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Environment • Aboriginal • Energy

John J. P. Donihee

Of Counsel
B.Sc., M.E.S., LL.B., LL.M

T: 613-217-8521  E:


John Donihee is one of Canada’s foremost experts in environmental, regulatory, administrative and Aboriginal law in Canada’s north. John’s particular focus is on environmental approvals for resource development, land claims implementation and modern treaties in Northwest Territories and Nunavut. He has extensive experience in and land and water regulation, environmental impact assessment, and wildlife management and land use planning law. John is admitted to the bars of Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Rankings and Awards


In June 2014, John received the Government of the Northwest Territories Premier’s Award for Collaboration. This award recognized John’s outstanding contribution to government goals and the public interest through his participation in a working group of government and First Nations representatives to draft the new Northwest Territories Wildlife Act, enacted in November 2013.

Environmental Approvals of Northern Resource Development

John has advised industry, Aboriginal groups, governments and co-management tribunals involved in environmental impact assessment and land and water regulation for resource development projects in Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Land Claims Implementation

John represents land claims organizations in regulatory proceedings and provides advice on the implementation of land claims including the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. John has negotiated impact benefits agreements on behalf of Inuit, Inuvialuit and government clients, as well as for project developers.

Wildlife, Water and Land Use Planning Law

John has been retained by northern governments and Aboriginal organizations to advise on matters related to the development of new wildlife and species at risk legislation and in Nunavut and Northwest Territories. He also advises wildlife co-management tribunals.

John has developed management frameworks for water on Aboriginal lands as well as for the management of the regulation of land and water by northern tribunals. John has also advised Aboriginal organizations about the development of land use plans and their implementation.

Prior Environmental Experience

John was formerly a Research Associate at the Canadian Institute of Resources Law and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. Prior to becoming a lawyer, John was the Director of Environmental Planning & Assessment at the Northwest Territories Department of Renewable Resources. He was also a habitat management and consulting biologist.


  • Northern governments
  • Northern environmental boards and tribunals
  • Northern natural resource companies
  • Northern mining and exploration companies
  • Inuit, Inuvialuit and First Nation communities and organizations

Representative Work

Environmental Approvals of Northern Resource Development

  • Environmental Assessment and Water Licensing for Diamond Mine in NWT—Acted for the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board and the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, advising about legal issues connected with the environmental assessment and water licensing for a diamond mine in Northwest Territories.
  • Environmental Approvals for Major Infrastructure Project—Acted for the Environmental Impact Review Board established under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement in the review of a major infrastructure project, leading to approvals for the construction of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway connecting the Arctic Ocean to the road network in Southern Canada.
  • Environmental Approvals for Gold Mine in Nunavut—Counsel to a major mining company for the environmental assessment and water licensing of a gold mine in Nunavut, leading to the approval of the mining project by the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Water Board.
  • Advising Co-Management Tribunals Responsible for Resource Development—Counsel to tribunals involved in environmental impact assessment, land and water and wildlife regulation under both the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and Inuvialuit Final Agreement, contributing to ongoing management and regulation of renewable resources and the environment in these areas.

Land Claims Implementation

  • Crown’s Duty to Consult and Comprehensive Land Claim Agreements—Represented the Tlicho Government in the appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation case, concerning the Crown’s duty to consult when there is a comprehensive land claim agreement.
  • Negotiating Impact Benefits Agreements—Provided counsel during the negotiation of Impact Benefits Agreements for a gold mine, a diamond mine and the establishment of a new National Park and conservation areas in Nunavut, all of which were subsequently approved.
  • Devolution and Land Claims Interests—Advised the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation on environmental and resource management matters and Inuvialuit rights affected by the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement, leading to approval of the Agreement.

Wildlife, Water & Land Use Planning Law

  • Water Policy for Inuit Owned Lands—Completed the legal work and managed an interdisciplinary team responsible for the development a water policy for Inuit owned lands in Nunavut.
  • Yukon Water Compensation Policy and Framework—Advised the Yukon Water Board on the development of a water compensation policy and framework for the Board to manage and make decisions about compensation claims made under their water legislation.
  • Land Use Plan for Aboriginal Settlement Area—Advised an Aboriginal approving authority in the Mackenzie Valley during the development of a land use plan for its settlement area, resulting in the plan being approved and coming in to force in 2014 and providing a key element for conservation and resource development in that area.
  • Development of Nunavut Wildlife Act—Instructing Counsel for the Government of Nunavut during the development of the Nunavut Wildlife Act, which was subsequently enacted and brought into force in 2005.
  • Development of NWT Wildlife Legislation—Advised the Inuvialuit Game Council and the Wek’èezìi Renewable Resources Board during the development of the NWT Species at Risk Act (in force 2010) and Wildlife Act and Regulations, (in force in November 2014). 




In June 2014, John received the Government of the Northwest Territories Premier’s Award for Collaboration.

This award recognized John’s outstanding contribution to government goals and the public interest through his participation in a working group of government and First Nations representatives to draft the new Northwest Territories Wildlife Act, enacted in November 2013.



  • Law Society of Alberta—member
  • Law Society of Northwest Territories—member
  • Law Society of Nunavut—member
  • Prospectors’ and Developers’ Association of Canada—member
  • Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines—member
  • Canadian Bar Association—Northwest Territories Environmental Law Subsection, Founding Chair (1993 1 996 and 1999-2001); National Aboriginal Law Section, Executive member (1994-1997)


Speaking Engagements

  • Co-chair and Speaker, “Regulatory Improvements and New Legislative Initiatives North of 60” and “Wildlife Management and Fisheries Act Amendments”, 2013 Annual National Environmental, Energy and Resources Law Summit – Natural Resources and Energy Legal Developments North and South of 60, National Environmental, Energy and Resources Law Section, Canadian Bar Association, Yellowknife, June 20-21, 2013
  • Delivering annual training courses on Public Hearings and Administrative Law for the NWT Board Forum (2009-2012)
  • Session Chair and Keynote Speaker “Land Claim Agreements” 2030 North – National Planning Conference, Ottawa, June 1-4, 2009
  • Speaker, “Overcoming Crucial Challenges Arising from Securities for Environmental Cleanup: Minimizing Project Delays”, Environmental Law and Regulation North of 60° Conference, The Canadian Institute, Edmonton, November 13-14, 2008
  • Speaker, “Water Resource Regulation in the NWT”, NWT Water Wise Conference, Yellowknife, November, 2007
  • Chair and Keynote Speaker, Yukon North Slope Conference –Keeping Track: Environmental Monitoring and Reporting in Wildlife Management, Whitehorse Yukon, January 30-February 1, 2007


December 22, 2017

Navigating Environmental Risk: When and How to Apply the Precautionary Principle

December 08, 2017

Reconciliation Includes Respecting Land Claims Agreements and Co-Management Processes – Supreme Court of Canada Quashes Yukon’s Peel Watershed Land Use Plan

February 22, 2017

Is There a Duty to Consult on Legislation? SCC May Decide

December 01, 2016

Aboriginal Consultation and Administrative Proceedings: Two Cases Heard by the SCC in November

December 15, 2015

Ross River Dena Council v. Yukon: The Duty to Consult and Wildlife Management

December 07, 2015

Peel Watershed Decision: Yukon did not Honour the Letter or Spirit of the Final Agreements, Peel Watershed Planning Returned to Earlier Stage in Process

July 23, 2015

Yellowknives Dene First Nation v. Debogorski: Is the duty to consult changing?

May 12, 2015

BC Court of Appeal: First Nations can bring tort claims for harm to asserted rights

April 28, 2015

Nunavut Homeowner Ordered to Pay $55,000 for Heating Oil Tank Spill

April 01, 2015

The Northwest Territories and Alberta Sign a Mackenzie River Basin Bilateral Water Management Agreement

March 27, 2015

Update: Canada files Notice of Appeal for the Injunction granted by the Northwest Territories Supreme Court to Delay Elimination of Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board

March 02, 2015

Northwest Territories Supreme Court Grants T??ch? Government Injunction To Delay Elimination of Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board

December 10, 2014

The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v Yukon—Interpretation, Reconciliation and the Land Use Planning Process in Modern Treaties

November 28, 2014

New NWT Wildlife Act Comes Into Force November 28, 2014

July 24, 2014

John Donihee Quoted in Article – Developing the North: Poised to expand, but challenges are complex

July 17, 2014

Supreme Court Clarifies Provincial Aboriginal Consultation Responsibilities When Issuing Resource Permits in Keewatin and Applies Tsilqot’in Infringement Test

July 08, 2014

Supreme Court of Canada Grants Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal Title in William – Implications for Resource Development in Canada

  • “The Evolution of Wildlife Law in Canada”, CIRL Occasional Paper #9, Canadian Institute of Resources Law, 2000
  • “Resource Development and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act: The New Regime”, Douglas Burch, Jeff Gilmour and John Donihee (Author and Editor), Canadian Institute of Resources Law, 2000
  • “Mineral Exploration and Mine Development in Nunavut: Working with the New Regulatory Regime”, M. Hardin and J. Donihee, Canadian Institute of Resources Law, 1998
  • Canadian Environmental Law, Regional Editor, Northwest Territories and Nunavut regions, Butterworths Canada, 1998 to present
  • “Canadian Impact and Benefit Agreements with Local and Indigenous People”, John Donihee and Alastair R. Lucas, International and Comparative Mineral Law and Policy: Trends and Prospects, Kluwer Law, Natural Resources and Energy Series, 2004
  • “Local Control of Wildlife in the NWT”, LLM Thesis, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary, December 2002


  • Called to the bars of Alberta (1989), Northwest Territories (1989), Nunavut (1999), and Yukon (2019)
  • LL.M., Natural Resources Law, University of Calgary (2002)
  • LL.B., Dalhousie University (1988)
  • M.E.S., Ecological Land Management, York University (1977)
  • B.Sc. (Hons.), Biology, Carleton University (1975)



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Senior Litigation Counsel