory, environmental and Aboriginal law issues related to the 2021 System Expansion Project.

Lawson Lundell LLP

Acting for Aboriginal organisations, governments and corporate clients, the Indigenous law group at Lawson Lundell LLP is singled out for its ability to handle litigation and large-scale natural resource development projects across mining, oil and gas, and infrastructure. With a strong presence in Western Canada, the practice is jointly led by John Olynyk in Calgary and Vancouver-based Brad Armstrong and Keith Bergner. Bergner attracts instructions from governments, Crown corporations and private-sector clients in relation to consultation programs, impact benefit agreements with First Nations and regulatory permits. Armstrong is recommended for civil litigation and Indigenous consultations throughout Western and North Canada, while Olynyk focuses on project development and related Indigenous issues. Also in the Vancouver office, Lana Shipley is a noteworthy practitioner for corporate and commercial matters involving aboriginal law.

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

McCarthy Tétrault

Standing out for its notable track record in litigation, McCarthy Tétrault‘s dedicated group also offers support to public-sector and industry clients on large-scale projects and operations across Canada engaging the rights of Indigenous groups. The team, which demonstrates strong credentials in the advancement of reconciliation opportunities, excels in the structuring of sophisticated commercial agreements involving First Nations and their lands, including joint ventures, impact benefit agreements and co-development projects. In addition to the core work on behalf of corporations, the department is also prepared to represent Indigenous people in litigation, notably class actions. Vancouver-based Paul Cassidy jointly leads the group with Bryn Gray in Vancouver and Marc-Alexandre Hudon, who sits in Montréal. Gray has in-depth knowledge of Aboriginal law and policy issues across all jurisdictions in Canada, including treaty rights and duty to consult litigation. Hudon advises on all aspects of Indigenous law ranging from commercial transactions, real estate planning to financing, litigation and the Indian Act.

Other key lawyers:

Selina Lee-Andersen

Key clients

Enbridge Pipelines Inc.

Evolution Mining

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.

Bruce Power

Tataskweyak Cree Nation

Glencore plc

Newcrest Mining Limited

Vale Canada

Skeena Resources Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted for Tataskweyak Cree Nation and Chief Doreen Spence as representative plaintiffs in a recently certified class action commenced in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench seeking CAD$2.1 bn 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 on the return of certain mineral claims to the Province of BC to facilitate the creation of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area over the Ice Mountain Lands in northerwestern BC.

Bennett Jones LLP

Bennett Jones LLP undertakes a variety of Aboriginal law work, with lawyers offering significant experience in the space, especially in relation to the accommodation of Indigenous communities’ interests in the context of development projects, commercial arrangements and transactions. The practice predominantly acts for proponents of energy, natural resources and transportation projects, but is also well-versed in advising Indigenous groups on internal governance, Aboriginal rights claims and land development policies. Based in Vancouver, David Bursey assists with duty to consult matters and represents clients before provincial and federal courts, while Radha Curpen is noted for her broad practice that covers Aboriginal self-government, land and water rights claims, and the Indian Act. Also in Vancouver, Sharon Singh brings together expertise in Aboriginal due diligence related to project development, policy and governance issues. Deirdre Sheehan in Calgary regularly assists with approval processes.

Other key lawyers:

Sharon Singh

Key clients

ATCO Group

Business Council of British Columbia

Pembina Pipelines

Capital Regional District

Encana Corporation

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

Nexen Inc.

Nisga’a Lisms Government

Pacific Northern Gas Ltd.

Pacific Traverse Energy

Cedar LNG Partners LP

Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation

Williams Energy (Canada)

All Nations Cannabis

Work highlights

  • Advising VAFFC, a consortium of domestic and international airlines, on a new aviation fuel delivery project to Vancouver International Airport.
  • Advised Natural Law Energy Inc. on Indian Act and Aboriginal law governance matters and relevant agreements with Indigenous communities relating to its acquisition of an up to $1bn equity interest in the Keystone XL Project.
  • Providing legal advice to MABC (whose members include Teck Resources, Rio Tinto, Glencore, Newmont-Goldcorp, Anglo American, Conuma Coal, Barrick, Pretivm, Taseko and HD Mining) on regulatory and Indigenous issues, including UNDRIP (including Bill 41), provincial amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act and requirements to seek consensus from Indigenous nations, Species at Risk Act, and various other regulatory policy and legal issues.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright‘s indigenous law group acts as a regular and trusted advisor to governments, project financiers, developers and proponents, supporting them with commercial, regulatory and litigation matters. The practice benefits from a strong international and domestic network of offices, which places it in a unique position to advise on the Equator Principles and international risk management frameworks applied to project finance. Negotiating land claims and joint ventures between industry clients and indigenous groups are other areas of focus for the team whose caseload also features challenges to project approvals. Of-counsel Pierre-Christian Labeau in Québec is seasoned in treaty negotiations and consultation agreements related to mining and energy development. He oversees the group with litigation specialist Aldo Argento and Ray Chartier , who is counsel of choice for energy clients in relation to Indigenous and treaty rights issues. Both are based in Calgary. Emily Chan is a key individual in Vancouver for regulatory processes and impact benefit agreements.

Other key lawyers:

Max Collett 

Key clients

Columbia Power Corporation

Columbia Basin Trust

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

Government of Quebec

Justice Canada

Rio Tinto

Equator Principles Association

Hydro-Quebec

Private land owner

SOQUEM

Prince Rupert Port Authority

Work highlights

  • Representing the Government of Canada in several multi-billion dollar claims related to oil and gas development and production from First Nations’ lands in Alberta, and addressing the nature and scope of the Crown’s trust and fiduciary duties to those First Nations.
  • Retained by Hydro-Quebec to defend it in a $4bn action filed by Innu Nation on behalf of the aboriginal Innu of Labrador and claiming damages and disgorgement of profits as a result of the construction and operation of the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project located in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Advised Royal Bank of Canada as the joint lead arranger and joint book runner in financing TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink Pipeline.

Torys

Torys is adept at advising clients on Indigenous-focused issues relating to large natural resources and infrastructure projects, corporate governance matters and transactions. The team handles all aspects of the fulfillment of the duty to consult, and is also equipped to assist with the negotiation of benefit agreements and construction contracts with indigenous participation. The latter is an area of particular focus for Valerie Helbronner, who oversees the Toronto-based practice with John Terry. Terry not only excels in public law cases involving treaty rights, but is also skilled at advising project developers and lenders on consultations with First Nations.

Practice head(s):

John Terry; Valerie Helbronner

Other key lawyers:

Frank Iacobucci; Michael Fortier

Testimonials

‘The Team practising Indigenous Law at Torys has deep and unique experience working with Indigenous people . Frank Iacobucci led the historic negotiations to settle the Residential Schools lawsuit and represented Canada in pipeline negotiations with First Nations. He has worked on files with the Ontario government addressing Indigenous concerns with forestry at Grassy Narrows First Nation, commercial fishing with the Saugeen Ojibway, and mining with the Matawa Tribal Council in the so-called “Ring of Fire”. Valerie Heilbronner has worked extensively in the renewable energy sector working with First Nations to develop Indigenous controlles transmission companies Five Nations Energy and Watanikineap Power.’

‘Frank Iacobucci, John Terry and Valerie Heilbronner have strong values upon which they base their actions. They are committed to addressing the historical injustices suffered by Indigenous People and to help empower communities to determine their own future.

‘They are committed to understanding and respecting the Indigenous point of view and to collaborating with Indigenous interests. Based on the trust they develop, they are committed to finding mutual solutions that benefit all parties.’

Key clients

The Government of Canada

Wataynikaneyap Power LP

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Ontario First Nations (2008) Limited Partnership (“OFNLP”)

Brookfield BRP Canada Corp.

DP World Canada Investment Inc. (“DPW”)

The Government of the Northwest Territories

Norbord Inc.

Government of Yukon

Province of Ontario

Work highlights

  • Assisted the Government of Canada in its consultation process with Indigenous groups on the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project
  • Provides ongoing advice to Wataynikaneyap Power, a partnership between 24 First Nation Communities and Fortis Inc.,in relation to all commercial and regulatory matters related to the development, construction, financing and operation of the C$1.9bn Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project.
  • Acting for Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in a claim against the Government of Manitoba relating to the equitable sharing of gaming revenues in the province.

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP

With a deep understanding of the interrelationships between indigenous communities, government and industry players, DLA Piper (Canada) LLP offers assistance to both First Nations and project proponents in relation to transactions, regulatory changes, constitutional issues, and project development mandates. Recently, the department was particularly busy advising on how the duty to consult with Aboriginal groups was to be fulfilled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Led by Heather Treacy in Calgary, the team is increasingly involved in structuring partnerships between Indigenous communities and the resource sector. Practice head Treacy is routinely engaged in land claim agreements, Indian Act matters, Métis issues and consultation matters.

Practice head(s):

Heather Treacy QC

Key clients

Imperial Oil Resources Limited

MNP LLP

Encanto Resources Ltd.‎

Campbell River Indian Band

Brascan Corporation

Yukon Energy Corporation

INPEX

Gingolx Village Government

Peguis First Nation ‎

Work highlights

  • Defending Imperial Oil Resources Limited  in royalty payment issues on First Nation reserve lands and specific issues surrounding the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulatory regime.
  • Acting for Da’naxda’xw First Nation on governance matters and representation issues involving the Hereditary Chiefs Council.
  • Acting 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.
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