Aborginal Rights & Land Claims

Ratcliff & Company is a leading firm in the area of aboriginal rights and title.  Our lawyers have been involved in many of the most significant cases and developments that have advanced the rights of First Nations people and we continue to seek recognition of our clients’ aboriginal rights through the courts, negotiations and the treaty process. 

We represented First Nations in negotiations leading to the adoption of s. 35 into the Constitution in 1982 and since then we have been involved in significant cases including Sparrow, Delgamuukw, and Haida Nation

In Ahousaht v. Canada, we were legal counsel for five First Nations who, for the first time in Canadian legal history, established broad-based aboriginal rights to harvest and sell multiple species of fish in their territory. 

We have advanced the aboriginal rights and title of our First Nation clients in a wide range of land claims and consultation and accommodation matters, resulting in successful court decisions, return of significant lands to our clients, and agreements that bring considerable economic and cultural benefits.

Representative Work

  • Mathias (Squamish Nation) v. Canada:  claim for land in Kitsilano near downtown Vancouver resulting in a $92.5 million settlement after (what was then) the longest trial in Federal Court history.
  • Squamish Indian Band v. Canadian Pacific:  claim for land in Kitsilano against the CPR resulting in the return of 10 acres of prime urban land to the Squamish.
  • Ahousaht et al. v. Canada:  successfully established broad-based aboriginal rights to fish and sell a wide range of fisheries resources from traditional Nuu-chah-nulth fishing territories.
  • Thomas et al. v. Canada:  claim to the lands on which the Provincial Legislature sits in Victoria, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement for two Victoria First Nations.
  • Counsel in a wide range of court proceedings advancing aboriginal rights and title in the context of enforcing the duty to consult, including Squamish Nation v. British Columbia, Lax Kw'alaams v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests);  Dehcho First Nations v. A.G. Canada et al; Kwikwetlem and others, many of which have resulted in successful court decisions, the return of traditional lands to our First Nation clients, significant cash payments and economic development opportunities.
  • Tsawwassen First Nation v. Vancouver Port Authority:  a claim against the Crown, the Roberts Bank Port and BC Ferries for unlawful interference with Tsawwassen First Nations’ riparian rights on their reserve, resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.
  • Participated as counsel in many leading aboriginal rights cases in the Supreme Court of Canada including Sparrow, Delgamuukw, Haida Nation, Osoyoos Band v. Oliver, R. v. Kapp, and T'silhqotin.
  • Huu-ay-aht First Nations v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. We are representing the Huu-ay-aht First Nations in one of the first cases to be filed with the new Specific Claims Tribunal, in which our client seeks compensation for old growth timber wrongfully harvested from its former reserve on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.