Litigation and Dispute Resolution
JFK Law has a team of experienced litigators with extensive courtroom experience. We focus on trying to find a solution that achieves your goals in a manner that is cost-effective and maintains healthy long-term relationships. This may mean reaching a negotiated solution, but in order to achieve that goal it is important to be prepared to go to court if negotiation is unsuccessful.
Our litigation team has argued cases in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Yukon Territory and all levels of the Federal Courts and the Supreme Court of Canada. Our past and current cases cover a wide range of subject matters in the following areas listed below.
Aboriginal and Treaty Rights Litigation
The main focus of our litigation practice is in assisting Indigenous nations to use the courts strategically to protect and enhance their Aboriginal and Treaty rights. This can take many forms, from pursuing litigation to establish rights and title, challenging Crown decision making that impacts your Nations lands and way of life, and seeking redress when your rights have been infringed.
In all of these matters, we strive to provide timely and cost effective advice to allow your Nation access to justice and to build leverage to secure your Nation’s rights for both present and future generations.
Governance, Reserve Land and Commercial Disputes
In addition, our firm regularly represents Indigenous communities and individuals in litigation arising from the day-to-day administration of their communities. This includes:
- assisting in disputes over elections and governance matters;
- representing clients in litigation about on-reserve property rights and certificates of possession; and
- assisting Indigenous communities and economic development corporations with commercial and contractual disputes.
Specialized advice about these disputes is often required because of the unique statutory and customary aspects of these disputes.
Constitutional and Public Law
JFK Law has deep experience in litigation involving constitutional and public law beyond the realm of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
We have litigated under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to challenge historic and ongoing discrimination, protect freedom of expression and freedom of association, and safe-guard security of the person. We also have extensive experience with other aspects of constitutional law, including the division of powers between the provincial and federal governments, and the constitutional protections of the superior courts and the rule of law.
A core aspect of our work is administrative law, which concerns the exercise by boards, tribunals and other decision-makers of the powers give to them in legislation. We have very substantial experience in challenging and defending such decisions in a wide variety of contexts.
First Nations Taxation Issues
There are numerous special protections and advantages provided to First Nations individuals and their businesses through the Indian Act and the Income Tax Act. Principally, Canadians who are “Indians” under the Indian Act are protected from federal, provincial and municipal taxes on their on-reserve property.
Taking advantage of these protections in order to advance business development is complex, and as a result many First Nations individuals and their businesses do not obtain their full benefit. Our firm has successfully litigated complex First Nations taxation matters, allowing our clients to fully realize the tax protections granted under the Indian Act and increasing the scope of these protections.
- Counsel to Beaver Lake Cree Nation in its successful application for advanced costs to continue its Treaty infringement litigation against Alberta and Canada (Anderson v Alberta (Attorney General), 2019 ABQB 746);
- Counsel to Tsilhqot’in Nation for an application to secure an injunction against Taseko Mines Corporation, preventing Taseko from carrying out an exploratory drilling program until the determination of a s.35 rights infringement trial. (Taseko Mines Limited v Tsilhqot’in National Government, 2019 BCSC 1507);
- Counsel to Mandy Lewis with respect to a class action proceeding against Westjet for breach of its Anti-Harassment Promise. Successfully defended an application by Westjet to strike the claim. (Lewis v Westjet Airlines Ltd., 2017 BCSC 2327 and Lewis v Westjet Airlines Ltd., 2019 BCCA 63);
- Counsel to the City of Vancouver and the Park Board against the Vancouver Aquarium over the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. (Ocean Wise Conservation Association v Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, 2018 BCSC 196 and Ocean Wise Conservation Association v Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, 2019 BCCA 58);
- Counsel for Beecher Bay First Nations, Songhees First Nation and T’Sou-Ke Nation intervening at the BC Court of Appeal in the challenge to BC’s Environmental Management Act (Reference re Environmental Management Act (British Columbia), 2019 BCCA 181);
- Counsel for the Gwich’in Tribal Council, a northern land claims organization, which intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada, regarding the implementation of land use planning provisions in a modern Treaty. (First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v Yukon, 2017 SCC 58);
- Counsel to Gitxaala First Nation in its successful challenge to the federal government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. ( Gitxaala Nation v Canada, 2016 FCA 187);