Merle Alexander

Profession Field: Cultural Leader/Lawyer

Annual Hours Pledged:



Merle is a member Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation and a hereditary chief of Tsimshian Nation. Merle is a role model within the larger Indigenous community. He also exhibits exemplary character and conduct as a husband (to another Uvic Law grad) and father to two small children.

 Community Involvement

 Merle's community involvement includes:

  • Director of First Kaska LLP
  • Langara College, Academic Program Review Self Study Committee, Department of Aboriginal Studies
  • St'at'imc Eco Resources Ltd., former Director
  • Vancouver Native Community Health Foundation, Director and President
  • Eagle Eye Ventures Ltd., Director, Aboriginal Equity & Joint Venture Entity
  • Coast Opportunity Fund, Former Director
  • Nacho Nyak Dun Development Corporation, Former Director and Vice-President of Legal Affairs
  • Industry Council for Aboriginal Business, Former Director
  • Vancouver Native Housing Society, Former Director and Treasurer
  • West Coast Environmental Law, Former Director
  • Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services, President and Former Director


Merle’s entire legal career demonstrates that he is at the forefront of strategic legal reform that empowers Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people to effect reconciliation by building and rebuilding Indigenous governments and economies, and respectful, productive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Governments and businesses. As one of the first and few Partners in an international law firm, he is a role model and active mentor for Indigenous law students and lawyers across the country.

Merle is one of three Indigenous Partners in the 1400 lawyer international law firm, Gowling WLG LLP, and leader of a very successful and high profile Indigenous Law Working Group.

He has been profiled by Business in Vancouver and BC Business on the High demand for Aboriginal lawyers, where they noted that “Merle Alexander is one of the leading lights in the burgeoning field of Aboriginal law.”

Merle has achieved peer recognition: Vancouver’s 2009 Top 40 Under 40 Award; featured in the Canadian Bar Association Forum Drum (2015 6:2), featured in Simon Fraser Annual Indigenous Success Stories (SFU Online, March 21, 2016), recognized as a 2009-2017 Lexpert Ranked Lawyer and Chambers Law, among other distinguished acknowledgements.

Examples of his legal career include:

  • His solicitor’s practice has a focus on Indigenous resource law that affirms Indigenous Peoples’ title and rights through governance, sustainability and economic rights. His advisory role in negotiations touch on a number of resource law areas, including pipeline, oil and gas, forestry, mining, energy, and independent power (run-of-the-river) projects.
  • He negotiates modern-day treaty chapters on cultural heritage resources and drafts traditional knowledge protocols. Consequently, Merle is knowledgeable on protective mechanisms of Indigenous knowledge both domestically and internationally.
  • Advises First Nations in the negotiation of participation agreements, mutual benefits agreements, Government to Government agreements and other interim arrangements in furtherance of resource development projects in their territories. He also has significant experience negotiating including strategic engagement, interim treaty, forestry consultation, resource revenue-sharing and other reconciliation agreements, representing clients in British Columbia, Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Advises on the corporate and tax structuring for First Nations economic development including the formation of joint ventures, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships and other economic development business agreements.

International Advocacy

Merle dedicated twelve years of pro bono international United Nations advocacy for Indigenous Peoples organizations in the (1) Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”) (UNEP environmental treaty that protects Indigenous traditional knowledge), and (2) World Intellectual Property Organization – Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions Protection Working Group (negotiating an international instrument for the protection of Indigenous knowledge). Merle was the lead negotiator for the North American Indigenous Caucus in the negotiation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefits to Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge and chaired several experts and working groups in the achievement of this Protocol under the CBD.

Publications and Legal Commentator

Merle is the author of the Taxation and Financing of Aboriginal Businesses in Canada (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 1998), and a number of other publications. He has over 20 editorial articles for the Vancouver Sun and Aboriginal Marketplace on Indigenous resource law. He contributes regularly to the Osgoode law certificate program, CLE BC, Pacific Business Law Institute, Indigenous Bar Association, and numerous Indigenous political organizations such as BC Leadership Council, including advising First Nations on the role of Aboriginal economic rights. Merle has extensive and ongoing public advocacy on issues relating to Indigenous law and resources, and governance and economic rights. He is legal commentator for all regional and national newspapers, including the Vancouver Sun, Globe & Mail, National Post, Wall Street Journal and IPolitics. He has leadership and expertise in sustainable economic development, consultation, Indigenous law and research, and a range of other practice areas. Merle has been an invited speaker at over 100 conferences and workshops.

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