Michael Jerch is the senior lawyer and principal of Jerch Law, a firm of three lawyers with significant experience with advocacy, development and litigation work for First Nations in Canadian Courts, tribunal and regulatory processes. Michael is a non-Indigenous lawyer, called to the bar in Manitoba in 1997, and in Alberta in 2008, and founded the firm in 2004.
Michael’s practice and the firm’s work includes general counsel work for First Nations governments and institutions, land related assistance and litigation. Michael has practiced primarily in the area of Aboriginal law for Indigenous Nations. This area of “Aboriginal law” means assisting Indigenous Nations and governments navigate through colonial Canadian laws. It also means assisting clients revitalizing Indigenous institutions and laws, economic and political sovereignty, land laws and codes and Indian Act tools, resisting colonial government interference, revitalization of laws and economic development projects.
Combined with drawing on a background in business and environmental studies and education, involvement in the bar association, and related work for tribal councils and Metis organizations prior to law, Michael has provided a range of legal services to Indigenous Nations in the areas of Aboriginal and Treaty rights law, environmental law, economic development and self-government.
Michael has appeared in court including the Supreme Court of Canada, Manitoba courts, the Federal Court and in Alberta court. A few practical examples include advocating for jurisdiction and control by Nations challenging discrimination by provincial and federal health care systems, drafting revitalized environmental laws under a tribal land code regime, ousting provincial regulatory interference and wildlife laws violating Treaties, and challenging Canadian laws including the Indian Act registration system.
Earlier Michael was in house counsel to a Chiefs assembly, worked in Aboriginal law as an associate in an Aboriginal law firm, studied with Aboriginal law scholars and working closely with several Manitoba northern Grand Chiefs. Michael has articled many law students, between 2003 and 2017, and volunteered with the Canadian Bar Association including an incredible experience as Chair of the National Aboriginal Law Section (when our own bar association considered intervening in a case at the Supreme Court of Canada on the side of Chevron Canada against an Ecuadorian tribe).
Michael co-chaired (with two amazing co-chairs and two talented articling students) the most recent 2017 Canadian Bar Association Aboriginal Law Conference in Winnipeg “Canada’s Commitment to a Renewed Nation-to-Nation Relationship with Indigenous People”.
The rest of the time Michael enjoys time with his family at home, still plays a bit of guitar and tries to get out into the woods here and there.
Michael’s accomplishments include the following:
- Preparing Indigenous Peoples environmental management and protection laws for the regulation of Indigenous Peoples lands;
- Preparing Indigenous Peoples governance laws, citizenship, constitutions and health regulation and other laws enacted pursuant to federal legislation, inherent rights and indigenous legal traditions of Indigenous Peoples ;
- Preparing Indigenous Peoples land regulation and zoning laws and land codes pursuant to the federal Indigenous Peoples Land Management Act;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in Aboriginal and Treaty rights litigation with the federal Crown and disputes over Indigenous Peoples jurisdiction;
- Representing a Indigenous Peoples lending agency in collections;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in debtor-creditor litigation, construction litigation and debt consolidation;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples commercial interests in natural resources and construction projects on reserve;
- Preparing commercial security for on reserve commercial projects and transactions;
- Establishing Indigenous Peoples non-profit entities and agencies providing governmental public services and guidelines and policies for service delivery arrangements with the Crown by Indigenous Peoples institutions for the provision of employment and training and health services;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in litigation concerning Indian Act exemptions from seizure of Indigenous Peoples income and property¸ particularly the case of McDiarmid Lumber v. God’s Lake First Nation
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in litigation concerning treaty land entitlements and third party interests in land;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in litigation concerning the protection of the Crown exemption for Indigenous Peoples tobacco and health laws;
- Representing and advising Indigenous Peoples on historical matters including land claims and land expropriations;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in defending Indigenous Peoples individuals in wildlife and natural resources prosecutions;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry Child Welfare Initiative (AJICWI) process for the drafting of new Manitoba legislation dealing with child welfare jurisdictions and drafting Manitoba’s child welfare laws;
- Preparing impacts benefits agreements and memoranda of understanding with provincial and federal governments;
- Representing Indigenous Peoples in litigation regarding Crown obligations and the provision of essential services;