Karen I. Justel*
Karen is a Shareholder, practicing exclusively in the areas of corporate law and commercial transactions, acting primarily for aboriginal businesses. She has acted as legal counsel to the Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta, and their wholly-owned businesses and joint ventures for almost 20 years. Karen also has extensive experience in assisting First Nations on a wide range of business matters, including: business structures designed to maximize preferential tax treatment and minimize liability; drafting and negotiating business and investment opportunities provisions of impact benefit agreements; establishing investment and business trusts; corporate governance; economic development projects; establishing and ongoing representation of multi-stakeholder joint ventures with non-aboriginal industry partners; on-reserve commercial leasing and development; and financing and security on reserve lands.
Specific engagements have included:
- lead counsel to Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation in their $503 million acquisition in 2017 from Suncor Energy of a 49% interest in the East Tank Farm development (a bitumen and diluent storage, blending and cooling facility located 30 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta) and with the associated $545 million financing by way of 4.136% senior secured notes rated Baa1 by Moody’s and BBB (high) by DBRS. At closing, the transaction represented the largest-ever business investment by a First Nation entity in Canada;
- representing a First Nation in the structuring, development and financing of a destination resort and casino project;
- establishment of a reclamation services joint venture involving multiple First Nation stakeholders and a major North American corporate partner; and
- acting on specific projects for various B.C., Alberta, Yukon, and Northwest Territories First Nations, Tribal Councils, Territorial Governments and Metis organizations.
Karen is called to the bar in both B.C. and Alberta and maintains active membership in the law societies of both Provinces. In addition, she has practiced in Sydney, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; and Edmonton, Alberta.
- University of British Columbia, B.A.
- University of Victoria, LL.B.
- Year of Call: 1989 (B.C.), 2001 (Alberta)
Accredited Professional Advisor, British Columbia Employee Share Ownership Program
- Lecturer in Business Law, Alberta Bar Admission Program
- Lecturer, Pacific Business & Law Institute (First Nations’ Special Purpose Trusts)
- Establishment of legal documentation and compliance mechanisms to govern a Canada-wide network of over 100 licensed retail locations, and ongoing representation as corporate and general counsel of licensor.
- Formation of a number of individual and multi-stakeholder joint ventures between First Nations and industry partners to carry on business in the oil sands region of Alberta, and ongoing representation of the joint venture entities.
- Acting as corporate and general counsel to a major First Nation and its business organization, including with respect to matters of corporate governance, financings, restructurings, negotiation of commercial contracts and leases, and negotiation of industry sustainability agreements.
- Acted with respect to all aspects of a major First Nations casino development.