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Date: September 04, 2001

UVic Law Welcomes First-Year Nunavut Students Via Satellite

The traditional ceremony launching the first day of classes at UVic's law faculty included a few extra guests today--students studying for their UVic law degree over 3,600 kilometres away in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Linked to UVic via the Web and satellite technology, the 15 students are members of the inaugural class of the Akitsiraq Law Program, a partnership between UVic's law faculty, the Nunavut Arctic College and the Akitsiraq Law School Society. The program, the first of its kind in Canada, aims to increase the presence of Inuit lawyers within Nunavut's emerging government structure.

"We're delighted by the calibre of the students who are members of this class," says UVic law faculty member Don Galloway, who is the program's southern director. "They bring a tremendous amount of educational and life experience to the program. We're very excited about the next four years."

The students will advance through the program as a cohort (starting and finishing together without the introduction of new students each year). About 80 per cent of the class are female and half of the students are re-locating to Iqaluit from elsewhere in Nunavut. They include a former tourism executive, RCMP constable and film writer. Many have families. The students will study full-time and, when classes aren't in session, will work in various legal positions funded by the program's sponsors which include the federal department of justice, the government of Nunavut and various regional Inuit ogranizations.

The program's start-up northern director, Andrejs Berzins, a former Ottawa crown attorney, will hand over administration of Akitsiraq to Kelly Gallagher-Mackay, a UVic law grad who made her first visit to Nunavut on a law co-op placement. Cathy Bell, a law professor from the University of Alberta, will be the program's initial faculty member in residence then other members from UVic's law faculty will head north to spend sessions teaching in Iqaluit.

Finding accommodation for students in a community with a critical housing shortage and establishing an in-house law library so students don't have to walk to the nearby courthouse library in -40 degree winter weather presented unique challenges to Akitsiraq administrators. But despite the distance between the two campuses, students in Nunavut will have a constant UVic connection. Each will be assigned a 'buddy' in the first-year class in Victoria so, through email and other correspondence, the Akitsiraq students can share the UVic law first-year experience.

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Media contacts:
Andrew Petter (acting dean of law) at (250) 721-8147;
Don Galloway (law) at (250) 721-8173;
Andrejs Berzins (Akitsiraq law program) at (867) 974-6304;
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) (250) 721-7656.

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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