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 (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=AANO&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3) within the next two weeks.
Le président: Maintenant je voudrais inviter M. Del Anaquod qui est le chef des opérations à l’Université des Premières Nations du Canada.
Monsieur Anaquod, vous avez cinq minutes pour votre présentation.
Mr. Del Anaquod (Chief Operating Officer, First Nations University of Canada): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee.
I’ll keep my comments under five minutes. First off, this opportunity to talk to you about the success of the First Nations University of Canada I welcome. One of the problems we’ve had is getting our story out there.
Previous speakers have talked passionately about some of our successes. As I sit here today, I want to highlight again a number of those. The decision of the federal and provincial governments to cut off funding to First Nations University on April 1, 2010, directly impacts 2,000 students, 350 classes, over 200 employees that include the most aboriginal PhDs in Canada, 3300 graduates, 70 research projects, and the largest concentration of indigenous programming in the world.
Throughout its history, tens of thousands of students and business leaders have taken classes and courses at First Nations University of Canada. The government’s decision has far more wide-reaching impacts beyond this. It affects all Canadians and Saskatchewan citizens.
Our success. I would like to briefly highlight the impact of First Nations University’s success, which is our alumni. As previous speakers mentioned this afternoon, this is a measure of our success. Our alumni includes doctors, nurses, health care providers, teachers, dental therapists, business leaders, engineers, scientists, social workers, and lawyers. We have produced hundreds of civil servants for the federal and provincial work forces and another thousand for first nations governance.
First Nations University is one of the most successful producers of first nations taxpayers in Saskatchewan. Our university draws students from across Canada who contribute to the Saskatchewan economy and to our reputation in Canada and abroad. Thousands of non-first nations students have completed our courses as requirements in academic programs including justice, police studies, women’s studies, education, and social work. First Nations University provides the most unique program in the world. We offer bicultural education so that our students are completely qualified for work in the mainstream and have the additional training they need to serve in our communities.
I want to briefly touch on some of the budgetary shortfalls and jurisdictional issues we have faced since our inception. The true measure of a great institution is not only its successes but the obstacles and adversities it has overcome. Throughout our 34-year history, First Nations University has faced ongoing budgetary shortfalls due to federal and provincial jurisdictional disputes, and this in turn created uncertainty and hardship. Each has a role to play, the province for its jurisdiction over universities and the federal government for its responsibilities for Indians and lands reserved for Indians and its treaty and aboriginal rights and constitutional obligation under section 35.
Some of the past actions that have happened we take responsibility for. First Nations University has experienced internal governance and management issues. For this we take full responsibility. However, we should not allow the decisions of a few to affect the success of many. The new interim board and leadership have addressed governance and management problems. To shut down an institution that has had so many success stories and provides for the future of so many, based on the negative actions of a few, is unthinkable and irresponsible. It has taken many, many people to build this institution over a 34-year period and only a few to potentially destroy it.
Governments have chosen to highlight the actions of these few and ignore the success of the majority.
A challenging future. As Saskatchewan and Canadian citizens, we are facing many challenges. One is our youth and the future of our great country. In Saskatchewan, we have over 60,000 aboriginal youth in the first nations and provincial K to 12 system. As I sit here today, one out of every three students in Saskatchewan is aboriginal and this number is continuously on the rise. We are also facing a 50% dropout rate. Thirty thousand aboriginal youth will drop out in the next 10 years. Where will they go? Will they join the 2,000 street gang members we now have in the province or is the answer jails? Over 80% of our provincial jails are made up of aboriginal people. That’s not the answer.
We have close to 5,000 children currently out of home care; 75% are aboriginal. We struggle to find aboriginal foster homes for these children. Within these marginalized and frustrated youth, we are sewing the seeds of homegrown problems. As a Canadian, this is a statistic that I am not proud of and a future I do not relish.
The Chair: We’re over time there now, Mr. Anaquod, if you could just wrap up.
Mr. Del Anaquod: What is the answer?
One of the answers is First Nations University of Canada.
The First Nations University is a bridge between two cultures. The Queen, on her visit to our university in 2005, laid the foundation of that bridge by presenting us with a stone from Balmoral Castle. Let us not tear down that bridge. Let us ensure stable, long-term funding so that, as our graduates in the past, successive aboriginal generations will become productive and contributing Canadians.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Anaquod.