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Date: June 21, 2005

Inuit Law Grads Celebrate at Arctic Convocation

Graduation processionAaju Peter (centre), Qajaq Robinson (taller, middle) and Naomi Wilman (back) walk into the gymnasium to start their graduation ceremonies in Iqaluit June 21.
Class earned University of Victoria law degrees in Nunavut

Graduates from Canada’s first Arctic law school received University of Victoria law degrees in a special ceremony today in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The eleven students earned their degrees through a unique program offered in the territory by UVic’s faculty of law in partnership with the Akitsiraq Law School Society and Nunavut Arctic College.

The ceremony, in Iqaluit’s Inuksuk High School, combined Inuit and academic traditions. Canada’s Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, Nunavut Commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson, and Premier Paul Okalik were among those in attendance. Honorary degrees were conferred on Madam Justice Beverley Browne, senior judge in the Nunavut Court of Justice, and Lucien Ukaliannuk, the Akitsiraq program’s elder-in-residence.

“UVic is committed to increasing the participation and success of Indigenous people in university. There was a fundamental need in Nunavut for access to legal education and the Akitsiraq program met that need by providing students with an outstanding education in their own territory,” says UVic president Dr. David Turpin.

“These graduates are likely to become the future leaders and builders of Nunavut,” says UVic law dean Andrew Petter. “One of the major challenges facing Indigenous students is the great distances they are often required to travel to obtain a university education. Through the Akitsiraq program, these exceptional students were able to earn their degrees while remaining close to their families and culture in the territory that will now benefit from their legal knowledge.”

“The Government of Nunavut participation in the Akitsiraq law school represents a significant public investment in our people and our future which will increase opportunities for individuals as well as promoting Inuit societal values in all sectors of our society,” says Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik.

Farther from Iqaluit than any other Canadian law school, UVic law has a national reputation for academic excellence and as an innovator in curriculum and program development. The faculty also has a strong Indigenous law curriculum that recognizes both Western and Indigenous legal traditions.

UVic’s ties to Nunavut began in the early 1990s with law co-op students engaged in work terms with the Nunavut Court of Justice. By 1999, a proposal for an Arctic law school was being circulated and UVic, seeing the potential of this approach to legal education, signed on as a partner.

The Program was funded from a number of sources, including Justice Canada, the government of Nunavut, Inuit organizations, the RCMP, and the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation. These organizations, as well as private donors, sponsored students through their studies and some provided job placements between academic terms. Many of the graduates will now work for the sponsoring agencies.
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Media contacts:
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) will be in Iqaluit June 21 and 22. To arrange interviews with Dr. David Turpin, Dean Andrew Petter and Akitsiraq Law Program students, faculty and administrators please contact her at (250) 888-0784 or contact the UVic Communications office at (250) 721-7636.

Backgrounders:
Akitsiraq Law Program
Akitsiraq Law Program Honorary Degrees
Aboriginal Education and Initiatives at UVic
Photos page:
Inuit Law Grads Celebrate at Arctic Convocation Images

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