Canada’s best lawyers in Indigenous law

Find out who Canada’s best lawyers are in the field of Indigenous law, based on Lexpert’s extensive yearly peer survey. The full roster of the country’s most recommended lawyers and law firms in the field can be viewed via our practice area rankings.

 In our survey, Indigenous law encompasses Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit treaty and other legal rights. The practice includes comprehensive and specific land and property compensation claims, the duty to consult, treaty claims and interpretation, Aboriginal self-government and the fiduciary relationship between governments and Aboriginal people. It also involves advising and acting on claims to renewable and non-renewable natural resources, hunting, fishing and trapping rights, government relations, economic development, taxation and various public policy issues.

Most frequently recommended lawyers in Indigenous law

Keith B. Bergner

Law firm: Lawson Lundell LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1997 (BC); 2000 (NU); 2000 (NT); 2010 (YT)

City: Vancouver

Keith B. Bergner is a partner at Lawson Lundell LLP. He advises private and public sector and government clients throughout Canada on Indigenous law and energy regulatory matters. He appears as counsel before regulatory tribunals and all levels of Superior and Appellate Courts. Bergner acts for clients in the natural resources industries, including mining, oil and gas, LNG, pipelines, hydroelectric generation and transmission, aquaculture and power projects. He advises clients on the extent of the duty to consult and, if necessary, accommodate, in respect of potential adverse effects to Indigenous rights or title by major industrial projects. Bergner also acts as counsel for proponents seeking regulatory permits and approvals and assists with the development of consultation programs and the negotiation of impact-benefit agreements. He represents project proponents and governments in appeals and judicial reviews challenging project approvals.

Read more about Lawson Lundell LLP on Indigenous consultation standards

Adam Chamberlain

Law firm: Gowling WLG

Year called to the Bar: 1994 (ON); 2011 (Nunavut); 2016 (Yukon); 2017 (NWT)

City: Toronto

Adam Chamberlain is a partner at Gowling WLG’s Toronto office. He is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in environmental law and Indigenous legal issues involving corporate and commercial matters. Chamberlain has a broad practice that includes issues ranging from Indigenous relationship-building to permitting, approvals and compliance. He acts as impact assessment (IA) counsel on an array of infrastructure projects, including energy, mining, waste and water projects. He is also active with IAs in a variety of Canadian jurisdictions and in Arctic natural resource development and regulatory matters. Chamberlain has extensive experience with Aboriginal consultation, IBA negotiation and Indigenous relationship development, for both Indigenous and business interests. He also has long involvement in climate change matters and has advised clients on offset and related agreements, international initiatives and greenhouse gas emissions management.

Read more about Gowling WLG on renewable energy sources

Brian A. Crane

Law firm: Gowling WLG

Year called to the Bar: 1962

City: Ottawa

Brian A. Crane is a partner and senior member of Gowling WLG’s advocacy group. He specializes in constitutional, administrative, Indigenous and commercial litigation. Crane is also a member of the firm’s Indigenous law national practice group and boasts extensive experience in the negotiation, mediation and litigation of Indigenous land claims and self-government agreements. He is recognized as among Canada’s leading lawyers in the field of Indigenous law. Crane is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in civil litigation. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1977 and is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Read more about Gowling WLG on new infrastructure delivery models

C. Allan Donovan

Law firm: Donovan & Company

Year called to the Bar: 1989

City: Vancouver

C. Allan Donovan is a senior partner at Donovan & Company. The firm represents First Nations and their members in litigation, negotiations and corporate and commercial matters. Donovan practises exclusively in the field of Aboriginal Law. His work consists primarily of Aboriginal litigation, specific claims and assisting First Nations in their negotiations with governments and industries and in treaty negotiations. Donovan has represented First Nations in litigation at all levels of the Canadian court system, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He has also appeared as counsel before the Indian Claims Commission and the Specific Claims Tribunal. Donovan has published numerous articles addressing various aspects of Aboriginal law.

Bryce Edwards

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2003

City: Toronto

Bryce Edwards is a partner at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. He provides legal and strategic advice to First Nations governments and companies on a range of issues, including mining, energy and oil and gas projects, intergovernmental negotiations and treaty and rights claims. Before joining OKT, Edwards worked at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he co-founded and became the first editor-in-chief of the Indigenous Law Journal.

Read more about Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP on Indigenous law

Maxime Faille

Law firm: Gowling WLG

Year called to the Bar: 1998 (ON); 2009 (YT); 2009 (NT)

City: Vancouver

Maxime Faille is a partner at Gowling WLG’s Vancouver office. He specializes in Indigenous and public law. Faille represents Indigenous governments and businesses across Canada and private sectors seeking to do business with Indigenous communities. He regularly provides advice on matters of Aboriginal and treaty rights, First Nation taxation, self-government, Aboriginal consultation and accommodation, impact and benefit agreements and Indigenous economic development. Faille also represents clients before Superior and Appellate Courts in Ontario, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and the Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Tax Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada. He has represented the Assembly of First Nations in the landmark Bastien and Dube cases, SCC decisions that breathed new life into First Nation tax immunity. Faille is fluently bilingual and practises in both official languages.

Robert C. Freedman

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1994 (BC); 2004 (AB); 2011 (YT)

City: Toronto

Robert C. Freedman is a senior counsel at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. He works with Indigenous groups, with a focus on advising clients in IBA negotiations and treaty and land claim negotiations. Freedman also advises First Nations and First Nation organizations on a variety of matters, including environmental assessments, treaty and Aboriginal rights, oil and gas-related matters, hydro-electric matters and water rights. He is an expert in assisting First Nations in their consultations with federal and provincial governments and industry and in negotiating consultation and accommodation agreements. Freedman has appeared at all levels of court in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada.

Sandra A. Gogal

Law firm: Miller Thomson LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1992 (NL); 2005 (ON)

City: Toronto

Sandra A. Gogal is a partner at Miller Thomson LLP, where she co-heads the Aboriginal law group and leads the cannabis industry group. Gogal is recognized as one of the Canada’s best lawyers in the field of Indigenous law. She provides legal and strategic advice to the industry on project development in the mining, hydro, nuclear and pipeline sectors, with a specialization in Aboriginal and environmental matters. Gogal has negotiated numerous agreements with First Nations and Metis, including settlements for past developments in excess of $100 million and impact and benefit agreements. Gogal directs and chairs the Osgoode Certificate Program in Aboriginal law and is frequently sought to speak internationally.

Read more about Miller Thomson LLP on virtual dispute resolution during the pandemic

Frank Iacobucci

Law firm: Torys LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1970

City: Toronto

Frank Iacobucci joined Torys LLP as counsel in September 2004 after retiring as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He now serves as senior counsel in the firm. Iacobucci was chief justice of the Federal Court and deputy attorney-general for Canada prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court. He also began serving as interim president of the University of Toronto in September 2004 and assumed a full-time senior advisory role at Torys in July 2005. Iacobucci advises government and businesses on important legal and policy matters. He provides guidance, advice and support to the firm’s clients and members. Iacobucci has authored numerous publications and recipient of many awards and honours in Canada, the US, the UK and Italy.

Read more about Torys LLP on cannabis sector regulation

Larry Innes

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2004 (ON); 2012 (AB); 2005 (NL); 2013 (NT)

City: Toronto

Larry Innes is a partner at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. He practises at the intersections of Indigenous rights and environmental law. Innes has worked with First Nations on lands and resources issues for more than 25 years. He has developed extensive experience in the negotiation of impacts and benefits agreements, environmental assessment, co-management measures, self-government and treaty provisions. Innes also represents and advises First Nations dealing with major mining, forestry and energy developments. He is involved in several leading Indigenous land and resource management initiatives across Canada. Innes is a frequent speaker on these issues at national conferences.

Thomas Isaac

Law firm: Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2001 (BC); 2006 (AB); 2003 (NT); 2003 (NU); 2001 (NB); 2010 (YK)

City: Vancouver

Thomas Isaac is a partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP. He is recognized as among Canada’s leading lawyers in the field of Indigenous law. He advises businesses and governments across Canada on Aboriginal legal matters and related environmental assessments, negotiations, and regulatory and constitutional issues. Isaac has served as the minister’s special representative (MSR) to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs regarding a Section 35 Métis Rights and Reconciliation Framework and a reconciliation approach for the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Manitoba Métis Federation v. Canada. He also served as the MSR to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Premier of the Northwest Territories regarding the Akaitcho Dene and NWT Métis Nation negotiations in the Northwest Territories. Isaac has authored the authoritative Aboriginal Law, Fifth Edition. His published works have been cited with approval by the Supreme Court of Canada and other courts. Isaac has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada and numerous other courts and tribunals across the country.

Read more about Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP on stakeholder engagement

Robert J.M. Janes

Law firm: JFK Law Corporation

Year called to the Bar: 1992 (ON); 1998 (BC)

City: Victoria

Robert J.M. Janes is a principal at JFK Law Corporation. He is a litigator with extensive experience in Aboriginal law. He is considered one of Canada’s best lawyers in the field of Indigenous law. Janes has appeared at all levels of court in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, acting for Aboriginal people. He has also appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeals. In addition to his litigation work, Janes advises nations involved in the BC Treaty Process.

Kate Kempton

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2001 (ON); 2016 (MB)

City: Toronto

Kate Kempton is a partner at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. She has a diverse practice, serving Indigenous clients in negotiations and litigation in the areas of Aboriginal and treaty rights, environmental law, IBAs and commercial transactions, energy and mining law, administrative law, issues facing reserves and Indian Act matters. Kempton works with and advises Indigenous clients in reassertion of inherent sovereignty, inherent governance and international law. She has successfully litigated defences against harvesting charges, constitutional challenges to legislation, injunctions to prevent unilateral third-party development, tort and treaty claims. Kempton has also successfully negotiated and concluded, on behalf of clients, major economic development and commercial ownership transactions and several impact-benefit, mining exploration, interim measures, forestry and energy related and other types of agreements.

Nancy J. Kleer

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1988 (ON); 2003 (NL)

City: Toronto

Nancy J. Kleer is one of the founding partners of Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. She represents Aboriginal clients responding to a variety of resource developments, including mineral exploration, mining and hydroelectric development and in negotiations and litigation. She also advises on federal and provincial environmental protection and assessment law. Kleer provides legal advice and does legal drafting on issues addressed in negotiations for comprehensive land claims, Aboriginal self-government, specific claims and impacts and benefits agreements between developers and First Nations, including advice about the duty to consult and accommodate. She advises on trust establishment and administration matters for First Nations. Kleer has also provided legal advice to establish or add to Indian reserves under the Additions to Reserve Policy, and provides advice on Band Council governance issues, reserve land management and corporate structuring advice for First Nations.

Sara Mainville

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2005

City: Toronto

Sara Mainville is a partner at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. She has earned an LLM (Toronto), which has engaged her in a lifetime study of Indigenous jurisdiction’s important role in legally reconciling Indigenous sovereignty in Canada. Mainville has practised law as a solo practitioner and taught jurisprudence to undergraduate students after being an associate for a well-known Anishinaabe-led law firm in Ontario. In 2014, she was elected chief of Couchiching First Nation. Mainville returned to law in 2016 by joining OKT, becoming a partner in 2018. Mainville takes pride on her participation in the negotiations that led to the creation of the First Nation Sovereign Wealth LP, a partnership of 129 First Nations in Ontario that involved 14 million Hydro One shares and $29 million in seed capital. Mainville is greatly interested in First Nation’s inherent regulatory authority and advocating for its legitimate place in Canada.

John A. Olthuis

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1965 (AB); 1987 (ON)

City: Toronto

John A. Olthuis is one of the founding partners of Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. His practice includes litigation, comprehensive and specific land rights, self-government and impacts and benefits agreements. Olthuis was on the legal team of the Assembly of First Nations in negotiations with Canada and the provinces lending to the inclusion of Section 35 in Canada’s repatriated Constitution in 1982. He was also legal counsel to Chiefs of Ontario and table negotiator at the Aboriginal government table for the Assembly of First Nations in the Charlottetown Accord Constitutional negotiations. Olthuis has appeared as counsel before numerous government boards and agencies.

Renée Pelletier

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2002 (ON); 2013 (NB)

City: Toronto

Renée Pelletier is the managing partner at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. She is of Maliseet ancestry. Her practice includes work on Aboriginal, treaty rights litigation and specific claims. Pelletier has litigated judicial review applications and appeared before various levels of courts on motions, trials and appeals. She was cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the high-profile case R. v Ipeelee, 2012 SCC 13. Pelletier regularly advises and represents her Indigenous clients on consultation matters, regulatory and environmental matters, reserve land management and impacts and benefits agreements. She is especially passionate about assisting her Indigenous clients in achieving greater self-determination. Pelletier has also served as a member of the Independent Federal Environmental Assessment Expert Review Panel. She is currently one of the lead counsels in Canada's first Aboriginal title to water case. Pelletier is French Acadian and is fluently bilingual in French and English. She is also a member of the Indigenous Bar Association. Pelletier is a frequent guest lecturer in Aboriginal and environmental law and is considered among the best lawyers in the field of Indigenous law.

Robert K. (Bob) Rae

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1980
City: Toronto

Robert K. Rae is a senior counsel at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. A graduate of both the University of Toronto and Oxford, Rae was first elected to the Parliament of Canada as the member of parliament for Broadview in a by-election in October 1978, the first of 11 successful elections, both federal and provincial. He resigned his federal seat in 2013 to join Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, where he works as an advisor and negotiator for Indigenous Groups across Canada. Rae served as Ontario's 21st Premier from 1990 to 1995 and interim federal leader of the Liberal Party in 2011 to 2013. He was named Queen's Counsel in 1984, appointed to the Privy Council of Canada in 1998, received the Order of Ontario in 2004 and was promoted to be a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2015. In 2017, Rae was appointed as special envoy to Myanmar by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He teaches at the University of Toronto as a professor of public policy at the Munk School and Victoria College. Rae is also a senior fellow at the Forum of Federations and consults internationally on governance issues. He has written five books and two major reports on the Air India bombing and higher education in Ontario. He writes and speaks regularly on public issues and does ADR work with ADR Chambers.

H.W. Roger Townshend

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 1993

City: Toronto

H.W. Roger Townshend is a founding partner of Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. He practises Aboriginal rights, constitutional, human rights and administrative law. Townshend primarily advises on and litigates land claims for First Nations. He has advised on numerous cases relating to Aboriginal title and other Aboriginal rights and treaty rights, and cases relating to the duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples. His court work has also included challenging the legality of municipal by-laws and of environmental assessment decisions, the constitutionality of the Ontario educational funding regime and the legality of drug testing programs in the workplace. Townshend has appeared in the courts across Canada at all levels, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He has provided commentary on a variety of proposed federal and provincial legislation on behalf of Aboriginal clients. Prior to his legal career, he worked in the area of land claims research and negotiations on behalf of Manitoba First Nations.

Maggie Wente

Law firm: Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP

Year called to the Bar: 2003
City: Toronto

Maggie Wente is a partner at Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP. She is a member of Serpent River First Nation. Wente works exclusively with First Nations and their related entitles advising on treaty and Aboriginal rights in litigation and negotiation, Indian Act matters, reserve land management, First Nations peoples’ equality rights and First Nations governance. She also provides employment, labour and human rights advice to the firm’s clients. Wente is particularly interested in assisting First Nations with developing and maintaining strong governments, which reflect their legal traditions and structures. She has appeared in trial and appeal courts in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Federal Court, in commercial and employment arbitrations and adjudications and in coroner’s court. Wente is the past president of the board of directors at Aboriginal Legal Services and was a commissioner at the Ontario Human Rights Commission from 2006 to 2015.