Martin J. Valasek

Head of International Arbitration, Canada, Partner

Martin Valasek


T:+1 514.847.4818

F:+1 514.286.5474

Martin Valasek is a leading practitioner in the area of international arbitration, with extensive experience in both investor-state and commercial contract disputes. He regularly acts as counsel, and also sits as an arbitrator.

His experience covers a wide range of legal systems and industries, including aerospace, banking, construction, mining, energy, environmental remediation, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing. He has provided winning guidance to clients, in both transactions and disputes, under all of the leading rules, including the ICC, LCIA, ICSID and UNCITRAL Rules, and other institutional and ad hoc regimes. He has acted as arbitrator, and as tribunal secretary, in several important arbitrations, including the multibillion dollar Yukos-Energy Charter Treaty arbitration. Mr. Valasek is a frequent speaker, lecturer and contributor to various publications in his areas of practice.

Mr. Valasek joined our Montréal office in 2003, having started his career in arbitration and litigation in New York City. Prior to that, he clerked for Mr. Justice Gonthier of the Supreme Court of Canada, and was editor‑in‑chief of the McGill Law Journal.

Mr. Valasek is fluent in English, French and Czech, and has a working knowledge of Spanish.

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  • Year of call
    Quebec 2005
    New York 2000
    Ontario 2000
  • Law school
    LL.B./B.C.L., McGill University, 1998
  • Education
    A.B., Harvard College, 1991
  • Speaking engagements
    • Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy’s Expert Witness Workshop (Faculty member), George Washington University Law School, Washington DC, June 11‑13, 2015.
    • “Important Factors Impacting Choice of Law and Choice of Venue,” Ontario Bar Association, Toronto, May 21, 2015.
    • “The Interrelationship between Investment Arbitration, Indigenous Rights, and Environment Law” (panel chair), Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, McGill University, March 25, 2014
    • “Third-Party Funding in International Arbitration,” Canadian College of Construction Lawyers' 13th Annual Conference, Halifax, May 28, 2010.
    • “NAFTA arbitration: Metalclad, Loewen and Methanex,” Penn State-McGill Program on International Arbitration and Commercial Litigation, Montreal, May 20, 2010.
    • “Développements récents en droit international privé,” (co-panelist: Azim Hussain), Canadian Bar Association, Montreal, February 16, 2010.
    • “Introduction to ICC Arbitration: the Hearing,” presentation to delegation from Vietnam, McGill University Faculty of Law, December 2, 2009.
    • “International Investment Treaty Arbitration: A Comparative View of the Practice,” 39th Annual Workshop on Commercial and Consumer Law, University of Montreal, October 16, 2009.
    • “International Human Rights Law and its Impact on International Investment Arbitration: Are Human Rights Obligations Eroding the Promotion of Standards for the Protection of International Investment?” Arbitration in Latin America, DR-CAFTA, FTAs, BITs, and Commercial Arbitration Involving States, IBA/ICC Conference, San José, Costa Rica, August 25, 2009.
    • “Les clauses de résolution des différends dans les contrats commerciaux - Conception et conseils de rédaction,” Insight - Septième conférence annuelle sur la négociation et la rédaction de conventions commerciales, Montreal, January 27, 2009.
  • Selected client work

    Mr. Valasek has acted for the following clients:

    • As lead partner in Montréal of a multi-office team representing a manufacturer in the successful settlement of a dispute concerning a technology licensing agreement that was originally submitted to arbitration under the ICC rules. The dispute was governed by New York law, and also involved issues of US federal and European antitrust law.
    • As co-counsel to AbitibiBowater Inc. in its NAFTA claim against the Government of Canada arising from the expropriation of its rights and assets in Newfoundland and Labrador by provincial legislation, resulting in a settlement for compensation of $130 million (UNCITRAL arbitration)
    • A Canadian company in the defence of a claim by a Mauritian company arising out of the termination of a $20 million contract for the sale of a jet, resulting in an award that dismissed the claim with prejudice and with costs (LCIA arbitration in London)
    • A Canadian company in connection with an investment dispute with the Republic of Kazakhstan, seeking compensation under Kazakhstan’s foreign investment law for breach of various agreements (UNCITRAL arbitration in Stockholm)
    • A Canadian pharmaceutical company in a dispute under a licensing agreement with a distributor in the US (ad hoc “baseball” arbitration under New York law)
    • A Canadian multinational telecommunications firm in connection with a mechanism to resolve disputes arising in the allocation of funds as between competing bankruptcy estates
    • A Canadian multinational engineering firm in connection with several matters, including an ICC arbitration and a dispute with an African state (negotiations, and possible related ICSID proceedings)
    • As co-counsel to a Canadian company in a dispute with the government of a Caribbean country arising out of the implementation of an environmental remediation contract (ad hoc arbitration in Barbados)
    • A Canadian company in a dispute with the government of a European country arising from an offset contract (ICC arbitration in Paris)
    • As co-counsel to Cypriot companies in connection with an investment dispute with the Republic of Hungary, resulting in an award of US$84 million in compensation to the investors for an unlawful expropriation (ICSID arbitration in Washington and London)
  • Media highlights
    • “AbitibiBowater wins NAFTA case vs. Ottawa,” Montreal Gazette, August 27, 2010.
    • “Ottawa launches international arbitration association,” Global Arbitration Review, June 16, 2010.
    • “There’s no place like home,” Canadian Lawyer Magazine, October 16, 2008.
    • “Canada passes ICSID while provinces delay,” Global Arbitration Review, March 20, 2008.
    • “Des avocats qui donnent. Spécial sur le travail pro bono,” Le Journal du Barreau, December 2007.
    • “Rising stars of the legal community under 40 years,” Montreal Gazette, November 23, 2007.
    • “A gathering of Canada’s young arbitration practitioners drew record numbers,” Global Arbitration Review, October 5, 2007.
    • “Arbitration case was a major victory,” Montreal Gazette, December 22, 2006.
  • Rankings and recognitions

    award 75x109 - GAR 45 under 45 badge

    • Best Lawyers 2015: International Arbitration
    • Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business, 2012-2015: Dispute Resolution: Arbitration
    • Who’s Who Legal, Canada 2014: Arbitration
    • Best Lawyers in Canada, 2013-2014: International Arbitration
    • Lexpert®/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada 2013, most frequently recommended in the area of Arbitration
    • Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory, 2012-2013: recommended in International Commercial Arbitration
    • The International Who’s Who of Arbitration Lawyers, 2012-2013
    • Global Arbitration Review’s45 under 45” (recognized as a leading figure of the international arbitration bar under age 45 by the leading global publication and news service in this field) 
    • PLC Which lawyer? 2011 and 2012 – Dispute resolution: international arbitration
    • The International Who’s Who Legal 2011 for Arbitration (described as “very experienced”)
    • Guide to the World’s Leading Experts in Commercial Arbitration, June 2011
    • Who’s Who Legal Canada 2011 and 2010 (“impressed those he has worked with -- ‘he is assertive, precise and has an excellent understanding of international arbitration rules’ -- and he has extensive experience of arbitrations conducted under the ICC, LCIA, ICSID and UNCITRAL rules, as well as ad hoc proceedings”)
    • The International Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration Lawyers, 2011
    • Global Arbitration Review (GAR100), 2011 – International Arbitration
    • 2009 Guide to the World’s Leading Experts in Commercial Arbitration
    • Named one of Lexpert’s “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40” in 2007
  • Memberships and activities
    • Canadian Bar Association
    • Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Panel of International Commercial Arbitrators)
      • ICC National Committee
    • International Bar Association
      • IBA Working Group on Investment Arbitration (2014)
      • Arbitration Guidelines and Rules Subcommittee
    • Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners
      • Director (since September 2007)
      • President (2007-2010)
    • Young International Arbitration Group, LCIA
      • Regional representative for North America (Canada) (2006-2009)
    • Young Arbitrators’ Forum (YAF) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
      • Canadian representative (since 2008)
    • Rotating chair, student tribunals, Concordia University
    • Pro Bono Students Canada McGill (supervising various pro bono projects)
    • Chair, Centraide (United Way) Leaders' Campaign at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada (since 2008)
    • President, jury for selection of Centraide (United Way) awards (Solidaires 2009)
  • Directorships
    • Bach-Académie de Montréal
    • Andover Canadian Fund Inc.
    • Advisory Board, McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy