Thought you might be interested in the following. This morning I presented the first of several such petitions in the House. More to follow before we rise for the summer break.
Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce a petition signed by people through Saskatchewan in support of the First Nations University of Canada .
The petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House that the viability of the First Nations University of Canada was threatened by the removal of provincial and federal funding and that the reinstatement of provincial funds and up to $3 million in federal funds to the proposed student-based support program would not ensure long-term sustainable funding of the First Nations University, that steps have been taken to improve the governance and accountability of the First Nations University and a memorandum of understanding has been signed by all parties, that the founding mission of the university includes a commitment to enhance the quality of life and to preserve, protect and interpret the history, language, culture and artistic heritage of First Nations peoples.
The petitioners state that we must not lose the valuable resource and indigenous knowledge that has been created at the First Nations University and that above all we must the support the students at First Nations University who have demonstrated their dedication, commitment and overwhelming desire for the continuation of the institution.
The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to work with the students, staff and faculty to build a sustainable and viable future for the First Nations University of Canada by fully reinstating federal funding of at least $7.2 million.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized in June 2008 to the tens of thousands of former students of the residential schools system. “We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions — that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this,” he said.
“There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey.”
Last month, faculty of the First Nations University of Canada gathered to showcase the academic excellence of the school. If anything, this place, this school, provides a way of recovering from past educational policies that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs imposed on First Nations communities throughout the history of this country.
[FNUniv president Shauneen] Pete announced the campus closure at 11 a.m. Monday inside a Saskatoon classroom packed with several dozen students, faculty and other staff. The announcement was broadcast by video to students and staff on the campuses in Regina and Prince Albert.
Pete told those gathered the Saskatoon campus was being put up for sale immediately. It will be closed as soon as a buyer is found. In addition, cuts to faculty and staff are to take place on all three campuses.
“Saskatoon is being put up for sale. (The cuts) were necessary,” Pete said in a brief interview on the Saskatoon campus Monday afternoon.
She said the school of Indian social work (ISW) will remain intact, but it’s unclear where the classes will be held.
Since the funding cuts to the University were announced members of the program have been occupying the Saskatoon campus for 31 consecutive days, sleeping in the school’s gymnasium since March 23.
The walk-run is an extension of the ongoing political protest, which has been expedited with a recent announcement by the current administration to shut down the school, and sell the building and property in Saskatoon.
The province has agreed to bring back its funding — after FNUC signed a four-year deal with the University of Regina, allowing the university to handle FNUC’s money, which was where many of the battles over FNUC’s control by the FSIN occurred, and which was roasted in Westerlund’s report.
But Ottawa has thought otherwise. Four days after the chiefs’ congress removed the board of governors, Strahl announced that INAC would suspend its $7.2 million operating payment to the college. The transitional funding announced March 30 probably pays for the severance packages of professors, who will be eagerly picked up by other universities and colleges in Canada. As for the students, they get squat.
“In reality, it means the end of First Nations University,” says Jim Turk, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. (Officials from FNUC, the student council and officials from the FSIN were unavailable for comment as the story went to press.)
Strahl’s announcement does little good for FNUC’s current students. Take Swan, for example. FNUC has one of the three aboriginal linguistics programs in Canada he requires to earn his degree in his area of specialization. But if and when FNUC closes its doors, Strahl’s plan calls for students enrolled in his program to move to another university. Except, in Swan’s case, the nearest university — the U of Regina — doesn’t have an indigenous studies department, so where does he go to complete his education?
Although Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl’s concerns have been addressed, the only federal response has been to offer $3 million in programming funds that must be applied for.
It amounts to nothing more than a public relations stunt, and a poor one at that. It allows the colonial office to wash its hands of the problem and blame the victim.
FNUC students and faculty are fighting hard. Live-ins, teach-ins and other methods of protest are underway daily. Now the FSIN leadership and the chiefs need to step up and prove that FNUC has support provincewide.
In spite of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s stand that it was a tough budget for tough times, and that his plan is to rein in spending, the spending on penitentiaries will increase 36 per cent between now and 2012-13.
Ron Clark, Tory MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, is the most vulnerable. Lots of students from his constituency attend FNUC, particularly at the Prince Albert campus. The people in the North are proud of their campus, and the leaders are proud of the students. The government’s blunder won’t be forgotten in the next election.
Everyone is invited to the Solidarity Picnic and Barbeque on Thursday, April 15, from 12 noon to 6 pm, at First Nations University.
The Solidarity Picnic is an alcohol-free, come-and-go-as-you-please event to be held at the First Nations University of Canada, Treaty 4 land. There will be a large tent, chairs, a stage, and a BBQ area. This event is free.
12:10 Cadmus Delorme/Diane Adams/or member/s of the FUNnivSA opening remarks
12:20 FUNniv Officials including Dr. Herman Michell VP Academic
12:35 Local Onlyz (music/hip hop)
1pm Dagan Harding(acoustic solo)
1:25 Dr. Linda Goulet, FUNniv/ DJ Music
1:30 Terrence Littletent & the Kawacatoose Drummer Boys (hoop dancing)
2:30 Dr. James McNinch, Dean of Education
2:40 The Hoarsemen (tentative) / DJ Music
2:50 Mike & Bree (song and story)
3:05 Alfred Youngman (acoustic solo)
3:12 Lionel Peyachew (acoustic solo)
3:20 CUPE 1975/2419/URFA
3:30 Rah Rah
4:20 Lonesome Weekends
4:35 Warren McCall, MLA Elphinstone-Centre/ Dr. Anthony Hall, University of Lethbridge/ DJMusic
First Nations University (FNUniv) President Shauneen Pete was trying her best to remain hopeful prior to boarding a plane for Ottawa on Wednesday to present a business case to Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl that could help determine the future of the troubled school.
The business case will provide the opportunity for the university to restructure, and includes an application for $4.2 million to assist with things like severance payments, said Pete.
In addition, it includes details on restructuring costs, which will be raised through fundraising and go towards program renewal.