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Expertise / Practices / Indigenous

Blakes is by far the most skilled and professional law firm I have had the pleasure of working with in First Nations relationship and agreement building.

Client comment, Chambers Canada: Canada's Leading Lawyers for Business 2021
Blakes is Canada’s leading adviser on Indigenous issues, including matters involving First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Our Indigenous law group understands that our clients need practical, current advice to assist in achieving their business objectives. We provide tailored Aboriginal legal advice to help our clients achieve those goals. For over 30 years, we have acted on behalf of corporations, organizations, institutions and Indigenous organizations in connection with Indigenous law matters. Today, we act for the largest resource development projects in Canada, including LNG in B.C., oil sands in Alberta and mining across all provinces and territories. We are also counsel on the most significant pipeline projects in Canada.

We have experience and deep knowledge of Indigenous issues, applicable laws and legal protections, treaty rights and governance concerns. We understand the many economic and cultural issues that impact Indigenous peoples and those engaged in business with them. We advise clients on the application of rapidly evolving international principles in Canada, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

We have extensive experience across Canada, advising on Indigenous consultation and accommodation considerations impacting business activities, fostering Indigenous relationship development through impact and benefit agreements, protocol agreements and capacity funding agreements, and providing guidance on regulatory matters. With offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal, we can provide advice that is particular to the unique legal landscape and Indigenous rights in each jurisdiction.
Our lawyers represent industry clients and Indigenous groups on a broad range of commercial ventures and opportunities, including First Nations negotiations, partnerships and joint ventures for business with Indigenous groups, and developments on reserve or other Indigenous lands. The group also advises on the Indigenous law aspects of M&A transactions, from early due diligence to managing Indigenous-related risks and relationships through closing and beyond. Blakes has been at the forefront of dealing with taxation issues, often a critical component of business structures involving Indigenous peoples.
Our lawyers also act on proceedings involving Indigenous legal issues before regulatory tribunals and courts throughout Canada, including successfully navigating the regulatory process, defending against challenges to government permits for natural resource development, dealing with injunction applications and judicial review proceedings, dealing with challenges to regulations or government actions, striking claims against clients and negotiating appropriate out‐of‐court settlements of disputes.

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Recent Experience
  • TC Energy Corp. on its sale of a 65 per cent equity stake in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project to KKR and AIMCo, and the concurrent execution of a credit agreement providing non-recourse project-level financing to fund the majority of construction costs for the project.

  • Burrard International Holdings Inc., an affiliate of GolfBC Holdings Inc., in the sale of Arbutus Ridge Golf Club.

  • Capstone Mining Corp. in connection with its sale of its wholly owned subsidiary, Minto Explorations Ltd., and its 100 per cent interest in the Minto mine to Pembridge Resources PLC for up to C$20-million in cash payments to be paid in stages upon achievement of certain production milestones.

  • BluEarth Renewables Inc. on its acquisition by DIF Infrastructure V.

  • Denham Capital Management LP in its controlling investment in Spire PT Holdings LP, the owner of Pacific Traverse Energy Ltd., which is developing a propane export terminal in Kitimat, BC.

  • Shell Canada Energy on the purchase by Petronas-owned North Montney LNG Limited Partnership of a 25 per cent stake in the LNG Canada project JV from Shell, PetroChina Kitimat LNG Partnership and Kogas Canada LNG Ltd.

  • Cenovus Energy Inc. on the sale of its Suffield crude oil and natural gas operations in southern Alberta to International Petroleum Corporation for C$512-million.

  • Successfully guiding Seabridge Gold Inc. through federal and provincial environmental assessment and permitting processes for one of the largest proposed gold-copper mines in northern British Columbia.

  • Seven Leaf Medical Cannabis, Canada’s first Indigenous-owned and operated producer of medical cannabis licensed by Health Canada, on First Nation taxation issues and First Nations reserve regulatory issues relating to the establishment of a medical cannabis production facility located on a First Nation reserve.

  • Fission Uranium Corp. as it develops its Patterson Lake South uranium deposit, in northwest Saskatchewan, providing the company with Aboriginal and regulatory advice.

  • Pure Gold Mining Inc. on strategy and negotiations with two First Nations in Ontario, in connection with the proposed re-opening of the Madsen Mine, owned by Pure Gold.

  • The BC Treaty Commission to provide an opinion converging important legal, cultural, political and public policy matters for inclusion in their annual report.

  • Grand River Enterprises, Six Nations of the Grand River, Chapleau Cree First Nation, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking extensive declaratory relief on Aboriginal and constitutional legal issues against Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, Minister of Finance for Ontario and Minister of Revenue for Ontario.

  • Six Nations of the Grand River in a large and complex legal action against the federal and Ontario governments for alleged Crown mismanagement of Six Nations property set aside under the Haldimand Treaty in 1784.

  • 1502673 Ontario Ltd. o/a Lindal Distributors, representing a wholesaler of cigars sold and delivered to First Nations retailers located on First Nation reserves in Ontario in relation to an audit and assessment by the Ministry of Finance under the Tobacco Tax Act (Ontario).

  • Six Nations Elected Council and 9646035 Canada Limited in commencing action claiming trespass and conversion of property on a 380-acre parcel of land transferred by the Government of Ontario to 9646035 Canada Limited in fulfilment of a promise made in 2006 by the Government after Indigenous protests that made national news.

  • Six Nations Government in successfully obtaining an order for the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for injunctive relief putting an end to an illegal blockade and locking of the Six Nations Council Administration Building, and illegal occupation of the building.

  • Canadian Pacific Railway Company when accused of wrongfully acquired petroleum and natural gas rights underneath the Stoney Tribal Council’s reserves.

  • Washington Group of Companies in connection with its C$1.2-billion acquisition of Dominion Diamond Corporation with holdings in the Northwest Territories.

  • LNG Canada on its C$40-billion project to export LNG from Kitimat, B.C., including negotiating agreements with First Nations, successfully defending challenges in the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal to the National Energy Board approval of the project and assisting in obtaining the environmental assessment certificate for the project.

  • Marine Harvest Canada Inc. in obtaining multiple injunctions to end the unlawful occupation and continued harassment of staff at its aquaculture facilities.

  • Assisting a large energy corporation to resolve a long-running dispute with a multi-community Indigenous People concerning a historic settlement agreement and recent impacts resulting from the operation of the most complex energy system in the jurisdiction.

  • Advising a major international mining corporation with respect to its projects in Saskatchewan, negotiating agreements with multiple First Nations and addressing litigation brought by one First Nation.

Awards & Recognition

Members of the Blakes Indigenous 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