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Indigenous Land Rights

Ratcliff LLP is a leading firm in the area of Aboriginal rights and title and Treaty rights.

Our lawyers have been involved in the most significant cases and developments that have advanced the rights of First Nations people and we continue to seek recognition of our clients’ Aboriginal rights through the courts, negotiations and the treaty process. We represented First Nations in negotiations leading to the adoption of s. 35 into the Constitution in 1982 and since then we have been involved in significant cases including Sparrow, Delgamuukw, and Haida Nation. In Ahousaht Nation v. Canada, we were legal counsel for five First Nations who, for the first time in Canadian legal history, established broad-based Aboriginal rights to fish commercially for multiple species of fish in their territories off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. In Blueberry River First Nations v. British Columbia (also known as Yahey v. British Columbia) we are seeking to prove a large-scale infringement of Treaty 8 rights in Northeast BC and help ensure that any future industrial development in that area is done in a way to protect those Treaty rights. We have advanced the aboriginal rights and title of our First Nation clients in a wide range of land claims and consultation and accommodation matters, resulting in successful court decisions, return of significant lands to our clients, and agreements that bring considerable economic and cultural benefits.
  • Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations v. Rio Tinto Alcan, in progress – Aboriginal rights and title claim in the BC Supreme Court seeking to restore flows and fisheries in the Nechako River that was dammed by Rio Tinto Alcan in the 1950s.
  • Blueberry River First Nations v. British Columbia, in progress – a comprehensive Treaty 8 infringement claim in BC Supreme Court seeking to protect treaty lands and rights from further industrial development in Northeast BC.
  • Ahousaht et al. v. Canada: Major litigation proving an Aboriginal right for several Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to fish commercially for any species of fish in First Nations’ traditional fishing territories on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, proving an infringement of that right, and responding to Crown’s claims to justification of that infringement.
  • Thomas et al. v. Canada: a claim in the British Columbia Supreme Court to the lands on which the Provincial Legislature sits in Victoria, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement for two Victoria First Nations.
  • Squamish Indian Band v. Canadian Pacific: claim for land in Kitsilano Point area of Vancouver against the Canadian Pacific Railway resulting in the return to the Squamish Nation of 10 acres of the former Kitsilano Indian Reserve – the Squamish Nation village of Sen̓áḵw – in the Kitsilano Point area of Vancouver.
  • Mathias (Squamish Nation) v. Canada: claim for land in Kitsilano near downtown Vancouver resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement after (what was then) the longest trial in Federal Court history.
  • Coldwater Indian Band v. Canada, 2017 – Proved that the Government of Canada breached its fiduciary duty obligation to the Coldwater Indian Band when it approved the transfer of the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline easement through Coldwater’s reserve.
  • Counsel in a wide range of court proceedings advancing aboriginal rights and title in the context of enforcing the duty to consult, including Coldwater Indian Band v. Canada and Squamish Nation v. Canada (Trans Mountain Project), Squamish Nation v. British Columbia (Garibaldi ski resort project), Lax Kw’alaams v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) (Tree Farm Licence transfer); and others, many of which have resulted in successful court decisions, the return of traditional lands to our First Nation clients, significant cash payments and economic development opportunities.
  • Tsawwassen First Nation v. Vancouver Port Authority: a claim against the Crown, the Roberts Bank Port and BC Ferries for unlawful interference with Tsawwassen First Nations’ riparian rights on their reserve, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.
  • Participated as counsel in many leading aboriginal rights cases in the Supreme Court of Canada including Sparrow, Delgamuukw, Haida Nation, Osoyoos Band v. Oliver, R. v. Kapp, and T’silhqotin.

Ready when you are

Our lawyers offer a broad range of experience and expertise, with a client-first philosophy to help you achieve your goals.