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FASKEN possesses a genuinely national indigenous law practice, which benefits from sizeable platforms in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Standing out as one of the most comprehensive practices in the market, the group’s expertise spans energy, mining, forestry, real estate, transportation and aquaculture-related issues — it also routinely advises on the Aboriginal law aspects of due diligence matters. Vancouver-based counsel Charles Willms chairs the department and is widely admired as a leading authority in his field. The group also draws upon the senior experience of Vancouver-based litigator and practice group lead Kevin O’Callaghan, who is representing Encana in a case brought by Stoney Nakoda Nation regarding petroleum and natural gas rights that were originally transferred to Canadian Pacific Railway. Vancouver-based transactional specialist Amy Carruthers had a strong year, which included advising BC Hydro on various indigenous engagement matters related to its C$10bn Site C project. In Toronto, Tracy Pratt advised Detour Gold on Aboriginal law issues, and in Montreal Jean Gagné advised Agnico Eagle Mines on the Inuit Impact Benefits Agreement for the Meliadine mine project. Calgary-based rising star Brenden Hunter is also recommended and acted for AltaLink Management on several recent Aboriginal law matters.

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP routinely advises on a broad mix of Aboriginal law issues, with robust experience in regulatory, contentious and transactional matters. In Calgary, the team represented Petroleum Geo-Services, MultiKlient Invest and TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company in a high-profile challenge to their authorization from the National Energy Board (NEB) to conduct a marine seismic survey in Arctic waters off the coast of Baffin Island. In Vancouver, group head Roy Millen successfully represented Seabridge Gold in Aboriginal law issues related to its proposed gold and copper mine. Also in Vancouver, clients highlight younger partner Sam Adkins as a ‘go-to Aboriginal law specialist in British Columbia’.

The ‘consistently focused’ group at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP impresses with its ‘excellent combination of legal, commercial and general industry knowledge’. Mainly split between its Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary offices, the national team is also supported by partners in Toronto. In Vancouver, senior counsel Patrick Foy QC, highly sought after for his public law expertise, recently represented a public sector client in litigation relating to indigenous title and rights to lands in British Columbia. Vancouver-based senior counsel David Camp is also recommended for his ‘unequalled understanding of the history and current application of Aboriginal law and policy’. Montreal-based Nadir André is another key name. Adam Chamberlain left to join Gowling WLG.

Highly regarded boutique JFK Law Corporation maintains an eminent reputation for its work advising First Nations on Aboriginal and constitutional law issues, with its track record in landmark litigation particularly impressing. The firm, which operates between two platforms in Vancouver and Victoria, also handles treaty negotiations, economic development issues and governance matters. Victoria-based Robert Janes QC is a market leader and successfully represented Eabametoong First Nation in its application to set aside a mining exploration permit issued to Landore Resources Canada. Other respected names include Robert Freedman, who brings to bear a strong record in treaty negotiations, and ‘rising star’ Karey Brooks — both are based in Vancouver.

Lawson Lundell LLP’s focus on Western and Northern Canada continues to pay dividends, with the firm considered ‘among the leaders for Aboriginal law matters in British Columbia’ — the practice is also represented in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Star litigator Keith Bergner, who splits his time between Vancouver and Calgary, is a key name and routinely advises governments, Crown corporations and private sector clients on duty to consult issues. In Vancouver, regulatory expert Brad Armstrong QC is particularly recommended for project development-related matters, and Calgary’s John Olynyk is well known for his expertise in treaty agreements and self-government issues. Representative clients include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Alberta Utilities Commission.

Toronto-headquartered Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP is a prominent name in Ontario for Aboriginal law matters — the boutique firm also benefits from a foothold in Yellowknife. Larry Innes, who is called to the bar in Ontario, Alberta, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador, is a high-profile figure in the market and regularly advises First Nations on mining, forestry and energy projects. The group is also well known for its expertise in negotiations and economic development matters.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s regulatory, environmental, Aboriginal and land practice is led jointly by Toronto-based Richard King (‘a very good environmental and Aboriginal law specialist’) and Calgary-based Martin Ignasiak (‘a commercially-minded lawyer with great expertise’). The ‘very capable’ national group also draws upon the senior experience of renowned regulatory expert Shawn Denstedt QC and litigator Maureen Killoran QC — both of whom are based in Calgary. The firm continues to advise Teck Resources on Aboriginal law issues connected to its C$15bn Frontier Oil Sands project. Kinder Morgan Canada, Prosper Petroleum and TransCanada are also key clients.

‘Always available’, Bennett Jones LLP sets itself apart through its ‘excellent lawyers who act as true partners to the internal legal team’. Led from Vancouver by group co-heads David Bursey and Radha Curpen, the practice also includes impressive Vancouver-based senior associate Sharon Singh (‘knowledgeable, experienced and explains complex subjects simply’). Recent work includes advising Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation on Aboriginal law matters related to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project, which involved negotiations with 14 First Nations.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP leverages its signature strength in mining matters to pack a punch in advising on the Aboriginal law aspects of major minerals projects. The team is also well versed in energy and forestry-related issues, as well as general regulatory matters. Key contact Thomas Isaac is highly sought after — both peers and clients attest that he is ‘a leading figure in this space’. Among his recent work, Isaac successfully represented the Province of Prince Edward Island in a judicial review filed by the Mi'kmaq relating to the disposal of the Mill River Resort complex.

Dentons moves up a tier on the back of superlative feedback, which highlights lawyers’ ‘deep strategic insight’ and ability to ‘find future-proofed solutions’. Among the names to note, counsel and group head Ann Bigué is ‘vastly experienced with in-depth knowledge’, and Alexandre-Philippe Avard is recommended for his ‘strong sense of information integration and growing knowledge’ – both are based in Montreal. Calgary-based regulatory expert Bernard J Roth is also a key contact. Representative clients include Conuma Coal Resources, Enbridge Pipelines and Syncrude Canada.

Gowling WLG impresses with its ‘meticulous execution’ and ‘strong sense of client needs’. Highlights included Vancouver-based practice lead Maxime Faille, noted as a ‘tremendous specialist’, acting with Ottawa-based public law partner Graham Ragan to advise Shxw’owhamel First Nation on several issues, including a claim for damages related to the operation of the Fraser River Debris Trap. The group also advises government and corporate clients on Aboriginal law issues. Other key names include Ottawa-based Brian Crane QC — who has a ‘great ability to get parties to see their common interests’ — and Toronto’s Adam Chamberlain, who joined from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in 2017.

Vancouver-based boutique Mandell Pinder LLP advises First Nations clients on a broad spread of issues, with strong skill sets in Aboriginal institution-building, economic development, environmental assessment matters, employment issues and governance. Rosanne Kyle is a key name and her practice spans litigation, regulatory matters, negotiations and consultation issues. Senior associate Elin Sigurdson is an ‘up-and-coming star in the field’.

McCarthy TĂ©trault’s national environmental, regulatory and Aboriginal law practice is led jointly by Toronto’s Peter Brady and Selina Lee-Andersen in Vancouver. The group also draws upon the experience of the ‘very knowledgeable’ Toronto-based litigator Bryn Gray and ‘up-and-coming’ Vancouver-based counsel Stephanie Axmann. Recent work includes advising Hydro One Networks on Aboriginal law matters relating to its application to the Ontario Energy Board to set its distribution rates. The team has also recently undertaken work for Innergex Renewable Energy and Canadian Energy Pipelines Association.

Long-established boutique Pape Salter Teillet LLP has a strong profile in the market due to the eminent reputation of Toronto-based co-managing partner Jason Madden. The firm also has a well-staffed platform in Vancouver, where senior counsel Jean Teillet is recommended for treaty negotiations and contentious matters. The firm exclusively represents Aboriginal communities, nations and governments and is widely noted for its strong record in acting for the Métis.

North Vancouver-based Ratcliff & Company LLP is a referral favourite and industry-side practices highlight it as ‘among the leading firms acting for Aboriginal clients’. Managing partner Gregory McDade QC is a seasoned specialist and routinely advises on Aboriginal consultation and accommodation litigation, as well as on the negotiation of impact benefits agreements. Matthew Kirchner is also recommended and successfully represented Fort Nelson First Nation in overturning the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s approval of a new natural gas pipeline in Fortune Core.

The experienced group at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP is well known for its ability to represent both First Nations and corporate clients on Aboriginal law matters. Calgary-based department co-lead Heather Treacy QC recently advised MNP LLP on a judicial review application brought by two members of the Alexander First Nation. Robert Banno QC jointly heads the team from Vancouver.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s ‘responsive and knowledgeable’ Aboriginal law group is represented throughout the firm’s national network. In Quebec City, Pierre-Christian Labeau is the name to note. In Vancouver, Robin Longe is recommended for his ‘strong expertise’.

Stikeman Elliott LLP has a growing Aboriginal law practice, which advises both industry clients and First Nations on Crown consultations, negotiating partnerships, joint venture arrangements and benefit agreements. Toronto-based regulatory specialist Patrick Duffy is a key contact and is representing ITC Holdings in a judicial review application brought by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

Torys LLP’s Toronto-based Aboriginal law practice is led jointly by public law litigator John Terry and power specialist Valerie Helbronner. The group also draws upon the expertise of senior counsel Frank Iacobucci, formerly a justice of the Supreme Court, who continues to act as the lead negotiator representing the government of Ontario in discussions with the Chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council on the Ring of Fire project.

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