Woodward has practiced law since 1979, primarily in the areas of Aboriginal law and environmental law. He has represented more than a hundred First Nations groups and organisations in a wide variety of legal actions including the landmark case, Tsilhqot'in Nation v British Columbia, the first successful Aboriginal title claim in Canada.
Woodward wrote the first draft of Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which provides constitutional protection to the indigenous and treaty rights of indigenous peoples in Canada. Ian Waddell, in his book Take the Torch: A Political Memoir, states that Woodward drafted the clause in January 1981, during negotiations in Ottawa with Minister of Justice Jean Chrétien.
In 1988 he established the legal firm, Woodward and Company. He was also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Victoria for sixteen years, where he was instrumental in creating the University's first course in Aboriginal law.
Jack Woodward’s great aunt, Elizabeth Woodward, was married to John Oliver, the 19th premier of British Columbia.
Native Law is a comprehensive collection of all the laws in Canada relating specifically to Aboriginal people. International law, constitutional law, statute, common law and custom are all covered, with updates six times per year and frequent revisions to whole chapters and sections in this rapidly-evolving field. Native Law was reviewed by the Alberta Law Review Society which described the text as, “a valuable aid for legal researchers who wish to establish a background in the subject area as well as for practitioners who need to know what law applies to specific issues before them.”
Consolidated Native Law Statutes, Regulations and Treaties
Under the editorial direction of Jack Woodward, this work continues to bring together a timely consolidation of the significant statutes, regulations, and treaties that have an impact on the area of native law. Additionally, this text contains helpful finding tools that simplify research, including a detailed master table of contents, a table of contents for each statute, and a comprehensive key word index.
Bullen & Leake & Jacob's Canadian Precedents of Pleadings
Bullen & Leake & Jacob’s Precedents of Pleadings is widely regarded as the essential guide to drafting statements of case. It offers the advocate a stock of authoritative, structured precedents of statements of case complete with guiding commentary across both mainstream and specialist areas of practice. Mr. Woodward wrote Part 1 which covers critical underlying principles through discussion and application within some of the more challenging areas of Aboriginal Law.
Notable Legal Cases
In 1984, members of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and other protesters blocked MacMillan Bloedel’s access to its logging operations on Meares Island which is located in the Clayoquot Sound region of British Columbia. The dispute falls under the assertion by the Province of British Columbia who designates the targeted land as Crown Land, whereas protesters claimed that by allowing logging on Meares Island, there would be a direct interference with Aboriginal title. A court injunction was sought to halt MacMillan Bloedel’s operations until the claim was resolved. The Martin (Meares Island) case was adjourned by agreement of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, MacMillan Bloedel, and the governments of British Columbia and Canada. The injunction on logging is still in effect and none of the parties have requested resumption of the trial.
Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and the first case to successfully establish a declaration of Aboriginal title over land that a nation had historically occupied. The underlying circumstances that established the reasoning behind that case begin in 1983 when the province issued licence to Carrier Lumber to begin logging in the remote areas of central British Columbia which was claimed by the Xeni Gwet'in band of the Tsilhqot'in Nation. The Xeni Gwet'in filed suit seeking a court declaration that would prohibit Carrier Lumber's commercial logging operations in this area, and establish their claim for Aboriginal title to the land. After 5 years at trial, both the federal and provincial governments opposed the title claim which resulted to a final appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court, led by McLachlin CJ, unanimously allowed the appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Tsilhqot'in people were entitled to a declaration of Aboriginal title to the 1,750 square kilometre region they had historically occupied.
- Woodward, Jack (1989). Native Law. Toronto: Carswell. ISBN 0459332716. OCLC 23941862.
- "Thomson Reuters Canada". Thomson Reuters.
- Lavoie, Judith (May 20, 2018). "B.C. First Nation launches first ever case to extend Aboriginal title to ocean". Retrieved January 3, 2019.
- Hunter, Troy (January 30, 2017). "Opinion: The land question should be a matter of concern". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
- Waddell, Ian (2018). Take the Torch: A Political Memoir. Gibsons, BC, Canada: Nightwood Editions. pp. 126, 127. ISBN 978-0-88971-347-5.
- "Queen's Counsel Appointments - 2011". The Canadian Bar Association. Dec 22, 2011.
- "Biography – OLIVER, JOHN – Volume XV (1921-1930) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". www.biographi.ca. Retrieved 2020-08-05.
- "CanLII | Book Review - Native Law, by Jack Woodward". commentary.canlii.org. Retrieved 2020-08-21.
- MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v. Mullin, 1985 CanLII 154 (BC CA)
- Joseph, Bob. "Meares Island case 1985". www.ictinc.ca. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
- Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44,  2 S.C.R. 256
- Fort McKay First Nation v Prosper Petroleum Ltd, 2020 ABCA 163