Our Lawyers

500 - 221 West Esplanade
North Vancouver BC V7M 3J3
Tel: (604) 988-5201
Fax: (604) 988-1452

Email: 
mkirchner [at] ratcliff.com
Assistant: 
Raquel Handel
rhandel [at] ratcliff.com

F. Matthew Kirchner

Partner

Matthew is a partner whose practice has focused on First Nations 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 that include major commercial fishing rights litigation, recent court challenges for First Nations to the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, and active treaty rights infringement litigation for a Treaty 8 First Nation.  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 three major trials that each have exceeded 120 days.  He was lead counsel or co-lead counsel of two 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.  Matthew has 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. Matthew lives in Vancouver with his wife Lisa Osoba and their children Ella and Charlie.

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
Professional and Other Memberships: 
  • Law Society of British Columbia, 1999
Notable Cases: 
  • Squamish Nation v. Minister of Environment and Kinder Morgan Canada (BC Supreme Court, decision pending) – challenge by the Squamish Nation to the Provincial government’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project.
  • Coldwater Indian Band v. Canada and Kinder Morgan Federal Court of Appeal, decision pending) – challenge by the Coldwater Indian Band to the Government of Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project.
  • Squamish Nation v. Canada and Kinder Morgan (Federal Court of Appeal, decision pending) – challenge by the Squamish Nation to the Government of Canada’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project.
  • Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v. Canada (2018, BC Supreme Court) – Crown efforts to justify an infringement of commercial fishing rights).
  • Blueberry River First Nation v. British Columbia (2018, BC Supreme Court) – Secured a stay of First Nation’s obligation to pay court hearing fees for a treaty rights trial.
  • Fort Nelson First Nation v. Oil and Gas Commission (2017, BC Supreme Court) – set aside an approval for a gas pipeline for Province’s failure to consult properly with Treaty 8 First Nation.
  • Coldwater Indian Band v. Minister of Indian Affairs and Kinder Morgan Canada (2017, Federal Court of Appeal) – Breach of fiduciary duty by Canada for failing to protect Coldwater Band’s best interest in assignment of the Trans Mountain Pipeline easement to Kinder Morgan Canada.
  • Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia (2014, Supreme Court of Canada) – Intervenor in historic land claims case establishing Aboriginal title to a portion of the Chilcotin region of British Columbia.
  • Ahosuaht First Nation v. Canada (Fisheries and Oceans) (2014, Federal Court) – secured an injunction to stop a commercial herring fishery on the West Coast of Vancouver Island that threatened the restoration of the stocks and was thus opposed by the local First Nations.
  • Ehattesaht First Nation v. British Columbia, (2014, BC Supreme Court) – Breach of the duty to consult by British Columbia in reallocating undercut in a Tree Farm Licence area in Ehattesaht territory.
  • Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v. Canada (Attorney General) (2009, BC Court of Appeal) - Aboriginal commercial fishing rights.
  • Lax Kw'alaams Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General) (2011, Supreme Court of Canada) – Aboriginal commercial fishing rights and asserted fishing rights associated with a reserve.
  • R. v. Kapp, (2008, Supreme Court of Canada) – Intervenor in case concerning challenge to Aboriginal commercial fishing programs.
  • Salt Spring Aquafarms v. Salt Spring Harbour Authority (2006, Federal Court of Appeal) – successfully defended  the Harbour Authority’s right to prohibit the sale of farmed salmon from its docks.
  • Grismer v. Squamish Nation (2006 Federal Court) – defended the right of the Squamish Nation to determine its own customary laws for membership in the face of a Charter challenge to their right to do so.
  • Clifton v. Hartley Bay Indian Band (2005 Federal Court) – rights of off-reserve members to vote in customary band election.
  • Squamish Indian Band v. Canadian Pacific (2002, BC Court of Appeal) – secured the return of 10 acers of former reserve land in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver from the CPR for Squamish.
  • Osoyoos Indian Band v. Oliver (Town) (2001, Supreme Court of Canada) – Intervenor in decision finding that the band could levy tax on an irrigation channel in its reserve.
  • Mathias v. Canada (2000 Federal Court) – Entitlement to former reserve land in Kitsilano area of Vancouver and breach of fiduciary duty against Canada for disposing of the lands.
Community Involvement: 
  • Georgia Strait Alliance, Lifetime Member