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Kivalliq's first lawyer

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Arviat (June 29/05) - Even before graduating from a Yellowknife high school about 18 years ago, Arviat-born Lillian Aglukark says she felt law was always a part of her.

But the idea of moving from a small community in the North to attend school in the south was intimidating.

So when the chance to study law through a one-time program in Iqaluit known as Akitsiraq came around, Aglukark applied.

Four years later - after receiving her law degree in Iqaluit on June 21 - the 35-year-old is getting ready to work as an articling student at a Yellowknife law firm.

"It's exciting," she said. "Yes, we're done school, but now it's time for us to put it into practise. I'll still be learning 10 years from now."

She chose the Peterson, Stang & Malakoe firm because it deals in areas such as real estate, wills and property, that are not readily available in Nunavut.

After articling for a year, she will be eligible to become a full-fledged lawyer.

"I'm here for a short time to get the experience I need," she said. "I'll always come back to Nunavut."

Not ready to think about opening her own firm just yet, she says it is something to consider for the future.

Without children to take care of, she says she had an easier time than some of her classmates. Though after nearly 15 years being out of school, she found it difficult to get back into the routine of doing homework.

Aglukark had to leave Arviat just to attend high school.

Now that nearly all Nunavut communities offer courses up to Grade 12, she encourages Nunavut's youth to aim higher.

"High school is just the beginning," she said, adding her parents were strong advocates of education.

Many of her family members were in Iqaluit for the ceremony. Of her six siblings, the most famous is pop star Susan.

"I'm just entirely proud of my sister," said brother David, an RCMP officer who could not get time off to go to the ceremony.

Despite Akitsiraq's nearly $5 million cost to graduate 11 students, Lillian sees value in the program jointly-offered by Nunavut Arctic College and the University of Victoria, and thinks it should be renewed.