Benchmark Canada Litigation Star Aboriginal law

Benchmark Canada, 2014


  • LLB, 1979
    McGill University
  • BCL, 1978
    McGill University
  • BA, 1973
    Sir George Williams University

Year of Call/Admission

  • Ontario, 1981

Languages Spoken

  • English

Neal J. Smitheman

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+1 416 868 3441
+1 416 364 7813 (fax)

Neal Smitheman practises both civil and criminal litigation. His corporate commercial litigation practice results in frequent appearances on behalf of clients before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Appeal. Neal is often called upon to appear on short notice on matters ranging from corporate oppression to derivative actions to commercial injunctions. Neal's experience as a commercial litigator, coupled with his knowledge of environmental law, has resulted in him being retained to act on behalf of clients in several significant toxic tort cases currently before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Neal has also developed an extensive criminal and quasi-criminal practice. He has successfully defended numerous individuals charged under the Criminal Code of Canada, including everything from impaired driving to criminal negligence to sexual and aggravated assault. Neal’s criminal practice extends to white collar and corporate criminal matters; he is currently the Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Regional Sub-Committee (Canada) on White Collar Crime. Neal’s criminal law practice also includes representing clients being investigated and charged under the Competition Act, Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Fisheries Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Electricity Act, the Atomic Energy Act, and other regulatory statutes.

As the Chair of the Toronto Aboriginal Law Practice Group, Neal is called upon to advise and represent clients in this burgeoning area of legal specialty. Neal is currently representing several mineral companies, numerous municipalities and others in high-profile cases in Northern and Southern Ontario involving, among other things, significant land claims. Neal recently convinced an Ontario Superior Court Judge that mining companies had no duty to consult First Nations under the Mining Act (the Mining Act has since been amended); and in the Ontario Court of Appeal, a municipality’s rights and authority extended to include the enactment of bylaws to curtail blockades and interference with third party development within the city. Neal has also been consulted by clients in ongoing negotiations with Native groups; he has negotiated a number of agreements with First Nations.

In addition to defending individuals and corporations charged under various regulatory statutes, Neal is frequently retained to represent clients in administrative law matters and before specialized tribunals. Recently, Neal successfully convinced the Mining Commissioners at a hearing under the Ontario Mining Act to refuse to grant easements to a large multi-national mining company over mining claims registered in the name of an Ontario mining company. Neal was also successful in a landmark decision under the Environmental Assessment Act resulting in the first private proponent approval for a large waste management system to service southeastern Ontario. He has acted on numerous matters before the Ontario Municipal Board. At the Ontario Energy Board, Neal convinced the Board at a re-hearing to adopt a new approach to the unbundled cost of power distribution resulting in a significant cost saving to our client. He successfully challenged a newly enacted City of Toronto Parking By-Law that will have far reaching effects on private property owners in particular, and the City of Toronto Parking Authority in general.

Neal's Civil Law Degree provides him with the background necessary to negotiate with, and assist, lawyers practicing civil law and, in certain instances, to represent multi-national clients in the Province of Quebec.

Neal joined the firm in 1981 and became a partner in 1986.

Honours and Awards

  • Benchmark Litigation 2017 - Aboriginal Litigator of the Year
  • Benchmark Canada 2017 as "Litigation Star" in Aboriginal and Environmental Law and Commercial Litigation in Ontario
  • Chambers Global 2013-2017 for Aboriginal Law (Canada)
  • ROB/Lexpert Canada’s Leading Energy Lawyers, November 2016
  • Legal 500 Canada 2016 for Energy: Mining
  • Lexpert® Ranked Energy Lawyer, Report on Business, November 2014
  • Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory 2013-2017, Aboriginal Law
  • Chambers Canada 2016 and 2017 for Aboriginal Law
  • Benchmark Litigation 2013-2014 as a "Local Litigation Star" and "Litigation Star" for Aboriginal law in Canada
  • Benchmark Litigation 2012 as an "Aboriginal law star," "Competition litigation star" and "International arbitration litigation star" and as a "local litigation star" for Aboriginal law, commercial litigation, competition and environmental law in Ontario


  • Member, Canadian Bar Association
  • Member, Ontario Bar Association
  • Served as Canadian Co-Chairs to the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Regional Sub-Committee (Canada) on White Collar Crime);