The following is an unofficial and unedited transcript of a meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This document is being sent for information purposes only and may not be quoted, as it may contain transcription errors. The edited, translated transcript will be available on the Committee’s website (
) within the next two weeks.
The Chair: Now we’ll go to Mr. Duncan, for seven minutes.
Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, CPC): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
You know, the committee’s in a very difficult spot. Here we are, we’re talking about an issue that’s fluid. Before you appeared today and we were talking about having you appear before the committee, I expressed a great concern about this because here we are talking about an email that none of us have seen. We’re talking about a situation where nothing is finalized. We’re being told different things by different people.
The statements that were just attributed to the minister, there was no certainty about anything about the statements. I think the statements made by the minister were quite appropriate at the time, and accurate and reflective of what was going on. The department has continued to take an active role and is very concerned about the situation. Of course our primary concern is with the students.
I took the time to look at the All Chiefs’ Task Force report from 2005. The problems at FN University predate 2005. It’s quite clear in that report. And a lot has changed since that time. There are 60 other institutions that are receiving ISSP funding. Enrollments at all of the universities and post secondary institutions that I have talked to, from the aboriginal and first nations communities are up, while they’re down at First Nations University. The enrollment numbers that I have show enrollment at First Nations University today is about one-half what it was in 1995. There’s been a steady decline.
There are other options. Students have exercised their ability to go where they want to go and they’ve done so. At the same time, I appreciate what Mr. Lundy was saying about the faculty, the curriculum, and everything else. I think what we’re looking at is a concern about administration pure and simple.
I think something that hasn’t been talked about here—and I’d like to get in on the record.—There is a revenue to First Nations University and it’s approximately $1 million per year through the lease to the federal government of part of their building. That certainly is some core funding, I would say. The department has released $1.5 million this month to First Nations University—released or will be shortly releasing. That’s a result of two hold-backs that were being held back for late reporting.
I guess my question is will this not cover the activities to the end of the school year for the current students that are there, which has to be our first and foremost concern. Let’s make sure the students get through this session, which ends in April sometime. The second question I’d like to get some clarity on is where do we sit in terms of this debate that’s gone on about whether there are moneys in the scholarship fund or not? I know that’s been batted around quite a bit and it’d be nice if we could get some clarity on that.
The Chair: Decide amongst yourselves. If you all want to speak we’ll try to fit you all in. We’re sitting with about two minutes left, so 30-second responses if you’re able.
Mr. Randy Lundy: Thirty seconds each?
The Chair: Yes, about that. Go ahead.
Mr. Randy Lundy: Well, I’d just like to make a couple of observations. We’ve heard time and again that there are other options available for aboriginal students in the province. I think we’ve made a clear case that the options of the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan, with all due respect, don’t fulfill the needs of our students. They don’t have the same programming that we have, and they can’t suddenly erect that kind of programming.
The other options being referred to are that our students become plumbers and welders and don’t get a university education, because at the university level there aren’t other options.
As we’ve said, proposal based funding may work for other post-secondary institutions, but they don’t work at universities. We offer four-year degrees. You have tenured faculty. You cannot proceed on proposal based funding at a university level. That may be fine if you’re training people to be welders and plumbers, but that’s not what we’re about here.
I’ll defer the financial questions.
The Chair: Do Chief Lonechild or Ms. Myo want to get in there? Mr. Turk wants to as well.
Chief Guy Lonechild: We’ll both respond. I just wanted to say that again, I can’t reiterate any stronger to you that new leadership is at the helm of the FSIN. We had gained unanimous support at the chiefs and assembly that changes needed to be made, that mistakes were made. The scholarship money was a problem for the university. What we need to do is be able to ensure that those problems don’t happen again.
Our next steps, I’d like to maybe have Dorothy talk a little bit about that, but for the most part we’ve seen the problems in the last few months. Of course, the Minister of Indian Affairs has made some allowances for us to continue and make payroll, and some of the short-term objectives are to ensure that the students continue.
Our working efforts with the working group, again, will point to a much stronger institution in the future. Dorothy, if I can, I’d have you answer as well.
The Chair: Unfortunately, we are out of time there. Whatever thoughts you had there, the same with Mr. Turk, if you could, just hold those and then in the course of our next round you’ll have an opportunity to get on the floor and enunciate your point.