Canada’s top lawyers in Aboriginal law in 2021

Find out who Canada’s top lawyers are in the Aboriginal law practice based on Lexpert’s latest survey
Canada’s top lawyers in Aboriginal law in 2021

Find out who Canada’s best lawyers are in the field of Aboriginal law based on Lexpert’s extensive yearly peer survey. The list does not include Ontario-based lawyers, who have already been featured in a previous article. The full roster of the country’s most recommended lawyers and law firms in the field can be viewed on our practice area rankings.

In our survey, Aboriginal law encompasses Indigenous, 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 Aboriginal law

Samuel W.C. Adkins
Law firm: Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
Year called to the bar: 2006
City: Vancouver

Samuel W.C. Adkins is a partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. He is a corporate and commercial lawyer primarily serving clients in the resource sector, with a strong focus on Aboriginal and project development matters. His practice is national in scope, acting for clients across Canada on a wide range of Aboriginal law issues, including consultation, negotiation and the regulatory process. Adkins has significant industry expertise in the energy and mining sectors and has represented clients on commercial and transactional matters across all project phases. He was also previously a director and vice-chair of the Association for Mineral Exploration (British Columbia). Adkins is a frequent speaker and commentator on Aboriginal law issues in Canada.

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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.

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Karey Brooks
Law firm: JFK Law Corporation
Year called to the bar: 2002
City: Vancouver

Karey Brooks is a principal at JFK Law Corporation, where she practises civil litigation, with a focus on Aboriginal, constitutional and administrative law. She has appeared in all levels of court, including in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Brooks primarily acts for First Nations and First Nations organizations in court and in negotiations with government and industry on matters relating to Aboriginal rights and title, consultation, regulatory matters, including environmental assessments and general governance matters such as status and membership issues. She also has experience in other public law-related work, including with respect to Charter rights, litigation and public inquiries. Brooks has a special concern for ending violence against women and gender discrimination. She has acted as associate commission counsel for the BC Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry.

Jean-Sébastien Clément
Law firm: Gowling WLG
Year called to the bar: 1994
City: Montréal

Jean-Sébastien Clément is a partner at Gowling WLG’s Montréal office. He has been practising Indigenous law for more than 20 years. His areas of focus include matters pertaining to self-governance, natural resources, education, socio-economic development, administration of justice, environment, land regime and health and social services. Clément has acted in many litigation cases, including constitutional cases before all common law tribunals, in first instance and in appeal, all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. He has also worked with various Cree entities on a variety of matters, including major negotiations regarding the Cree-Québec Adapted Forestry Regime applicable in the James Bay Region through the Cree-Québec New Relationship Agreement, known in Québec as the Paix des Braves. Clément’s practice allows him to address private law issues for commercial entities as well as public law issues for various Native entities and organizations.

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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 devotes his practice to Indigenous law and constitutional litigation. Faille represents Indigenous governments and businesses across Canada, as well as private sector interests working 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 all levels of court in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut and the Federal Court of Canada, Federal Court of Appeal, Tax Court of Canada and Supreme Court of Canada.

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John Hurley
Law firm: Gowling WLG
Year called to the bar: 1978
City: Montréal

John Hurley is a partner and leader of the Indigenous law group at Gowling WLG’s Montréal office. His practice focuses on First Nations, government relations, energy and infrastructure, environmental law and regulatory matters. Hurley has long worked with Indigenous peoples in Québec, especially the Crees and the Inuit, on a variety of matters, including government relations, energy and natural resources, environmental assessment, local and regional government, taxation and economic development. He assists commercial clients with the development and execution of energy generation projects, including wind, hydroelectric, biomass, cogeneration and thermal projects. Hurley acts for clients with respect to power purchase agreements, interconnection matters, regulatory and tariff matters, joint ventures and partnerships, project agreements, site acquisition, environmental assessments and government relations.

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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 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.

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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 has appeared at all levels of court in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, acting for Aboriginal people. Janes 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.

Naiomi Metallic
Counsel at Burchells LLP
Year called to the bar: 2008
City: Halifax

Naiomi Metallic is a counsel at Burchells LLP. She is from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Québec. Metallic was the first Mi’gmaq person to be a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. With Burchells since 2008, she is an active member of the firm’s Aboriginal Law practice group and has appeared before the courts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Federal courts in several high-profile cases involving our First Nations clients. Metallic also advises Aboriginal clients on a range of governance, employment, and human rights issues. She splits her time between practice and being full-time faculty at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, where she holds the Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal law and policy and teaches in the areas of constitutional law, Aboriginal Law and Indigenous governance. As a legal scholar, Metallic is most interested in writing about how the law can be harnessed to promote the well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada and conveying this information in accessible ways.