Wednesday, June 22, 2005

First Law Class Graduates in Arctic Canada

National Aboriginal Day in Canada became a special occasion for the first law class graduates in Nunavut territory in Arctic Canada. Their graduation ceremony in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Tuesday was attended by Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. There were 11 graduates. If they eventually pass their bar exams, there will be 12 Inuit lawyers in Arctic Canada, including Premier Okalik. "This is a quantum change and a huge step toward righting the awful imbalance of Inuit involvement in the legal system of Nunavut," Clarkson told the assembly.

The Akitsiraq Law School was a partnership between the University of Victoria and Nunavut Arctic College. Law professors from across Canada flew to Iqaluit (capital of Nunavut) of to teach courses. For many students, attending a law school outside Nunavut and Arctic Canada was out of the question. "I would have had to enrol my children in different schools because they are all at different levels. And having to go through that would have been totally impossible for me," said graduate Aaju Peters, who has five children. Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy, another graduate, says leaving the Arctic would mean leaving behind her culture and language. "The North doesn't always have to go to the South and operate on southern standards. Southern standards can come to the North and be alive here and be enriched by us," she said.

The students are starting jobs across the country, including one graduate who got a job as a clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. The Akitsiraq was intended as a one-time program, but there have been discussions about offering it again in the Canadian Arctic.

For more information on culture and the arts of Arctic Canada, see Inuit Art Information Resource Articles.

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