Michael Jerch is the senior lawyer, and principal, of the firm known as Jerch Law, which is a firm of three lawyers with significant experience with First Nations lands advocacy and development, and litigation in Canadian Courts, tribunal and regulatory processes. Michael is 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 advising a Chiefs’ Assembly and representing several First Nations and First Nations organizations and entities. For two decades Michael has practiced exclusively in the area of Aboriginal law. This is the area of practice in assisting Indigenous Nations and governments navigate through Canadian laws and to achieve the revitalization of their economic and political sovereignty, challenge Canadian laws and seek damages from Canadian governments. From assisting Indigenous Nations with the assertion of their control over lands through means available including Nations’ land codes and Indian Act tools, working with tribal leaders, Elders and professionals to assert land rights and economic development projects.
As a non-Indigenous lawyer, Michael has provided a full range of legal services to Indigenous nations in the areas of Aboriginal and Treaty rights law, environmental law, economic development and self-government out of a belief in a different Canada than the one that exists. Michael has appeared at all levels of court in Canada including the Supreme Court of Canada and appeared in Aboriginal litigation matters in Manitoba and Alberta. This has included advocating for jurisdiction and control by Nations governing health according to the Nation’s laws and challenging discrimination by provincial and federal health care systems, drafting one of the first revitalized environmental laws under a tribal land code regime, ousting provincial regulatory interference and wildlife laws which violate the Treaties, and challenging Canadian laws including the Indian Act registration system.
Prior to starting the firm Michael was in house counsel to the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and provided legal counsel to the Chiefs on a wide range of matters from self-government, Treaty rights and assisted in the re-drafting of child and family services laws in Manitoba. Michael’s practice in Aboriginal law began as an associate at one of the early Aboriginal law boutique firms in Manitoba in the 1990’s, and after studying with several leading Aboriginal law scholars in Ontario and working closely as advisor to several Manitoba Grand Chiefs including Elder Sydney Garrioch and the late Chief Francis Flett, and more recently working with Cree Elders on the traditional laws of their Nation.
Michael has also had a significant number of articling students between 2003 and 2017 who completed their articles and admitted to practice law in Manitoba, and has fulfilled a commitment of volunteering with the Canadian Bar Association for about two decades including as Chair of Canadian Bar Association National Aboriginal Law Section during the time of upheaval in the CBA (when it was involved in a dispute over intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada in a case involving an Ecuadorian tribe seeking payment for reparations against Chevron Canada) and co-chairing (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, playing guitar, getting out on the land.
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;