Labrador lawyer called to the bar Inuit-style

A Labrador Inuk showcased her deep connection to her culture and heritage as she was sworn in as a lawyer on Friday.

Elizabeth Zarpa wore a ceremonial silapak, and believes she is the first to wear the traditional Inuit clothing at a swearing-in ceremony for lawyers in this province.

The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador also believes that Zarpa is the first person to wear a silapak while being called to the bar in this province.

"We cannot confirm it with absolute certainty but, as far as we can tell from our records, that appears to be the case," said the law society's executive director, Brenda Grimes.

Zarpa, who studied law at the University of Victoria and articled in Labrador, said she was inspired by classmates from Indigenous cultures who wore traditional clothes when they were called to the bar.

"Some of them were the first in their jurisdictions and there are not a lot of Inuit who have been called to the bar, so I wanted to represent who I am and where I come from and showcase that I, an Inuit woman, can do it," said Zarpa.

"I believe there could be more diversity in the legal profession."

Zarpa said she was the only Indigenous person among the 11 lawyers called to the bar in St. John's on April 21.

"It was a moment of being proud of where I come from and who I am and also a moment of recognizing that this is very new," she said.

Zarpa hopes more Indigenous people will join the legal profession.

"I think it is phenomenally important especially when it comes to working with predominantly Indigenous populations," she said.

"In the Labrador context, there is a large Indigenous population of Innu, Inuit, Métis and the settler population. I think that if we have people that come from home who are trained in the legal profession there is a deeper understanding about the context they are coming from." 

Zarpa hasn't decided exactly what her next step will be.

"I'm going to explore different opportunities and see what lays ahead in terms of what I would like to do but I'm open, I'm open to what happens." she told CBC's Labrador Morning Show.