John Donihee

Of Counsel

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

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John Donihee is one of Canada’s most experienced counsel in Northern environmental and natural resources law.

While living in Yellowknife for over two decades, John developed strong bonds and a deep respect for Canada’s northern communities, Indigenous governments and the people of the North. John’s broad perspective and practical approach help him solve legal issues unique to Canada’s three northern territories.

Well known for his pragmatism and determination to find workable solutions, John emphasizes strong personal relationships in his work. He practices environmental, regulatory, administrative and Indigenous law in Canada’s North with a focus on environmental approvals for resource development, land claims implementation, and modern treaties in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon. He has extensive experience in land and water regulation, environmental impact assessments, wildlife management and law, and land use planning law. John has advised industry, Indigenous groups, governments, and co-management tribunals involved in environmental impact assessments, and land and water regulation for resource development projects.

John represents land claim organizations and co-managers in regulatory proceedings and provides advice about the implementation of land claims. He has negotiated impact benefits agreements on behalf of Inuit, Inuvialuit and government clients, as well as for project developers. At his core, John has a deep respect for the modern treaty system because he recognizes that land claims and historical treaties are foundational agreements between governments and Indigenous rights holders. He focuses on finding effective solutions that work to best serve Northern communities. He is a strong advocate in court when needed, but most often works to develop collaborative solutions for clients.

John has advised wildlife co-management tribunals, territorial governments and Indigenous organizations about the development of new wildlife, species-at-risk and other resource legislation. He has also developed water compensation and management frameworks for Indigenous lands. He has extensive experience in the regulation of land and water by Northern co-management tribunals. John also advises Indigenous organizations about the development of land use plans and their implementation.

Starting his career as a wildlife biologist, John did consulting in Toronto before taking up work in the Northwest Territories. He went on to be the Director of Environmental Planning & Assessment at the Northwest Territories Department of Renewable Resources and was also a habitat management and consulting biologist. Eventually, he realized that he could do more good for the people he cared about and could better help protect the environment in the North if he had legal training.

After graduating from law school, John returned to work for the Government of the Northwest Territories and lived in Yellowknife. John then moved to the Canadian Institute of Resources Law at the University of Calgary where he wrote extensively about mining and other resource development under northern land claim regimes including wildlife law.


  • Called to the bar of the Yukon (2019)
  • Called to the bar of Nunavut (1999)
  • Called to the bar of Alberta (1989)
  • Called to the bar of the Northwest Territories (1989)
  • 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)


      • 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 (1993-1996 and 1999-2001); National Aboriginal Law Section, Executive member (1994-1997)