GN rejection leaves Nunavut law school in the lurch

Proposed funding comprised 70 per cent of Akitsiraq II budget


At least 25 Nunavut residents who hoped to study law by September 2011 may now be forced to make other plans, following the Government of Nunavut’s rejection of a $3.57 million funding application from the Akitsiraq Law School Society.

“People have made very significant personal decisions,” said Anne Crawford, the northern director of the society, referring to prospective students who have put their lives on hold while waiting for the program to start up.

The society had sought $3.57 million from the GN, spread over six years, to pay about 70 per cent of the cost of running the second phase of the Akitsiraq Law School, whose first phase produced 11 law graduates in 2005.

The second phase, to have been run in co-operation with the University of Ottawa, would have accepted 25 students from a list of 93 applicants.

This group of 25 would have entered a four-year law program with 11 months of study per year, leading to an LL.B. degree — the first big hurdle required for a career as a lawyer.

Before issuing a press release announcing the funding problem, Crawford said the Akitsiraq society informed each of the applicants.

“It was very hard to to give them this news,” Crawford said.

Crawford said the society learned of the GN’s decision in a letter from Keith Peterson, the Nunavut finance minister, dated May 31.

“Like many jurisdictions we are dealing with serious fiscal challenges. In a time of limited resources, our focus is on improving our school system from kindergarten to Grade 12,” Peterson wrote.

Peterson said the GN supports the idea of creating a pan-territorial University of the Arctic, which he said “could provide an improved platform for professional development programs…”

The finance minister’s letter also contains what appears to be a misunderstood interpretation of the amount of money that Akitsiraq requested, describing it as “an estimated $5.2 million.”

But Crawford said the society asked for just $3.57 million over six years.

This averages about $600,000 per year. And the society suggested the contribution be split among the departments of Justice, Human Resources and Education, for an average contribution of $200,000 a year for each department.

In defence of the program, Crawford said the Qanukkaniq report card on the GN’s operations, release Oct. 1 2009, praised Akitsiraq as “an example of what should happen” in Nunavut.

Crawford said the society suggested to the GN that the Akitsiraq model could be applied to the training of other groups of badly-needed professionals, such as accountants, engineers and doctors.

She said Nunavut was founded on the premise that gaining more political power would better the lives of Nunavummiut.

But she said it’s clear that Nunavut residents also need more “knowledge power” to carry out the promise of Nunavut.

“It has been very difficult to deliver that message to the Government of Nunavut,” Crawford said.

A business case document that the society prepared in 2009 says that Inuit who are trained as lawyers make excellent candates for management jobs in government, at levels where the proportion of Inuit employment is low.

The board that runs the Akitsiraq Law School Society wants to meet soon with Peterson to discuss their funding issue and “to review possible approaches to building support here in Nunavut and elsewhere for this very important post-secondary opportunity.”

In a letter to Peterson on behalf of the society, dated June 2, she also said the proposed University of the Arctic would not likely deliver professional learning in Nunavut for at least eight to 10 years.

Business Case for Akitisiraq II

Letter from Akitsiraq to Justice Minister Keith Peterson

Letter from Justice Minister Keith Peterson to Akitsiraq

• You can also read a press release from Akitsiraq, displayed below:

2010.06.03 Press Release GN Declines Akitsiraq Support

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