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From an article by Alex Boutilier in Metro Halifax of June 22, 2010.

A handful of student activists were on hand at Halifax MP Megan Leslie’s NDP constituency office yesterday, urging the federal government to provide permanent funding to the First Nations University in Saskatchewan.

Seven members of the Canadian Federation of Students presented a letter, addressed to Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, to Leslie’s constituency assistant.

“First Nations University plays an important role in encouraging aboriginal students to pursue post-secondary studies,” said Elise Graham, CFS Nova Scotia chairwoman.

Read more at metronews.ca.

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Media Release

For Immediate Release: June 14, 2010

FSIN Chiefs in Assembly Approve First Nations University Amendments

(Saskatoon SK): The Chiefs in Assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has approved a series of amendments to the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) Act last Thursday, June 10, 2010.

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Guy Lonechild said, “This legislative amendment is a very significant step forward for First Nations University. It represents tremendous commitment on the part of the partners in the process and the culmination of months of intense work by all of them. In my role as FSIN Chief, I applaud those efforts. Success has been achieved because all of us, as partners, did precisely what we committed to accomplish.”

The amendments to the First Nations University (FNUniv) Act of Canada approved by the Chiefs in Assembly last week include the following: reducing the Board of Governors from twenty-one members to nine, appointing Board members based on skills and experience, thereby depoliticizing it, implementing best practices in Board governance, and allowing for national representation.

“Throughout the past few months, FSIN has been completely supportive of the efforts of all the partners to achieve significant improvements in governance, accountability and financial stewardship for First Nations University,” said Chief Lonechild.

In February 2010, an FSIN resolution established an Interim Board of Governors for First Nations University. The Interim Board’s mandate was to increase the level of financial stability and address governance issues as outlined in the All Chiefs Task Force and the Dr. Manley Begay Report. Later that month, FSIN assisted in the establishment of a technical working group that was mandated to develop a series of working agreements for the partners. A Memorandum of Understanding between the partners was finalized in March, at which time provincial funding was reinstated.

In March and April, the First Nations University Interim Board of Governors submitted an Indian Studies Support Program (ISSP) proposal as well as a business plan. As a result of those applications, the Government of Canada reinstated a total of up to $7 Million under the ISSP envelope.

“Throughout those months, our role, as FSIN leadership, has been to continuously communicate to the federal Minister and Members of Parliament the pivotal role of First Nations University. Above all, we conveyed the overriding need to address the long term interests of First Nations University students,” stated Chief Lonechild.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.

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For More Information Visit www.fsin.com

Mervin Brass, Executive Director of Communications
Direct: 306.956.1026
Cellular: 306.220.7187
Email BlackBerry: mervin.brass@fsin.com

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Canadian Federation of Students

Thursday, June 03, 2010
OTTAWA–

The federal government’s decision to extend funding to First Nations University for another year buys time but leaves an uncertain future for many Aboriginal students.

“Students are relieved that First Nations University will be able to keep its doors open for another year,” said Cassandra Opikokew, Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students. “However, the federal government must end the uncertainty and commit to sustained long-term, Aboriginal-controlled funding.”

Following years of difficulties, the federal and Saskatchewan governments cut funding to the University in February. Despite an institutional restructuring and the decision by the Saskatchewan government to restore funding, the federal government has refused to commit to funding beyond March 2011.

“While the government has stopped short of restoring permanent funding, we are one step closer to ensuring First Nations University has a future,” added Opikokew. “The restoration of funding is a clear sign that students’ actions are having an impact.”

The First Nations University of Canada is the only institution of its kind in Canada and has been a leader in Indigenous education for over 30 years. First Nations University was designed to be the home of treaty education and to serve as a model for First Nations-controlled education.

Founded in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is Canada’s largest student organisation, uniting more that one-half million students from ten provinces. The National Aboriginal Caucus is the voice for Aboriginal students in Canada with members on campuses from St. John’s to Victoria.

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Contact: Cassandra Opikokew, National Aboriginal Caucus Chair
Tel: 306-537-2043

Contact: Dave Molenhuis, Canadian Federation of Students National Chairperson
Tel: 613-232-7394

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From an article by Tim Switzer in the Vancouver Sun of Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

On Wednesday, staff and students at FNUniv breathed a collective sigh of relief when Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl announced the federal government would provide the embattled school with $4 million to cover costs from Sept. 1 to March 31.

“I really hold the First Nations University dear to my heart,” said soon-to-be-third-year business student Rebecca Sangwais while sitting behind the counter at Kohkum Bea’s convenience store at FNUniv. “I didn’t realize at first how awesome this university is and the support system it offers. I was worried that it would be shutting down.

“I’m really overjoyed to know we’re going to be here for another year and hopefully for the future.”

The next step is for the university to secure long-term, sustainable funding. The $4-million offer, like the $3 million provided by the federal government to see students through the end of August, comes from the Indian Studies Support Program and comes with conditions that FNUniv meets milestones for governance and accountability changes.

FNUniv president Shauneen Pete was not made available to speak to the media Wednesday, but said in a news release that the “board of governors has committed an extraordinary effort to restore governance and accountability structures.”

She also noted that, while funding is back near the level it was in February when over $12 million was pulled from the university by the federal and provincial governments following years of allegations of financial mismanagement and political interference, there are still dollars that can be saved.

Liberal Ralph Goodale, the local MP, cautiously applauded the move.

“It’s a good sign, but it’s not a guarantee and that’s what’s really required here,” said Goodale. “Hopefully, all of the partners here will use the time that’s available here to put into place an arrangement that will last a long time on a sound and credible financial basis.”

Read the full article in the Vancouver Sun.

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From an article by Jennifer Graham in the Globe and Mail of Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

The minister [Chuck Strahl] said he’s encouraged by the university’s progress so far and looks forward to seeing it become increasingly stable, both in its finances and in its governance. The funding depends on continued reform.

“I reinforced that in a letter to them today to say that those milestones must be reached. We can’t slide back, because this has happened before, unfortunately,” he said.

There is hope for the university beyond next spring, he added.

“We wouldn’t be putting $7 million into it if we didn’t think it had a long-term future,” Mr. Strahl said.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, who represents the Regina riding where First Nations University is located, said the new money is a step in the right direction, but added that the school needs long-term, sustainable financing. It can’t depend on “hand-to-mouth funding,” Mr. Goodale said.

Read the full article in the Globe and Mail.

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SASKATOON, April 30 /CNW/ – The announcement that the federal government has approved $3.0 Million in funding for First Nations University (FNUniv) represents yet another significant step forward.

“Minister Strahl’s announcement yesterday afternoon underscores the importance of First Nations University,” said Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Guy Lonechild. “We are very pleased to hear this news. FSIN is equally pleased that the significant improvements in governance, accountability and financial stewardship at First Nations University have been acknowledged. We are appreciative of Minister Strahl’s recognition of that significant progress.”

The role of FSIN has been to support, to encourage and to assist First Nations University. Chief Lonechild noted that FNUniv had made a compelling case for full federal government funding of an institution that is important to First Nations people across the country, and in fact, to all Canadians.

“On behalf of FSIN, I would like to commend the Interim Board of Governors and Administration of First Nations University as well as the University of Regina for their diligent work on the ISSP application and the business case. Together they have created a framework that ensures accountability and sustainability,” said Chief Lonechild.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations will continue to assist First Nations University in seeking an additional $4.2 Million in long term, sustainable funding under its business plan application.

“We will work with First Nations University in the determination of the benchmarks to be addressed in the next stage. We will continue to speak to federal government leaders about the importance of this institution. And we will continues to offer our strong support to First Nations University in this important endeavour,” concluded Chief Lonechild.

For further information: Contact information for media: Communications Director, Mervin Brass, (306) 220-7187, mervin.brass@fsin.com

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From a letter by Conservative MP Rob Clarke in the Leader-Post of April 22, 2010, in response to an editorial by Doug Cuthand.

We have made $3 million available through the Indian studies support program and are willing to work with the University of Regina as it assists FNUC.

Cuthand unsurprisingly missed laying out the hard truths surrounding the government’s decision on funding FNUC, which has had years of systemic fiscal mismanagement and governance issues.

While reforms were made, it’s unclear what impact these changes will have and if they are sustainable.

We recognize that FSIN Chief Guy Lonechild, who inherited a terrible mess from Lawrence Joseph, has taken steps to address the many critical issues facing FNUC. However, our government will continue to act in the best interests of the students, taxpayers and accountability.

I proudly stand behind our government’s record and mine.

Read more in the Leader-Post.

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