Akitsiraq Law School
Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
Program Description

Please note: This is a one-time program for Inuit students only. New applications are not being accepted at this time.

 

A Program of the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law in partnership with Nunavut Arctic College and The Akitsiraq Law School Society offered in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The importance of a learning institution in the area of law in Nunavut cannot be underestimated. Nunavummiut need to prepare for the challenges ahead
if we are to reach our full potential.
~ The Honourable Paul Okalik, Premier of Nunavut

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a learning institution in the law, and the
need for Inuit to attend and prepare for the many challenges in Nunavut
along with our Northern neighbours.
~ The Honourable James Igoliorte, Judge, Provincial Court of Newfoundland

A Northern Law Program

The need for Inuit lawyers and for a new approach to legal education:

Throughout the North there is a growing need for Inuit Lawyers in all levels of public service, in industry and for the private practice of law. Identified as a major priority by the Government of Nunavut, legal education for Inuit would address the systemic barriers to Inuit employment, greatly improve the delivery and quality of services to the majority population, and meet the representative Inuit employment obligations as provided in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Indeed, key to the success of Nunavut is the training and education of its beneficiaries in all sectors of the professional job market.

The Akitsiraq Law School program has been established to address this specific need by providing a unique opportunity for Inuit students to receive a legal education in Nunavut and to become fully qualified lawyers.

Equipping Inuit with invaluable tools to build their society, this one-time program will have a lasting effect on the development of Nunavut.

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A Partnership Creating a Law School in the North

The idea behind the Akitsiraq Law School has developed over the past ten years. The Akitsiraq Law School Society is a result of those ongoing discussions and enthusiasm. The Akitsiraq Law School is an innovative approach to delivering legal education to Inuit students in their own social, cultural, and geographical environment in the North. The School is based on a partnership between the Akitsiraq Law School Society, the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law, and Nunavut Arctic College.

The Akitsiraq Law School Society

The Akitsiraq Law School Society is a, non-profit, organization in Nunavut, composed of Inuit community members, educators, and local legal professionals. The Society was founded to promote the establishment of a law school in Nunavut and it will remain an active partner through its role of ensuring that the school reflects the unique realities of the North and the priorities of the Inuit.

The University of Victoria, Faculty of Law

The University of Victoria Faculty of Law is recognized as one of Canada's leading law schools. It is particularly known for its student centered and skills based approach to legal education, its commitment to social justice and diversity in the legal profession, and the excellence of its students and faculty. It is the only law school in the country with a co-op program that integrates education and work experience.

Nunavut Arctic College

Nunavut Arctic College has an important role to play as a partner in the delivery of the law school program. Key resources that the College contributes include expertise in delivery of education to Inuit, understanding of distinctive learning styles, counseling and other forms of support and facilities.

The Program
Inuit students are able to earn a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) from the University of Victoria through the academic program offered in Iqaluit, Nunavut using the facilities of Nunavut Arctic College. Courses are taught by University of Victoria faculty members and law professors from other Canadian universities with assistance from local members of the legal profession. Graduates of this program will have exactly the same credentials to practice law as students graduating from southern law schools.

In September 2001, there was a one-time admission of a group of students who are progressing through the program together. The program will take 4 years to complete on a full-time basis. There are currently no plans to admit students in later years.

The program provides a very high faculty-student ratio and substantial support to students through mentoring, tutoring and general skills development courses.

In the introductory year, students received some exposure to courses normally taught at law schools, such as Criminal Law and Contracts. The emphasis, however, was on teaching the students about fundamental legal concepts and institutions through a Legal Process course and providing them with the skills necessary to succeed at law school through a Legal Research and Writing course, including a studies skills component.

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In the following three years all standard law school compulsory courses will be included, along with a selection of other courses. Several courses, of particular relevance to the Inuit and to the North, will be developed or tailored specifically for the program. These may include courses on customary law, community justice initiatives, alternative dispute resolution, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, environmental law, and northern resources law and management.

Inuit Traditional Law and Inuit Qaujimatuqangit was a component of the Legal Process course in the introductory year and will be incorporated throughout the law program using the expertise of elders and local educators from across Nunavut and other Inuit regions.

In order for students in the Akitsiraq Law School to gain broader exposure to all aspects of a university education they will be encouraged, in later years of the program, to spend one term of study in the South, either at the University of Victoria or another Canadian law school.


Akitsiraq Students Attend University of Ottawa

This past month has been an exciting one for the students in the Akitsiraq Law School Program. Having completed their academic year in December, our students are now in their 3-month work placements with various organizations including the RCMP, Justice Canada and the Government of Nunavut where they will be gaining valuable experience before once again resuming their academic program in May, in Iqaluit.

Through the financial generosity of The Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation, The Maurice Price Foundation, the federal Department of Justice and Nelligan O'Brien Payne law firm, and the efforts of Dean Andrew Petter (UVic), Dean Bruce Feldthusen (University of Ottawa Common Law Section), Northern Director Shelley Wright (Iqaluit, NU) and Southern Director Kim Hart Wensley (UVic), all students in the Akitsiraq Program had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Ottawa in January 2004 where they studied law in the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law Intensive Program. Each student chose one course not otherwise offered by Akitsiraq. This gave the students an opportunity to be taught by professors who are not involved in the Akitsiraq Program, to interact with law students from other parts of Canada, to share their knowledge of their culture and the North with others, and to discuss issues of importance to them with their peers. The trip was a great success as attested to by the Akitsiraq students themselves (below).

"I would like to thank all of the sponsors who made it possible for the Akitsiraq students to attend the intensive program offered by the University of Ottawa. The courses were exceptional and the interaction with the various professors and fellow students were enriching. Some of the more memorable events outside of the class room included a lunch with some of the members of Nelligan O'Brien and Payne and our very own Premier, the Honourable Paul Okalik, who is a graduate of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. We also had a tour of the Supreme Court of Canada complete with a one-on-one discussion with Madam Justice Louise Arbour; a meeting with Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler; and afternoon tea with Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada. I also had the pleasure of attending my very first live NHL hockey game where the Ottawa Senators decimated the New York Rangers 9 to 1." (Henry Coman)

"I was thrilled to attend OttawaU. I loved the idea of taking a course of my choice. I chose Forensic Evidence because I am interested in becoming a defense counsel." (Connie Merkosak)

"There were many aspects of the Ottawa trip that I enjoyed… in particular…listening to the comments and questions of the UofO students during our classes. It was nice to get a different perspective... One of my favourite experiences was our dinner with the Aboriginal Students Association… I liked listening to the Aboriginal students from U of O talk about treaty and land claim issues. The passion with which they spoke was motivating and inspirational."

"Over all the visit was great. I took Aboriginal Business Law and I learned so much from it… Professor Tracey Lindberg was fabulous. She gave us many tools to use in the future. The Inuit, First Nations and non-Aboriginal speakers who gave talks on specific issues dealing with the economy and the Constitution gave me hope for the future. They made me realize that I don’t need to carry around the effects and pain of colonialism… I was so inspired by their knowledge and lack of ill feelings … What I learned was to focus on what we as Inuit want to do and also that is nothing is impossible. I liked hearing about First Nations who have taken control of their own lives in dealing with social, health, and education issues. I got the sense that we need to keep on going so that others can follow behind us… knowing that we are accomplishing something worthwhile. Qujannamiik." (Aaju Peter)


Academic Year

The law school is a full-time, four year program that intersperses educational terms with work terms in which students are able to gain practical experience working with the sponsoring organizations.

The remaining academic terms are:

Summer Term 2004 - May to August

Fall Term 2004 - September to December

Summer Term 2005 - May to August

with work placements in the witners of 2004 and 2005.


Entrance Requirements


The program was open to Inuit candidates from all of Canada's Provinces and Territories.

Candidates were interviewed by an admissions committee and considered on an individual basis taking into account a variety of factors including employment history, involvement in public government, voluntary community activities, academically related extra-curricular activities, and academic performance.


Student Sponsorship and Financial Assistance

A Sponsorship Program was developed as a unique way of providing financial assistance to enable Nunavut students to study at the Akitsiraq Law School. It is an alternative to the Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students program (FANS). The program invloves sponsors providing on-going financial support to the students and, in exchange, students will work for sponsors at certain times throughout their years of study and following graduation. The sponsorship program takes account of the many challenges experienced in the delivery of professional postsecondary education in the North and aims to address the problems previously experienced by Nunavut students. To date, the Government of Nunavut, the Department of Justice of Canada and several Inuit organizations in Nunavut have agreed to sponsor a number of Nunavut student positions.

It is anticipated that the student sponsorship model will be the principal means of providing funding of students.

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The financial assistance provided through the sponsorship consists of:

  • A base allowance sufficient to meet the needs of students; and
  • Housing arrangements that are similar to the Government of Nunavut housing policy.
    The financial assistance provided under the sponsorship program is at a level which allows the students to have their essential needs met so that they may concentrate on their studies.


Sponsorship Agreement and Student Work Commitments:

In return for sponsorship, students are required to make commitments, which are set out in formal agreements. The following terms are included:

    1. That students attend classes regularly, complete their assignments, and make a genuine effort to succeed.
    2. That students do law-related work for sponsors during periods of the year when classes are not in session.
    3. That students article after graduation and seek admission to the Law Society of Nunavut (or to the Law Society of another territory or province in the case of students from outside of Nunavut).
    4. That, following their call to the bar, students do legal work for a sponsor for a minimum of two years or do other legal work in Nunavut for four years. (Students from outside of Nunavut may be required to do the legal work in their own territory or province).
    5. That, subject to special circumstances, students pay back the financial support which they received if they drop out of school or do not fulfill their work obligations after graduation and call to the bar.

For further information on the Akitsiraq Law School, please contact:

Shelley Wright
Northern Director
Akitsiraq Law School Program
PO Box 2292
Iqaluit NU X0A 0H0
swright@nac.nu.ca
Tel: (867) 979-7228
Fax: (867) 979-7102
  Kim Hart Wensley
Southern Director
Faculty of Law
University of Victoria
PO Box 2400
Victoria, BC V8W 3H7
kwensley@uvic.ca
Tel: (250) 721-8190
Fax: (250) 721-8146


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