First Peoples Law Corporation and Donovan & Co. merged in July 2021 to become First Peoples Law LLP. Click here to learn more.
Growing up in small northern communities gave me respect for Indigenous peoples, communities and traditions and an awareness that Indigenous peoples’ rights need to be better recognized and protected. Working internationally on human rights and with local and Indigenous communities led me back to Canada and to law school to better contribute to these processes. As an advocate, I use the law to empower my clients to achieve their priorities and objectives.
My focus is on serving my clients’ interests strategically, efficiently and effectively. My practice areas include Aboriginal title and rights, transboundary claims, Crown consultation and accommodation matters and environmental law and regulatory processes. I am involved in wide-ranging negotiations, including resource benefits agreements, impact benefits agreements, bilateral and trilateral agreements, including Self-Government Agreements. I provide support for all aspects of specific claims and specific claims settlements. I assist clients with the interpretation and application of the Indian Act, customary laws and processes, Land Code matters and legal drafting. I work with clients to expand their land base, such as through additions to reserve. Previously, I assisted Residential School Survivors with the Independent Assessment Process. I take pride in collaborating with clients to find creative and meaningful outcomes.
Outside of work, I learn from the natural world around us.
Before deciding on a career in law, my commitment to social justice had led me to work and volunteer with disadvantaged families and incarcerated individuals in New York state. Studying law seemed like a natural evolution – a way to develop new skills to advance issues I already cared about. Working on a large litigated Indigenous claim at the start of my legal career awakened my interest in early BC history and my commitment to assisting Indigenous Peoples in the recognition of their rights.
My focus on specific claims (with a particular interest in the pre- and early Confederation claims) has allowed me to support Indigenous Peoples in their efforts to obtain redress for longstanding claims while immersing myself in the history that I enjoy so much. I am as passionate about my work today as I was over 25 years ago, when I first began to practice law.
Outside of work, I enjoy discovering new places and cultures with my children when time permits, and spending time in BC’s great outdoors (or with a good Netflix series!) when closer to home.
I grew up outside of a small town in Northwestern Ontario, hunting, fishing, and spending a large part of my life on the land. This upbringing forged a connection to the natural world that continues to guide me as an advocate for Indigenous rights, culture, and economy.
I understand the importance of rights recognition and the socio-economic outcomes that follow, which is why it means so much to me both personally and professionally to be a trusted advocate for my Indigenous clients from the board room to the court room.
Outside of work, I am an avid outdoorsman.
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I first became interested in the history and culture of the Indigenous Peoples in what we currently know as Canada at a young age. This interest grew as I pursued my undergraduate studies, and by law school I knew that I wanted to work on behalf of Indigenous communities seeking recognition and protection of their rights.
As an advocate, my objective is to work with our clients to identify and understand their legal needs and provide strategic advice to assist them in achieving their goals. At First Peoples Law, I’m able to do this work as part of a team of people dedicated to providing effective legal support to Indigenous Peoples across Canada.
My commitment to this advocacy work extends beyond my law practice. As a member of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, I work with a group of volunteer lawyers to provide legal knowledge to communities in Kenya negatively impacted by resource extraction activities.
After clerking for Justice Bertha Wilson at the Supreme Court of Canada, I practiced for six years at a boutique law firm in Vancouver that specialized in complex litigation. From the outset, I was assigned to a litigation team that was advancing a major piece of Indigenous litigation through the Courts. In 1996 I founded Donovan & Company – a firm dedicated to advancing justice and prosperity for First Nations through assisting with long term planning, governance issues, business development, assertion of Aboriginal rights and title, specific claims resolution, negotiations with business and government and litigation. I have had the privilege of seeing the firm develop into a strong player in the Aboriginal law area with a growing, passionate and dedicated team.
It has been an enormous and humbling privilege for me to work closely with determined and visionary First Nations leadership. Listening carefully to the vision and goals of the First Nation is always central. Planning and continued review of strategic options follows. Not every problem has a legal solution but more often than not there are legal aspects to both the challenges facing First Nations and the opportunities open to them.
When I am not working on Indigenous legal issues I can often be found out running, hiking and enjoying nature, talking to the bees and chickens, and working with my wife Mona on our continued efforts to assist small communities in Southwestern Nicaragua.
Although I grew up in small town Saskatchewan in close proximity to the last federally-funded Residential School in Canada, I was unaware of the impact the institution had on the students who attended the school, their families and their communities. It was not until I was contracted by the federal government to conduct historical research for residential school claims that I started to understand the impact that the system had on Indigenous Peoples and their cultures. That work fueled a passion for justice and prompted me to go to law school.
My work these days largely centres around advising Indigenous communities and Indigenous community-owned entities in relation to a variety of economic development activities. This involves creating tax efficient business structures using partnerships, joint ventures, trusts and other types of entities, negotiating revenue share and other kinds of arrangements with industry partners, developing on reserve land for commercial and housing projects, advising on financing arrangements and drafting leases, and other sorts of agreements. My practice also involves drafting and advising on various kinds of lands related laws and bylaws and negotiating specific claim settlements.
My involvement in my community over the years has ranged from coaching hockey to serving on the Board of Variance for the City of Port Moody and other boards such as CERA Society (Communities Embracing Restorative Action).
Outside of work, I live to explore the world, both locally and abroad. I thoroughly enjoy running, hiking, canoeing and camping and sampling the diversity of foods and flavours the world has to offer.
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I have an undergraduate degree in Aquatic Biology and went to law school thinking I would become an environmental lawyer. When I learned about the issues facing Indigenous people I chose to direct my energy and skills toward advocating for land and resource rights as well as righting historic wrongs. I am committed to working with my clients as they seek justice and greater involvement in lands and resource decisions by providing legal and strategic advice.
I represent clients in major regulatory hearings, at government-to-government tables addressing land use planning, reconciliation, and historic settlements, in consultation and accommodation processes, through all aspects of the specific claims process, as well as with other reserve land issues.
I assisted a client in a successful challenge of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, including at the National Energy Board, during Crown consultation, and in the Federal Court of Appeal. I have also assisted a client negotiate a major historic settlement agreement and I am actively supporting the implementation of that agreement. In addition, I have written legal opinions for more than 50 specific claims and am actively negotiating a significant number of settlements.
When not working, I play on a master’s level women’s soccer team and try to stay fit with other outdoor activities.
I chose to enter the legal profession because I believe that law can be used as a vehicle to achieve positive social change, especially in relation to the long and challenging process of decolonization. Since joining First Peoples Law, I have had the privilege of working with and for Indigenous Peoples across Canada to advance their inherent and treaty rights. My commitment to deepening my understanding of these issues also led me to complete a Master’s of Law at the University of British Columbia, with a focus on the interpretation of Indigenous-Crown treaties. My most recent article on treaty interpretation, “Agreeing to Share: Treaty 3, History & the Courts," was published in the UBC Law Review.
I am a founding member of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a legal clinic based at Osgoode Hall and Thompson Rivers University which provides advocacy and support to communities affected by transnational corporate activities and resource extraction.
Growing up on a small island off the Pacific west coast, I learned early about the close relationship between the environment and the people who live there. I try to bring my respect for the natural world to my practice and to my life with my family in Vancouver, B.C.
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My interest in advocating for Indigenous Peoples was enriched throughout my studies at the University of Victoria law school. I started my legal career at a large national law firm where I gained valuable experience in providing quality legal services. I now feel incredibly fortunate to be able to apply those experiences while representing Indigenous Peoples’ interests at First Peoples Law LLP.
I work closely with clients to help them achieve the economic development goals of their Indigenous communities. I advise clients on a broad range of corporate and commercial matters relating to a variety of industries. I also represent clients in advancing their historical specific claims against the government.
I am a huge hockey fan and I enjoy camping, hiking and mountain biking throughout British Columbia in my free time.
I moved from São Paulo, Brazil to Vancouver, British Columbia in 2018. My previous experience before I came to Canada was in an HR department and this experience led me to work here as an administrative assistant. I enjoy learning about Indigenous cultures.
My current role involves assisting with all office routines and bookkeeping duties including data entry, reports, organizing and maintaining invoices and updating files.
Outside of the office, you will find me hiking, camping, cooking or planning my next adventure.
I moved to Vancouver to pursue my master’s in community and regional planning which is where I began to learn and unlearn the history of Indigenous Peoples and their ongoing pursuit for justice. I didn’t expect to work at a law firm but I was drawn to First Peoples Law’s committed approach to advocacy that is founded on respect and humility. First Peoples Law provides me an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with clients and to continue my ongoing exploration of the intersections of community planning and the law.
As the project manager, I work closely with my colleagues to make sure our clients have a positive experience and that their needs are met. My role is to support our great team of lawyers in helping our clients define and realize their goals effectively and strategically.
Away from my desk, I love playing hockey, biking, skiing, and doing crosswords with friends.
I was focused on working for social justice through an academic career in history until I began working in the law on what I expected to be a temporary basis. My work introduced me to a world of principled, high quality legal advocacy that led me back to university for a law degree and, eventually, to establish First Peoples Law.
First Peoples Law combines my passions for law, history and social justice. Most importantly, it allows me to work with other committed professionals in supporting Indigenous Peoples' ongoing struggle for respect and justice.
Bruce's ancestors took Métis scrip at Red River in Manitoba. He holds a law degree, a Ph.D. in Aboriginal and environmental history, and is a Fulbright Scholar. He is a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation.
*Personal Law Corporation
A commitment to justice and principled advocacy drew me to the study of law. Throughout law school I immersed myself in the study of Aboriginal and Indigenous law under leading Indigenous scholars and lawyers. I am dedicated to contributing to the ongoing work of decolonization through critical self-reflection and humble service to work that substantively advances Indigenous rights.
My practice focuses on litigation and negotiation in the areas of Aboriginal, environmental and constitutional law. It is an honour to serve our clients’ vital work upholding their inherent and constitutionally protected title, rights and Treaty rights and revitalizing their laws and governance processes.
Outside of work I enjoy walking in the woods with my family, sailing and reading legal biographies. I was raised on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Stó:lō Territory and am of Irish, French and English descent.
I moved to British Columbia from Ukraine in 2018 and started working as a legal administrative assistant with Donovan & Company. That is when I first started discovering and developing a strong interest in the cultures and histories of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, as well as legal aspects of their relations with the government. I believe that this area of law, more than others, is in pressing need for positive social change, which I am hoping to be able to contribute to.
Prior to moving to Canada, I practiced law in Ukraine and have a strong background in banking and finance, corporate law and commercial transactions. I completed my Masters of Law in Common Law at the University of British Columbia in 2021, and have now joined our team as an articled student.
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, doing crafts with my son and discovering the beauty of British Columbia.
Growing up in the Shuswap and Okanagan territories in the interior of British Columbia, many of my formative experiences included spending time in Indigenous communities and discussing ongoing Indigenous rights and political issues. I first became interested in the field of Aboriginal law and providing legal services to First Nations when I was a young adult, as I began to understand how challenging existing legal structures and government policies could help to address many of the political and social issues faced by Indigenous communities in Canada today.
My practice focuses primarily in the areas of governance and self-governance, helping First Nations to exercise their jurisdictional rights by developing and enforcing laws and frameworks that reflect the unique needs and visions of their communities. I am excited to work alongside my colleagues to assist our clients in achieving their desired goals and outcomes in these areas, as well as in other related fields such as trust planning, navigating land use consultation processes and negotiating accommodations/ benefits agreements.
Outside of the office, I enjoy weightlifting, cycling around the city, and spending as much time as possible exploring the great outdoors.
As an immigrant child from Melbourne, Australia, my family moved to a small inlet on Haida Gwaii where we were welcomed into the local community as soon as we stepped off the float plane. Years later we moved to Vancouver where I pursued my studies at UBC and later at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. My formal education is in the area of material culture anthropology, museum studies, and ethnographic textile research. My current interests are in the cultural appropriation and repatriation of material culture, specifically in the area of textiles and clothing.
After an interval of travel and parenting, I was in search of a second career and this resulted in my graduating from the legal administrative assistant program at Capilano University. I have developed a genuine interest and desire to work in Aboriginal law because of the work I do for the lawyers at our firm.
On weekends, I enjoy working in my garden, weaving and dyeing with natural plants, and being in the outdoors.
I applied to law school to support Indigenous Peoples’ movements to revitalize their legal systems and decolonize Canadian law. I am an Irish and English settler and grew up as a guest on the lands and waters of the Syilx Okanagan Nation.
I am a fourth-year student in the joint degree program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders at the University of Victoria, following undergraduate studies in philosophy and astronomy. I previously worked as a research fellow at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
I am grateful to be learning from such an experienced and passionate legal team at First Peoples Law. Away from work, you can find me stargazing, reading plays and making community radio.
I have been working in Aboriginal Law since 2007 and have always been fascinated by Indigenous cultures.
My educational background is in Criminology and I have certification as a Law Clerk. I provide legal administrative support working mainly on specific claims.
Outside of the office, I am usually exploring, doing something creative or learning something new.
I began working at First Peoples Law in 2013. I was immediately struck with the less traditional nature of the firm that encouraged collaboration, creativity and a new way of doing things. This unique approach has given me the opportunity to grow with the firm and assist Bruce with a wide range of projects to benefit our Indigenous clients and the general public.
I worked as a conveyancing paralegal in Australia prior to making the move to Canada. Many years of experience in legal administration enables me to assist with the day-to-day operation of the office, co-ordinating travel schedules, accounting support, and generally ensuring things run smoothly.
I am a passionate advocate for responsible and environmentally sustainable use of recreational trails and volunteer on the board of my local trail association. I am active in the mountain biking community and enjoy hiking, trail running and paddle boarding.
I am honoured to assist First Nations in the important work that they are doing.
My practice focuses on governance matters, law drafting and enforcement, land related issues/transactions, and economic development on reserve.
I clerked at the Federal Court of Appeal. I am also a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal.