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Federal court to hear Inuk's legal challenge for Inuit parity

After years of waiting, an ailing Inuk lawyer's fight against the federal government will be heard in a federal court in Edmonton next month.

After years of waiting, a retired Inuk lawyer's fight against the federal government will be heard in a federal court next month.

Kiviaq — also known as David Charles Ward — has been working since 2001 on his lawsuit, which demands that the federal government define Inuit status in Canadian law and give them the same rights as other aboriginal peoples under the Indian Act.

Last week, the 72-year-old retired lawyer learned that his case will be heard in federal court in Edmonton, where he has lived for most of his life.

"In their statement of defence that they filed, they try to say that I wasn't Inuit to begin with. So that's one of my arguments: they haven't defined us in law," he told CBC News in an interview.

"So how can I define myself as an Inuk or an Eskimo if they don't have a definition in law in Canada what an Eskimo is?"

While his lawsuit was filed in 2004, Kiviaq, who is battling cancer, said he wasn't sure if the case would be heard while he's still alive.

"The only thing I could think they'd do is just to stall and stall and stall, and hope that I will die of cancer and nothing will come of this at all," he said.

Kiviaq has lived in Edmonton since he, his mother and sister were transplanted from his home near Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, to southern Canada when he was a child.

Zacharias Kunuk, who chronicled Kiviaq's life story in the 2007 documentary Kiviaq vs. Canada, said he's happy to hear the lawsuit will go to court soon.

"I'm so happy for Kiviaq that it's happening in his lifetime," said Kunuk, the Igloolik, Nunavut-based filmmaker best known for his award-winning movie Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.

"I know when I was making this documentary, he was sick, he was getting chemo treatment. I'm happy for him, I'm so glad for him," he added.

In addition to being a lawyer, Kiviaq has also been a boxer, an Edmonton city councillor, and a halfback for the Edmonton Eskimos football team.

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