We are excited to announce that Mr. Bernd Christmas, an esteemed leader in both corporate/commercial and Indigenous Peoples law, has joined JFK Law as Senior Counsel. With three decades of experience and a proven track record of successfully assisting businesses in implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP), Mr. Christmas will spearhead our firm’s expansion in serving First Nations across Canada in corporate and commercial matters.
Mr. Christmas brings with him an illustrious career encompassing diverse roles and significant contributions. As the first Mi’kmaw to become a lawyer in Canada, he has been a trailblazer for Indigenous representation in the legal profession. He earned his law degree from Osgoode Hall, York University, and has held various influential positions since then. As the Managing Partner of Bernd Christmas Law Group, he advised multiple Indigenous governments and businesses on conducting business with Canadian mining companies such as Sodexo, Georgia Pacific, DeBeers, and Rio Tinto. He used best practices to ensure fair dealings with the local Indigenous community.
Mr. Christmas’ experience extends beyond legal practice. He is a sought-after board member for national and international corporations and government agencies, holding prestigious positions such as the Senior Vice-President and National Aboriginal Practice Leader at Hill & Knowlton Canada, and Chief Executive Officer of Fort McKay Oil Sands. He was also previously a commissioner for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and served on the Board of Governors of the Nova Scotia Community College. His involvement in national and international boards and commissions showcases his commitment to promoting superior business performance and enhancing cultural understanding in Indigenous relations.
His expertise in Indigenous Peoples law is deeply rooted in his community involvement. He was the former CEO of the Membertou Band of Nova Scotia and the Membertou Corporate Division. Throughout his tenure, he successfully negotiated crucial agreements with major corporations, which further strengthened his reputation as a skilled negotiator, which was already supported by his Certificate in Negotiations from Harvard Law School. Under his leadership, Membertou experienced unprecedented growth, with annual revenue soaring from $4.5M to $76M and assets escalating from zero to $46M. This was achieved through the strategic creation, development, and management of diverse business lines, including major fishing and forestry operations, a thriving casino and bingo enterprise, retail ventures, IT services, and participation in the oil and gas sector.
Beyond economic achievements, Mr. Christmas championed transformative initiatives, including the construction and implementation of a self-governing Mi’kmaq education system, the development of a new healthcare system and facility, and the construction of a multi-faceted convention center and casino. These projects not only enhanced the community’s infrastructure but also contributed to its social and cultural well-being. He continues in this capacity as investment committee member for the First Nations Child Welfare Compensation – final settlement agreement as well as being appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee for the McLean (Day Scholars) class action.
Beyond his extensive experience, Mr. Christmas is a member of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and of the Law Society of Ontario.
We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Christmas to JFK Law. Throughout his lifelong career, he has been dedicated to designing, implementing, monitoring, and reporting on reconciliation and Indigenous relations initiatives, guiding businesses in developing Indigenous strategies that deliver positive outcomes for the workforce, communities, and the business. We are confident that he will lead our expansion efforts successfully and continue our firm’s legacy of providing exceptional legal services.