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.
The Chair: Now we’ll go to Ms. Crowder for seven minutes. That will be followed by Mr. Duncan for the same time.
Go ahead, Ms. Crowder.
Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): Thank you.
I want to thank you all for coming here today. I also think it’s important that you’ve acknowledged that there have been challenges with the university in the past. We all know that.
I also think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that we have a diverse group working together to find solutions for the institution and for the students. I think it’s always important to keep in mind that what we’re talking about here is the health and well-being of the institution and the students.
A number of you have outlined the benefits of the institution and I just want to touch on a couple of things. One is that we’ve had numerous letters. I know people are listening and I want to thank people for writing in and talking about their personal experience of the institution. We certainly had one here that outlined in detail the benefits of the language aspects of the university that simply are not available anywhere else in Canada.
In the 2005 report as well, and some of this has been covered, but at that time it was one of only four environmental health sciences programs in North America, the only dental therapy program, which I think you touched on, that the nursing program at the Prince Albert campus is the largest indigenous professional program in the world. I think that in terms of celebrating the successes of the university, that gets left out of this conversation on a regular basis.
My two questions to you are: one, in the minister’s appearance before the committee last week, he indicated that he’s been through this so many times, “What I’ve said to them is what’s the proposal”. So the minister a week ago was indicating that he had no knowledge of the proposal that was being put forward to rescue the First Nations University. He also indicated in response to a question that the model was changing that it’s still not there. This was a week ago. He’s indicating that he doesn’t know about a plan and that the model’s not there. That’s one question.
The second question I have for you is that again the minister has consistently stated that the money could still be there, the $7.2 million, but what it will do is follow students individually or be available through proposal applications through ISSP , I would presume outside of the First Nations University.
I’d like you to tell me why those proposals will not work. You’ve addressed it briefly, but I’d like you to elaborate. Two questions: How can the minister say that there was no plan or proposal given what we’ve heard today; and why won’t the proposals that the minister has put forward not work?
Chief Guy Lonechild: I’ll ask for some assistance from Ms. Myo, as well, but for ISSP funding, the funding primarily does not cover core funding operations equipment.
Given Minister Rob Norris, last year, or a year-and-a-half ago, at the Canadian Council for Ministers on Education, used First Nations University as a best practice, we asked the very same question: what has changed? Everything and nothing has changed.
Ms. Jean Crowder: Sorry, Chief, could you repeat that?
So a year ago the provincial government was citing you with best practices?
Chief Guy Lonechild: Absolutely.
At the CCME meeting in Saskatoon, that First Nations University was a major catalyst for people entering post-secondary education, and having that as a model for the institution, itself, to be that welcoming environment for people who enter post-secondary.
Our insistence is that we need sustainable multi-year funding. ISSP just will not cut it, in terms of the program support funding that would be required to run an institution, as such, and we would look to ensuring that we have a model that’s going to be agreed to by our working group.
Our working group member can clarify that a little further on the transitional model.
The Chair: I think Mr. Turk wanted to answer there, as well.
Mr. James L. Turk: Let them finish, if you want, Chairman.
The Chair: All right.
Ms. Dorothy Myo: Thank you.
Just to finish on the ISSP funding, again, to say, also, that this is targeted for programming and it doesn’t address the operational funding of institutions. There are other limitations to that, as well, including the maximum amount that can be accessed through the program funding.
The other part of this, in terms of our transitional model, and actually having a plan, the working group has been at this for four weeks. As a working group, we have said that we would not go to the media until we were finished our work. It’s just been today that we were able to sign off on our Memorandum of Understanding.
This has been, really, a work in progress, so that’s the reason for that.
The Chair: Okay.
We’ve got about a minute and 45 seconds left, and Mr. Lundy and Mr. Turk wanted to get in a short comment.
Go ahead either of you.
Mr. James L. Turk: I’ll be very quick.
There is no university in this country that operates on proposal-based funding. Every university in Canada operates on core funding. A university cannot survive when it has to exist year by year on proposal-based funding because of the long-term commitments it has to make in terms of programs, in terms of faculty.
Secondly, allowing the funding to simply ago to the students without a first nations’ option for them means that, those who need and want that option—and there are many—will not have it.
The Chair: Mr. Lundy.
Mr. Randy Lundy: The first question from Jean Crowder was about the minister’s comments about not being aware that this proposed agreement was in the works.
I think it’s important to remember that the working group has been working for, what, about four weeks now, and Indian Affairs has had observer status, two members observing, since the inception of this working group. I’m not sure how Minister Strahl could be unaware of the fact that this agreement was in the works. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but somebody will have to ask him.
Also, I read the unofficial transcripts of your last meeting, Thursday, March 18. One of the other things I noticed in Minister Strahl’s comments was that at least on two occasions he stated the province wasn’t onboard either, that he was just doing what the province was doing, and that, if we asked the province, they would say the same thing, that they were not willing to fund this model either.
I’m not sure what model Minister Strahl was referring to, because, obviously, the news we’ve just gotten is that the province is onboard. The province is willing to fund this new model. It is signed, sealed and delivered.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lundy, that will wrap it up.
Thank you, Ms. Crowder.
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