Nunavut Students Will Earn Law Degree From UVic

Students in the remote new territory of Nunavut will be able to earn law degrees from UVic through a partnership program that's the first of its kind in Canada. Financial support from the federal department of justice and the Nunavut government has covered the expense of developing the program, and UVic's law dean Jamie Cassels is hoping potential employers of the Nunavut law grads will provide the additional funding to cover the program delivery. The target start date is September, 2001.

"There is nothing like this in Canada, maybe even the world," says Cassels of the proposal to send UVic law professors to Nunavut's capital of Iqaluit to instruct a cohort of 10 to 15 Inuit students over a four-year program.

Nunavut's Premier Paul Okalik is currently the only Inuit lawyer in the territory. The Inuit, representing 85 per cent of the territory's population, want to increase their presence within Nunavut's emerging government structure and since few are in a position to head south to law school, UVic will bring legal education up north.

Cassels estimates it will cost about $30,000 per year for each student. He hopes to offer students the opportunity to receive a salary throughout the year whether they are studying or working. Cassels says about half the student costs will come from northern federal and Nunavut organizations with the remainder being sought from foundations and the private sector.

While admitting that UVic "is as far away as you can get" from Nunavut, Cassels says the territory targeted the university to be its partner. "They know we're small, student-centered and committed to Aboriginal legal education. They want the credibility and the legitimacy of a law degree from a southern institution and they really wanted UVic to do this."

The program's first year will prepare the students for the rigors of law study. Distance education through email and the Internet will be introduced as the program progresses. Cassels feels that using a cohort model (where a group starts and finishes a program together without the introduction of new students each year) will give the students additional support.

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Keywords: nunavut, students, earn, law, degree, uvic

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