International doors for Aboriginal youth.
Each year, the centre selects a handful of Aboriginal youth, age 18 to 30, to take part in its Youth International Internship program, funded through the federal government's Youth Employment Strategy (YES) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
The law centre offers the program because it meshes with its overall aim of encouraging and supporting both Aboriginal law students and research in the area of Indigenous law, explained Wanda McCaslin, who co-ordinates the internship program.
"It really fits in well in terms of our focus on protection and maintenance of Aboriginal and treaty rights, because this really takes it in and pulls together both our interest in empowering our youth and also taking a look at the international arena," McCaslin said.
Through the program, the centre selects the best candidates out of all the applications received, and matches them up with the needs of their overseas partners.
"We focus on development of Indigenous diplomacy, human rights and cultural policies. And then our young people will be able to go into this challenging environment and not only learn from the people that they're with, but also share their own culture and customs, traditions and practices. And they can then either springboard it into an international career overseas, or they can take that knowledge that they've garnered and shared and bring it back to their own home communities to share with their own people."
While the law centre is running the program, the internships aren't restricted to Aboriginal law students, McCaslin said.
"We also take interdisciplinary students, people that have completed Native studies degrees or education degrees or commerce. It's across the board."
"This is an opportunity for those young Indigenous people that want to get involved in diplomacy that they would never otherwise have. And by using that experience, they can then translate it into a career that they never would have, broken into," McCaslin said.
McCaslin said there have been many success stories over the years where interns have used their time in the program as a springboard into a successful career. But, she cautioned, those successes will only come to interns who enter into the program with their eyes wide open.
For more information about the Native Law Centre of Canada's Youth International Internship, visit the centre's Web site at www.usask.ca/nativelaw.
By Cheryl Petten
Windspeaker Staff Writer