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Studying for his people

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 06/06) - A 26-year-old Fort Smith man is racking up the awards as he works towards a law degree in British Columbia.

Johnny Van Camp is far from home right now, but his thoughts are all aimed North.

He is studying law in order to return to the territories and take part in the realm of aboriginal justice.

"I think there is a lot of work to do in furthering an aboriginal voice in decision making and administration of justice as it pertains to aboriginals," he said.

He feels he has a responsibility to give back to his people. "I've been given so many opportunities that other people haven't had," he said.

His academic work ethic and dedication to Northern issues have recently won him two scholarships of $1,000 each.

One is the Lawson Lundell Continuing Legal Education scholarship and the other is from his band, Dogrib Treaty 11.

Linda Whitford, executive director of the NWT branch of the Canadian Bar Association, was on the selection committee for the Lawson Lundell award.

Van Camp had an excellent application, she said.

"The amount he has accomplished in a short period of time is impressive."

Now in his second year of law at the University of Victoria, Van Camp said he has not limited himself to one specific area of study.

"I'm very interested in critically looking at how the law interacts with aboriginals at all levels," he said.

He is working on his second degree, with a University of Lethbridge degree in business management already under his belt.

When asked why he chose the path of higher education, he said it had much to do with his family.

"My parents put a great value on education," he said.

Johnny's father, Jack Van Camp, said he is proud of what his son has accomplished. Johnny will do well in the legal field, he added.

"I know that he thinks of the law more as peace-making, and I think that is the role he envisions, to be a peace-maker," he said.

Education is certainly a family affair for Johnny. His older brother is hitting the law books with him. Roger Wah-shee is also in his second year of law at the University of Victoria.

"We always wanted to do it together," said Johnny.

The moral support is appreciated, he added, given the amount of work they have.

"It's pretty intense," he said of the schoolwork, "day in, day out, you're reading cases and trying to keep up."

However, he said his classes are fascinating.

"It's a totally new area for me, it's like being dropped off in a foreign country," he said.

Johnny is unsure of how he will apply his legal smarts after he graduates.

"My main focus, at this point, is understanding the bigger picture of why the law acts as it does, especially with regards to aboriginal people," he said.