David M. Robbins
David M. Robbins*


David is a partner with Woodward & Co. Lawyers LLP in Victoria. He represented the Tsilhqot’in Nation for more than 14 years. From 2001 to 2002 David wrote the arguments obtaining and defending the Court order of advance costs payable by the Crown to enable the BC Supreme Court trial in Tsilhqot’in Nation. Between 2002 and 2006, David led the Tsilhqot’in oral history evidence gathering team at trial and negotiated resolution to three claims of traditional territory overlapping with the Tsilhqot’in claim area. In 2007, David wrote the closing argument at trial regarding the facts established in proof of Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title and rights. In 2013 David was part of the Tsilhqot’in Nation legal team in their Supreme Court of Canada appeal based on Aboriginal title. The Court’s landmark judgment of June 26, 2014, declaring Aboriginal title for the first time in Canada, attaches the Tsilhqot’in Proven Title Area map created on David’s instructions.

David now represents the Cowichan Nation in it’s aboriginal title litigation in British Columbia relating to its village and surrounding lands in the greater Vancouver area. In 2017, David wrote the arguments successfully defeating Canada’s application for Court-ordered notice of this case to private fee simple owners. David’s core law practice is focused on finding remedies for historic and ongoing Crown interferences with Aboriginal occupation and use of lands and resources. David acts for Aboriginal peoples on litigation, negotiation, consultation and accommodation with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights, as well as matters within Canada’s specific claims policy. David has advocated successfully for First Nations at all levels of court. He has also negotiated several agreements for First Nations, such as agreements resolving overlapping claims, impact-benefit agreements and specific claim settlements. Prior to becoming a lawyer David was a judicial law clerk to the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal. He has degrees in law from the University of Victoria and philosophy from the University of British Columbia.

* Denotes a law corporation.

Selected Cases, Presentations & Publications

Williams Lake Indian Band v. Canada, 2018 SCC 4 (counsel for the intervening Cowichan Nation successfully ensuring the Court’s fuller understanding of the protection of aboriginal title to “Indian settlement” lands during colonial British Columbia)

Cowichan Tribes et al. v. Canada et al. , 2017 BCSC 1575 (counsel for the plaintiff Cowichan Nation in successfully defeating Canada’s application seeking notice to private fee simple holders potentially affected by forthcoming Cowichan Nation aboriginal title trial)

Grassy Narrows First Nation v. Ontario (Natural Resources) , 2014 SCC 48 (intervention for Cowichan Tribes re federalism under the Constitution Act, 1867 relative to aboriginal and treaty rights)

Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44 (counsel for appellant Tsilhqot’in Nation successfully seeking declaration of aboriginal title to some 2,000 km2)

Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General) , 2011 SCC 56, 2009 BCCA 593 (intervention for Gitxaala Nation in aboriginal right to sell fish case)

Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2007 BCSC 1700 (the Tsilhqot’in Nation aboriginal title and aboriginal rights trial judgment)

R. v. Morris & Olsen, 2006 SCC 59 (overturning Court of Appeal’s rejection of constitutional immunity of treaty rights from provincial legislation; infringement of treaty rights)

William v. British Columbia, 2004 BCSC 1374 (dismissal of Crown application challenging Tsihqot’in Nation oral history admissibility at trial)

British Columbia (Minister of Forests) v. Okanagan Indian Band, 2003 SCC 71 (legal test for advance costs in aboriginal title and rights related litigation)

Xeni Gwet’in First Nations v. British Columbia, 2002 BCCA 434 (advance costs order upheld in Tsilhqot’in Nation case for infringement of aboriginal title and rights)

William v. Riverside Forest Product Ltd. et al, 2001 BCSC 1641 (advance costs ordered in Tsilhqot’in Nation case for infringement of aboriginal title and rights)

“Overlapping Territorial Claims,” Canadian Bar Association, National Aboriginal Law Conference, June 2009.

“Reconciling Aboriginal Rights and Title,” Union of British Columbia Municipalities Annual Conference, September 2008

Aboriginal Peoples, British Columbia, and Canada: The Constitution Division of Land Interests and Legislative Powers, published as part of the Westbank First Nation Conference “Making or Breaking the Treaty Process: The Constitutional Status of Treaty Settlement Land”, Kelowna, BC, May 2006

Taming the Crown: Developing Your Negotiating Power, published as part of the
Kamloops Indian Band’s “Good Governance Conference”, Kamloops, BC, July 2005

“Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia: A Decade After Delgamuukw” in Aboriginal Law Since Delgamuukw, ed. Maria Morellato, Q.C. (Canada Law Book, 2009)

Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia: An Overview, published as part of the Pacific Business Law Institute Conference “Tsilhqot’in First Nation v. British Columbia: The Immediate Impact and Next Steps”, Vancouver, BC, March 2008


David M. Robbins


Assistant: Kathleen McKerracher


Professional Standing

Member, Law Society of B.C. (March 2001)

Lecturer: University of Victoria Faculty of Law, Cdn. Bar Assoc., Continuing Leg. Ed., University of British Columbia Faculty of Law

Author: “Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia: A Decade After Delgamuukw” in Aboriginal Law Since Delgamukw (2009)

Former Co-Chair, Aboriginal Law Subsection, Cdn. Bar Assoc. (B.C.)

Other Activities

Hockey, cycling, swimming, and living a low carbon emission family life.