Conducted in Inuktitut and English, the welcoming ceremony opened with a traditional blessing and Quidlik lighting ceremony. Dignified guests Nunavut Minster of Education Paul Quassa, Supreme Court Justice Susan Côté, Nunavut Court of Justice Judge Neil Sharkey, University of Saskatchewan (U of S) Chancellor Emeritus Tom Molloy, and College of Law Dean Martin Phillipson attended the event to bring greetings to the new class.
For the students, the ceremony celebrated their entrance to law school and the beginning of a highly-anticipated four-year journey in legal studies.
Reflecting on the success of the ceremony, Program Director Stephen Mansell said “I am very excited to be working with 25 amazing Nunavut students over the next four years as they progress through their legal studies. The potential for these students, and this program, to shape the future of the legal profession and access to justice in our territory is immeasurable.”
The Nunavut Law Program was born in August 2016, when the Government of Nunavut awarded the design and delivery of a law degree for the territory to the College of Law.
Developed in partnership between the college, Nunavut Arctic College and the Government of Nunavut, the program has been specially designed to meet the needs of Nunavut students, incorporating Inuit legal traditions and teachings. With classes set to be taught in Iqaluit, students can remain at home in their community while completing their law degree.
The program aims to increase the number of practicing lawyers in Nunavut, with particular demand for those with knowledge of Inuit language and culture, and produce graduates that can practice in various fields of law. It is hoped that addressing the shortage of lawyers in the territory will ultimately improve access to legal services for Nunavummiut.
For the U of S, the program represents a renewed commitment to creating opportunity for Indigenous and northern education.
“Building educational partnerships such as this serves to provide opportunities that will benefit the entire territory of Nunavut in the future,” said Phillipson.
“I am delighted to see the program come to fruition, it is the culmination of a lot of hard work by dedicated people from these three organizations. It was a pleasure to bring greetings from the U of S at the Welcoming Ceremony, and to wish the students the best as they begin their studies.”
After their welcome, the students now face four years of hard work. While the program prepares them for legal studies in the first year, it will follow the same rigorous curriculum as the College of Law over the remaining three.
Those who successfully complete the program in 2021 will receive a U of S Juris Doctor (JD) degree, and join a community of distinguished alumni that is over a century old.