Archive for the ‘Letters of Support’ Category

From a letter by Lyle Whitefish to the editor of the StarPhoenix, printed May 20, 2010.

Important work is underway to find governance solutions for FNUC and chart the future of the institution. Time is needed to develop, approve and implement a governance solution that will meet the requirements of all the stakeholders. In the meantime, the university must continue to educate students and, to accomplish this goal, the needed resources must reach the institution.

There are many reasons why the FNUC must continue to be a part of Saskatchewan’s educational fabric. If First Nations people are to play a significant role in Saskatchewan’s economic future, our robust young population needs to be educated and trained.

Read more in the StarPhoenix.

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From a letter by Catherine Verrall published in the Leader-Post of April 20, 2010.

Late that night, in a special sharing circle, we heard the wisdom and vision and determination of the students. We told them: “The whole world is watching you . . . as you peacefully demand that this world-unique university and its values survive stronger than ever . . . for the well-being of all our children, and the planet. We are so inspired by you and so honoured to be welcomed here.”

FNUniv students made a respectful move-in to their university home. They have vowed to stay until the federal government fulfills its responsibility and restores full funding. Only then can this priceless university continue into the future, beyond Aug. 31.

Read the full letter in the Leader-Post.

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From a Letter to the Editor by Marc Spooner published in the Globe and Mail on April 2, 2010.

The federal government’s lack of support for First Nations University Canada (FNUC) is embarrassing and shortsighted (First Nations University Still In Crisis Despite $3-Million In New Funding – April 1). The government has demanded accountability and FNUC has responded: 1) the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has dissolved the former board of governors and appointed an interim board along the lines recommended by the All-Chiefs Task Force; 2) the interim board has dismissed the former president and the former vice-president of administration and finance; 3) the FSIN, the First Nations University, and the University of Regina have reached agreement on a four-year transitional arrangement to ensure appropriate financial management.

Now the question is: Where’s the government’s accountability? Where’s the commitment to healing? By drastically cutting federal support, the government is precipitating the almost certain demise of the First Nations University.

Marc Spooner is an Assistant Professor at the University of Regina.

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March 30, 2010

Dear Minister Strahl:

On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association of the United States, I ask you to reconsider your current position in regards to the Canadian federal government’s announced cutting of the $7.2 million annual grant to the First Nations University as of March 31, 2010. The situation of the First Nations University came to my awareness through our shared affiliation with the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Education International, the global union federation for education.

The closing of First Nations University would be a tragedy for aboriginal students in Canada who directly benefit from the cultural sensitivity represented in its unique mission. First Nations University emphasizes tribal cultures and languages and includes elders as lecturers and support service staff. At a time when we acknowledge the harm caused by education policies in the past toward First Nations peoples of Canada and Native Americans in the United States, withdrawing funding of First Nations University further endangers these most vulnerable and underprivileged communities.

This is a population in dire need of more college and university graduates. It is likely that many students currently attending First Nations University will end their post-secondary education rather than continuing at a mainstream university. Nationally, only 3 percent of Canadian First Nations people have university degrees versus 18 percent for the general population. We urge you to support renewed funding for First Nations University and re-establish internationally recognized obligations with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Dennis Van Roekel

cc: David Robinson, Assoc. Executive Dir., Canadian Association of University Teachers
Fred van Leeuwen, Education International

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March 30, 2010

Dear Mr. Strahl and Mr. Harper:

I write on behalf of the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, a scholarly organization with over 700 members from scores of countries and Indigenous nations, to express concern over what is happening to the faculty, staff, and students of the First Nations University of Canada. We are a governing council of Indigenous scholars from North America, Hawai’i, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia. We represent a membership that includes upwards of 200 Canadian citizens. We unanimously regard the planned closing of First Nations University, the only Aboriginal university in Canada, as a threat to Indigenous higher education everywhere.

The problems at First Nations University are real, of course, but so is the commitment of those dedicated to turning around this situation. Because we are convinced of the seriousness of that commitment, we support the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in its good faith initiation of the changes required to bring the governance structures at First Nations University into conformity with those of other Canadian universities. As you know, a working group with representation from all stakeholder groups is currently developing a revised funding and governance model for First Nations University. You are certainly also aware that the University of Regina has expressed its willingness to support First Nations University. We also want you to know that our association is willing to provide appropriate support, including help in identifying from among the dozens of program and department administrators and university officials in our membership those who might be of assistance.

We join concerned scholars and students around the world who are following the crisis at First Nations University. We hope that our letter and the many others you are receiving will convince you that your government’s current course of action will in the long run be detrimental to all Aboriginal people, to the province of Saskatchewan, and to Canada’s international reputation. A university represents some of the best hopes and highest ideals for a brighter Indigenous future. We ask that you recognize those hopes as you proceed.

We thus urge you, in the strongest terms, to support the continued operation of First Nations University.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please contact me at 217-418-8879 or rwarrior@illinois.edu if you would like to follow up directly.

Very truly yours,
Robert Warrior
Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
Professor of American Indian Studies, History, and English
Director, American Indian Studies
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

C: Todd Russell; Rob Clarke; Jean Crowder; Randy Hoback; Ralph Goodale; Ed Komarnicki; Lillian Dyck; Tom Lukiwski; Rob Norris; Gerry Ritz; Brad Wall; Andrew Scheer; Cam Broten; Brad Trost; Kelly Block; Maurice Vellacott; Ray Boughen; Lynne Yelich; Garry Breitkreuz; Edward Doolittle; David Anderson; Maggie Walter

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Letter to the editor of the Leader-Post
Mar. 29, 2010

This is a letter of support for the reinstatement of $7 million dollars of federal funding for First Nations University of Canada.

On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Harper acknowledged the disastrous failure of the Indian residential schools in a statement of apology. He stated,

“Two primary objectives of the residential schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture…Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.”

The decision to cut funding to First Nations University is not only disrespectful to First Nations families, traditions and cultures, it is also a new form of the old colonial policy of assimilation. If the doors of the First Nations University were closed, the students would have to be assimilated into other mainstream institutions. If the Prime Minister truly believes that the policy of assimilation is harmful and wrong, then he should have the funds reinstated.

For over 20 years following the deficit financing of the Grant Devine conservative government in Saskatchewan we have been paying $500 million-$800 million every year on interest payments on the debt. This is money we can’t use towards many outstanding issues. Federally, the $56 billion deficit will take years to repay. Financial management has to be improved but this also holds true for the federal and provincial governments.

A new agreement has been signed and the province has re-instated the $5.2 million. Federal Minister Chuck Strahl previously stated that he would follow the lead of the province. Now is the time for him to take respectful action.

Keith Goulet,
PhD student and former Cabinet Minister

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29 March 2010
To the Honourable Chuck Strahl, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0A6

Fax +6139449376

Dear Sir,

We are writing today on behalf of the Student Christian Movement of Canada in support of First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv). As an organization that is made up of post-secondary campus groups from across Canada, and who have been working on faith-based social justice issues since 1921, we feel called to respond to the closing of the FNUniv.

While we are aware of the many issues around governance at FNUniv, we are also aware of the fact that the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has recently dissolved the Board of Governors and suspended the President and Vice-President Administration due to governance issues and mismanagement. Just as steps in the right direction have been taken by the Board of Governors of FNUniv and the Saskatchewan Government, the Federal Government has decided to walk away.

The history of colonization in this country is shameful and indefensible. Part of this history involves the painful memory of residential schools with forceable confinement, the destruction of Indigenous cultures, and the abuse of children – physically, spiritually, emotionally and sexually. If the Harper government is serious about the residential schools apology offered to the First Nations people of Canada, and now that the conditions of good governance by FNUniv are being met, we believe actions must follow words; the funding to FNUniv from the Federal Government must be restored.

This is a one of a kind post-secondary educational experience for thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and as we continue to struggle out of the shackles of colonialism, the Student Christian Movement of Canada stands in solidarity with FNUniv.

We say simply, First Nations people have a right to First Nations education.

Yours sincerely,
Sheryl Johnson and Geoff Dice
General Board Co-Chairs, Student Christian Movement of Canada

cc Jan Guenther Braun, General Secretary: jan@scmcanada.org; Jean Crowder, NDP Critic for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Affairs; Todd Russell, Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic; Lorraine Rekmans, Green Party critic for Aboriginal Affairs; and John Duncan, Parliamentary Secretary for Indian and Northern Affairs, Conservative.

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