SAY Magazine is happy to introduce Manitoba’s newest and largest Indigenous Law Firm, Cochrane Saxberg LLP. The firm is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and is led by managing partner, Harold (Sonny) Cochrane, a Cree lawyer from Fisher River Cree Nation who has been practicing law for over 23 years.

In operation since July 1, 2017, the firm’s areas of practice include Indigenous law, advocacy, litigation, employment and labour, child welfare and corporate/business law. While the firm may be new, the lawyers practicing at Cochrane Saxberg have extensive legal experience, with its founding practitioners all having formerly practiced at a major law firm in Winnipeg.

Located in the city’s Exchange District, their new office space is both welcoming and architecturally interesting, and was recently blessed by Elder Wally Chartrand. The firm’s culture is one of collegiality, respect and teamwork. Their commitment to excellence requires hard work and innovative thinking—their strength is their lawyers.

Of the fifteen lawyers at Cochrane Saxberg, half are Indigenous, half are female, and three of the five partners are First Nations.

Cochrane Saxberg actively recruits, supports and promotes talented lawyers, and is committed to the continuing education of all their staff, ensuring the firm is kept abreast of current laws, policies, regulations and other developments that may affect their clients.

The Firm represents First Nations, the Métis Nation, institutions (including child welfare agencies, lending institutions and employee unions), and individual clients in complex, highly contested civil cases and transactional business matters. Cochrane Saxberg professionals have been and are involved in many of the most significant and topical litigation and business law matters across Manitoba.

In April 2018 Cochrane Saxberg filed a court application on behalf of six Indigenous and Métis Child and Family Services Agencies. The lawsuit concerned the Government of Manitoba’s alleged illegal claw back of millions of dollars from Indigenous agencies of the Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) funds meant to be used for Indigenous children in care. To fully comprehend the severity of this provincial action, let’s put it in perspective: parents apply and qualify for child tax (a monthly benefit from the Government of Canada)—when children are in the care of an agency, the agency, as legal guardian, applies for the child tax called CSA. These CSA dollars must be used for the children, for their care, maintenance, education and advancement. The Province of Manitoba, however, has clawed back this money and instead placed the funds into the province’s general revenue account, in breach of the law. This illegal claw back has amounted to about $300 million. Cochrane said, “In effect, the province has been illegally balancing its books on the backs of the most vulnerable Indigenous children in the province. This is wrong. I am confident our court application to stop the province’s illegal claw back will succeed and we will positively affect the lives of thousands of Indigenous children.”

Land claims are another area in which Cochrane Saxberg has extensive knowledge and expertise. The law firm is legal counsel to the Treaty 1 First Nations involved in the Kapyong Barracks negotiation with the Government of Canada—a negotiation spanning more than a decade—in which an agreement has been reached to see the return of Kapyong lands (former national defense land, spanning 158 acres within an affluent area in Winnipeg) back to Treaty 1 First Nations. “This will create Canada’s largest urban reserve, a unique development that will see real economic opportunities created for Indigenous people, for Winnipeg and for Canada,” said Cochrane.

Cochrane Saxberg lawyers have played key roles in the litigation and negotiations leading to this historical deal. It’s evident the team at Cochrane Saxberg is committed to resolving the most challenging legal problems. With a diverse staff and a wealth of knowledge and experience, you can rest assured that your legal matters are in good hands with the professionals at Cochrane Saxberg.

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