Kate Gunn—In the Spotlight

Practice Point

Kate Gunn—In the Spotlight

May 2020

This month’s second of two contributor spotlights is on Kate Gunn of First Peoples Law. Kate has recently worked on the “Aboriginal Rights Litigation” chapter for CLEBC’s forthcoming 3rd edition of Injunctions—British Columbia Law and Practice.

How did you first get involved with CLEBC?

I’ve only recently become directly involved in CLEBC initiatives. However, I frequently consult CLEBC materials in relation to legal issues in BC that are relevant to my work at First Peoples Law.

What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?

This spring, Bruce McIvor and I prepared an updated chapter on the use of injunctions in Aboriginal rights litigation for CLEBC’s forthcoming third edition of Injunctions—British Columbia Law and Practice.

Preparing the updated chapter was a great opportunity to consider how courts are currently approaching injunctions in the Aboriginal law context from both a practical and critical perspective. I also appreciated being able to examine the implications of judicial decisions to grant injunctions to companies seeking to prevent Indigenous groups from interfering with resource development on lands subject to unextinguished Aboriginal title and rights. This was particularly timely given that our work on the chapter corresponded with the events surrounding the enforcement of the 2019 BC Supreme Court injunction decision in respect of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet’suwet’en territory, and related solidarity actions across the country. We hope the updated chapter will be a useful resource for lawyers working on these issues.

How did you decide to focus your practice on Aboriginal and environmental law?

I wanted to develop a career which would allow me to work closely on the issues that I see as being critical to a just and equitable society, and that would challenge me to think creatively while also looking for practical solutions to help others. As a settler, I feel privileged to be able to work alongside Indigenous Peoples on issues related to their inherent title and rights and protection of their ancestral lands.

What is your advice to a young lawyer interested in practicing in these areas?

These can be challenging times for young lawyers, especially those seeking to establish themselves in specific areas. Developing and sustaining relationships with mentors working in the legal field can be helpful, regardless of whether they translate directly into career opportunities. I also think it’s important to maintain your commitment to your values and the reasons you decided to practice law, even if it’s not possible to find work immediately in your preferred area of practice.

In addition to practicing law, you are a board member of Justice and Corporate Accountability Project. What drew you to contribute to this organization?

JCAP was founded by a small group of academics and legal professionals in Canada with the goal of holding corporations and states to account by offering legal knowledge to communities that are negatively affected by natural resource extraction. We specialize in supporting litigation and legal work at the intersection of transnational corporate activities, resource extraction, and communities. It’s been inspiring to play a role in JCAP’s development and to see how much has been accomplished by committed lawyers and law students who volunteer their time for JCAP.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

I find peace spending time outside and being with my family. I have young children, and they provide both a good counterbalance to the practice of law, and a reminder about why my work is important in the first place. In my spare time I also write short fiction, and greatly value having a creative outlet that’s unrelated to my professional life.