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Then, there were only four qualified native lawyers in the entire country; today, 31 have law degrees and 10 more are expected to graduate next spring from law schools across the country. Most of these completed the summer program in Saskatoon, which is administered by the University's Native Law Center.
The aim of the program, which attracts an average of 20 students each year, is to introduce native people to the nature and methodology of legal studies so that they can cope more successfully with subjects taken in law school. In this way, it helps to overcome the cultural and educational barriers that tend to discourage native students from embarking on a legal career.
Professor Roger Carter, director of the Native Law Center, said the program is also helping to create a career model for young native students to follow.
"This likely encouraged some of the students who entered law school without our program to consider law as a career option. In fact, one measure of our success will be the extent to which young native students are motivated to enter legal studies on their own."
Of those students who have successfully completed the eight-week summer program, 62 per cent have been successful in their subsequent law studies in one or other of Canada's law schools. Before entering the program they must obtain assurance they will be accepted by a law school upon successful completion of the summer course. Normally, students wishing to study law in Canada must first complete the equivalent of two years of academic work at the university level. In particular cases, however, and in implementing "mature student" admission policies, law schools may relax the usual standards.
Professor Carter said the program was introduced to provide Canada's native people with some meaningful representation in the ranks of legal profession.