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F. Matthew Kirchner*

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F. Matthew Kirchner*

Managing Partner
*Law Corporation
Direct Phone: 604-983-7625

Assistant: Raquel Handel

Education

  • BA and LL.B from University of British Columbia
  • Legal research assistant to director of UBC First Nations Legal Studies Program
  • Law Clerk, British Columbia Supreme Court

Matthew is a partner whose practice has focused on First Nations, constitutional and environmental litigation. He is one of the leading litigators in the field of Aboriginal rights, Aboriginal title, fiduciary duties, reserve lands issues and governance matters. His cases include major Aboriginal commercial fishing rights litigation, court challenges for First Nations to the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, and active Aboriginal rights and title litigation seeking to restore the Nechako River from environmental damage caused by the construction of a dam and diversion of water out of the river. He has appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada and before all levels of court in British Columbia, the Federal Courts and several administrative tribunals on a wide range of cases for indigenous clients.

Matthew’s litigation work for First Nations includes high-level appellate work, judicial reviews, trials and administrative proceedings. Among his trial work are four major trials that each have exceeded 120 days. He was lead counsel or co-lead counsel of three of those.

Matthew served as a Law Clerk in the British Columbia Supreme Court (1997-1998). He has written several articles on aboriginal rights and title issues for legal education conferences. He has presented papers on these subjects at conferences sponsored by the Continuing Legal Education Society and Pacific Business and the Law.

Throughout his career Matthew has been dedicated and well-grounded in the community he serves. With his many years of experience and extensive litigation background he has become increasingly recognized by his peers as leading counsel in British Columbia in Aboriginal law. He is currently serving as Managing Partner at Ratcliff.

In the community, Matthew serves as a volunteer coach with the Vancouver Athletic Football Club where he helps to coach his daughter’s soccer team. He has also served on the board of directors of the Georgia Strait Alliance, a citizens group aimed at protecting the marine environment around the Strait of Georgia, and the Gambier Island Conservancy.

  • Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations v. Rio Tinto Alcan, BC Supreme Court File No. S-116524, In Progress – Aboriginal Rights and Title claim seeking to restore flows and fisheries in the Nechako River that is was dammed by Rio Tinto Alcan in the 1950s.
  • Coldwater Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General) and Trans Mountain ULC; Squamish Nation v. Canada (AG) and Trans Mountain ULC, 2018-2020 – Multiple decisions regarding a First Nation challenges so the approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project
  • Yahey v. British Columbia, 2020 Successful constitutional challenge to the charging court hearing fees to Aboriginal rights claimants in the BC Supreme Court.
  • Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v. Canada (Attorney General), 2009-2020 – 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.
  • 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.
  • Ahousaht First Nation v. Canada (Fisheries and Oceans), 2014 – Secured an injunction to suspend the commercial herring fishery on the West Coast of Vancouver Island to preserve the stock for future Indigenous use.
  • Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014, – Intervention in the groundbreaking Supreme Court of Canada decision establishing Aboriginal title for the Tsilhqot’in people.
  • Clifton v. Hartley Bay Band (Electoral Officer), 2005 – Constitutional challenge to the exclusion of off-reserve band members from voting under the Band’s election code.
  • Salt Spring Aquafarms Ltd. v. Salt Spring Harbour Authority, 2006 – Established the right of the local Harbour Authority to prohibit sale for farmed fish on its public docks.
  • Squamish Indian Band v. Canadian Pacific Ltd, 2002 – Secured the return of 10 acres of the former Kitsilano Indian Reserve – the Squamish Nation village of Sen̓áḵw – in the Kitsilano Point area of Vancouver from the CPR
  • Osoyoos Indian Band v. Oliver (Town), 2001 Intervention in the Supreme Court of Canada’s case regarding fiduciary duty on expropriation of reserve land)

Papers & Presentations:

  • Recent Developments in the Duty to Consult: A Survey of Major Court Decisions in 2018 (Pacific Business and Law Institute (PBLI), Consultation and Accommodation Conference, 2019)
  • First Nations Fisheries Council, General Assembly, Presenter at the annual assembly, Kelowna BC, 2018
  • Aboriginal Rights and Private Law Remedies (PBLI, Aboriginal Litigation and Negotiation Conference, 2017)
  • The Aboriginal Title Test for Justification (Affinity Institute, Aboriginal Law, Environmental Law & Resource Development Conference, 2014)
  • Pre-Litigation Agreements in Aboriginal Rights and Title Litigation (PBLI, Aboriginal Law Update Conference, 2011)
  • The Latest Word from the Courts: Recent Developments in Aboriginal Law and Cases to Watch (PBLI, Aboriginal Law Current Issues Conference, 2012)
  • The Aboriginal Right to Sell Fish: Ahousaht Nation v. Canada (PBLI, Aboriginal Law Conference, 2010)
  • Reconciliation through Litigation: Aboriginal Fishing Rights in Ahousaht v. Canada (Continuing Legal Education (CLE), Aboriginal Law Conference, 2010)
  • Just the Facts: Aboriginal Title and Proof of Occupation after Marshall; Bernard (CLE, Aboriginal Law Conference, 2009)
  • Achieving Cultural Security and Continuity: R. v. Sappier and the Refined Van der Peet Test (PBLI, Aboriginal Rights and Title Conference, 2009)
  • Implementing the “Solemn Commitment”: R. v. Sparrow and the Interim Costs Cases (CLE, Aboriginal Law Conference, 2003)

B.C. First Nations’ lawyers say Ottawa failed to consult on Trans Mountain expansion