The Story of Mandell Pinder LLP
In the early 1980s, First Nations' struggle to gain recognition of their aboriginal title and rights within the Canadian legal system was gaining momentum. Mandell Pinder LLP was founded to provide legal expertise for the furtherance of that struggle.
Under the leadership and direction of Grand Chief George Manuel, Louise Mandell, Leslie Pinder  and Clarine Ostrove had worked for over 5 years as in-house legal counsel at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs ("UBCIC"). One of the highlights for them was going to London in 1981 to give instructions for the commencement of the lawsuit to oppose the patriation of the Canadian Constitution; the historic "Constitution Express" then galvanized Aboriginal peoples in a strong, unified determination to protect and advance their rights.
In April 1983, with UBCIC's encouragement and support, the three lawyers and their assistants, Regina Terry and Chris Clark, started Mandell Pinder LLP. The partners began working for native governments at Band, tribal, provincial and national levels. Brenda Gaertner joined the firm in 1986.
From the outset, the firm's mission has been to assist Aboriginal peoples to achieve recognition of their title and rights as the basis for a just relationship between Aboriginal peoples, the Crown and third parties. Over the years, Mandell Pinder LLP has continued to broaden its legal and negotiating services to meet the ever-expanding needs of Aboriginal governments. Most recently this work has included assisting at government-to-government and other negotiating tables, and successfully completing innovative impact benefit agreements with third parties.
Creativity has been required, from developing the conceptual framework for aboriginal and treaty rights, to the land tenure models required for secure economic development on reserve.
Early landmark cases fought by the firm include:
- Regina v. Jimmy (1987), 15 B.C.L.R. (2d) 145;  3 C.N.L.R. 77;  5 W.W.R. 755 (B.C.C.A.) - (where Band by-laws prevailed over the Fisheries Act)
- Claxton v. Saanichton Marina (1987), 18 B.C.L.R. (2d) 217 (B.C.S.C.); (1989), 36 B.C.L.R. (2d) 79 (B.C.C.A.) - Douglas Treaty - (protection of Douglas Treaty fishing rights)
- Guerin v. The Queen, 59 B.C.L.R. 301;  2 S.C.R. 335 – Intervener on behalf of National Indian Brotherhood - (establishing the legal nature of the Crown’s fiduciary obligations to First Nations’ lands)
- Leonard v. R. in Right of British Columbia (1984), 52 B.C.L.R. 389;  4 W.W.R. 37 (B.C.C.A.) followed by amendments to the Indian Act - (Bill C-115 confirming native tax exemption and expanding Band taxation jurisdiction)
- Pasco v. C.N.R. Co. (1985), 69 B.C.L.R. 76;  B.C.J. No. 595 (B.C.C.A.) - (First Nations along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers protecting the native fishery by obtaining an injunction preventing Canadian National Railway from double-tracking)
In due course, the firm has advanced their clients' interests through the determination by the Supreme Court of Canada that there is, under the Canadian Constitution, an existing aboriginal right to fish (Regina v. Sparrow,  1 S.C.R. 1075, Regina v. Van der Peet (1993), 80 B.C.L.R. (2d) 75 (B.C.C.A.);  2 S.C.R. 507 ), and that aboriginal title and rights have not been extinguished in British Columbia (Delgamuukw v. British Columbia,  104 D.L.R. (4th) 470 (B.C.C.A.);  3 S.C.R. 1010 ). In Blueberry River Indian Band v. Canada (Department of Indian Affairs),  F.C. 28;  4 S.C.R. 344, a treaty reserve case, the firm made important advances in the legal obligations of the Crown towards Aboriginal peoples.
In January, 2009, Maria Morellato Q.C. joined the firm, bringing her wealth of experience to complement and expand the services we provide to First Nations. Mandell Pinder LLP's legal team has expanded, yet remains a small firm able to deliver personal, integrated services. The firm's growth reflects an increasing diversity of focus, including aboriginal institution-building, social, business and economic development, and creating legal and governance structures to reconcile aboriginal and Crown interests.
In litigation, the firm continues to be at the forefront in advancing its clients' rights, from the trial court through all appellate levels. It has spearheaded landmark Supreme Court of Canada rulings, such as Haida Nation et al. v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) et al. (2002), 99 B.C.L.R. (3d) 209 (B.C.C.A.);  3 S.C.R. 511 (confirming the Crown's duties of consultation and accommodation), Osoyoos (entrenching the Crown's fiduciary obligations in relation to the taking of reserve lands), and Regina v. Morris & Olsen, 2002 BCSC 780; (2004), 186 C.C.C. (3d) 249 (B.C.C.A.);  2 S.C.R. 915 (which established the treaty right to night hunting). Mandell Pinder LLP also participated in the Supreme Court of Canada victory in Regina v. Sappier; Regina v. Gray, 2006 SCC 54; 2 S.C.R. 686, the first case to establish the aboriginal right to harvest timber on Crown land.
The strength of Mandell Pinder LLP is the firm's ability to respond to the many challenges facing Aboriginal peoples and their governments, identifying options for real solutions and then pursuing those options creatively, energetically and diligently. All of this is achieved using a collaborative, team approach, bringing to each project a profound depth and breadth of experience and expertise from the diverse backgrounds of the partners and associates in the firm.
 Leslie Pinder retired from the practice of law in June, 2003 and is now pursuing her career as a writer. For a look at the early litigation contests involving the Crown and First Nations, see her article "To the Fourth Wall" in Vancouver Forum I: Old powers, new forces (Max Wyman (ed.), June, 1995:147), about the "suite" of resource cases which came before the B.C. Court of Appeal in 1992.