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Expertise / Practices / Aboriginal

They are excellent – you can count on them to provide you with the Canadian advice you need.
Client comment, Chambers Canada: Canada's Leading Lawyers for Business 2017

Over the last few decades, the development of Canadian natural resources has been fundamentally transformed by what the Supreme Court of Canada describes as a requirement of “reconciliation” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Peoples. This has given rise to the legal duty of “consultation and accommodation” of First Nations in the context of government consideration of many resource-development projects. This evolution of the legal landscape has major practical implications for private-sector enterprises pursuing the development of land, projects and/or natural resources throughout Canada.

Aboriginal and treaty claims must often be considered and addressed in the context of developing or financing a wide range of projects, including real estate, mining, oil and gas, renewable energy, forestry, and other natural resource or infrastructure such as port development, highways, pipelines or electrical transmission facilities.

For more than 30 years, our lawyers have been providing innovative, thoughtful advice and representation in this highly specialized legal area.  With one of the most extensive Aboriginal legal practices of any large law firm in Canada, Blakes is a leading adviser on Aboriginal-related legal issues and relationship development to deliver certainty to business risks.

The Blakes Aboriginal group has detailed knowledge and cross-sector experience in the increasingly complex relationships among businesses, Aboriginal Peoples and governments throughout Canada. Our lawyers deal with a wide range of matters including:

  • Strategic analysis and risk evaluation and mitigation

  • Due diligence regarding Aboriginal issues, including understanding the unique aspects of band governance and reserve land matters

  • Advising on and negotiating:

    • Memoranda of understanding, consultation protocols, opportunities agreements, impact and benefit agreements, and many other forms of agreement between Aboriginal Peoples and businesses in many different industries

    • Joint ventures, commercial agreements and various other business transactions between corporations and Aboriginal communities

  • Addressing specific financing and taxation issues that arise in the Aboriginal context

  • Environmental assessments, permitting and regulatory approvals raising Aboriginal environmental, cultural and socio-economic issues

  • Dispute resolution and litigation, including regulatory proceedings, judicial reviews, trials and appeals through all levels of court in Canada

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Recent Experience
  • An international collateral agent on the complicated secured financing of a casino, hotel and recreation centre project on reserve lands, including addressing regulatory approvals, contracts, security and related issues.

  • A financial institution on all legal issues regarding a large real estate development on lands held by a self-governing First Nation.

  • Seabridge Gold Inc. on its regulatory strategy for engaging with five different aboriginal groups, including the Nisga’a Nation under its modern treaty, in connection with Seabridge’s proposed approximately C$5-billion Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project, one of the largest proposed gold-copper mines in northern British Columbia.

  • The Six​ Nations of the Grand River in Ontario in an ongoing large and complex legal action against the federal and Ontario governments pursuing an accounting and equitable compensation for Six Nations property set aside under the Haldimand Treaty in 1784.

  • Hunt Oil on its claim against the Province of British Columbia for damages related to failing to develop an oil and gas tenure due to undisclosed aboriginal rights claiming the area as historically and spiritually significant.

  • Aboriginal engagement, negotiations and litigation advice in connection with the development of pipelines and oil and gas projects, including liquefied natural gas projects in coastal British Columbia and hydroelectrical facilities in northern Ontario.​

Awards & Recognition

Members of the Blakes Aboriginal Law team are recognized as leaders in the following publications:

  • Chambers Canada: Canada's Leading Lawyers for Business

  • Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business

  • The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

  • Benchmark Canada: The Definitive Guide to Canada's Leading Litigation Firms & Attorneys

  • The Best Lawyers in Canada