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From a posting by Ryan Pilon on the News Talk 650 CKOM web site, posted June 15, 2010.

Atleo says the university is vital to the future of the First Nations people.

“If we are able to close the education gap in a 10 year time frame, it would mean more than 70 billion contributions by First Nations to the Canadian economy.”

Read more on the News Talk 650 CKOM web site.

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From an article posted on CBC.ca on April 8, 2010.

Without government support, it will take 63 years for the income gap between First Nations, Métis and Inuit and their non-aboriginal counterparts to disappear, says the non-partisan research institute Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which did the study.

The Conservatives are “already engaging in a new approach to providing support for First Nations and Inuit post-secondary experience,” according to Margot Geduld, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs.

In 2008-2009, the government spent $300 million on post-secondary education for an estimated 22,000 First Nations students, Geduld said, with further funding set aside in the 2010 budget.

But the report suggests that’s not enough.

To erase the gap, the government should abandon its “traditional colonial style” of imposing “ideas that worked for the dominant culture,” the report said, in favour of allowing communities to develop their own educational and training strategies.

It will also require a major shift away from what the report calls “the colonial administration of aboriginal communities” by the Canadian government.

Read more at CBC.ca.

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Dear Mr. Strahl,

My name is Kelti, and though I do not attend the FNUniv, the closure of a university in Canada is of great concern to me as as student. I believe that all educational institutions should remain open, and receive more funding from both provincial and federal governments to help the future generations of this great country achieve their life goals. Not only is education in general important, education of our First Nations cultures, by elders, cultural specialists is essential to the continued existence of such a vibrant and beautiful indigenous people. In a day in age when differences are celebrated, and the cultures of the world are explored and appreciated for their individualism, it appears completely counter-productive to close an institution that celebrates and educates the population on our indigenous cultures. We as Canadians pride ourselves on our modern multiculturalism. How can we be proud when we close one of the major institutions set up to celebrate our most prominent feature and allow for the education of all peoples on First Nation awareness?

I understand that in the past there have been several concerns over the mismanagement of funds at FNUniv, and I find it a little ironic that the governing bodies of Canada seem fit to recall funding promises on that basis. In my (admittedly limited) experience, the greatest misappropriator of funds seems to be the government, so I expect that a little leniency may be granted in the case of another institution making the same mistakes our fearless leaders on the Hill do.

If funding to FNUniv is to be so dramatically cut, it would mean the closure of the school. Canada would be forever smeared as singling out our only First Nations institution for closure when hundreds of other universities and colleges survive this economic turmoil. Even if this is not the intent of these funding cuts, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be spun that way by the rest of the world, and will discredit Canadians and our government as being anti-cultural instead of the multicultural image we like to expound.

For the sake of the students currently attending FNUniv, and the thousands more to come in the next few years, I urge you to reconsider funding to this school and not close its doors. Education is the only thing that will stabilize our economy, and the sooner we realize this and pour more resources into education, the sooner we as a nation can rise to become a leader in this modern world.

Thank you very much for your time, and I trust the government, those we have elected to lead us in this time of economic crisis, will do what is best for the people of Canada, and keep all our educational facilities open for the generations to come.

Many thanks, and all my best hopes lie with you.
Very sincerely,
Kelti Boissonneault
A concerned University Student
Lethbridge Alberta

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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.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Anaquod.

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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, five minutes.

Ms. Jean Crowder: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Due to the miracles of modern technology some of us have a copy of the memorandum of understanding which is signed by the province and which does commit to $5-plus million. It does outline the reorganization and administration of the First Nations University during the interim period, the administration, the financial accounting–

Mr. John Duncan: Point of order, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Point of order, go ahead, Mr. Duncan.

Mr. John Duncan: We have an issue on this side. We don’t have the document and we’ve got somebody quoting from it. If you’re going to quote from it, we want a copy.

The Chair: He is in fact correct. The member will know that when we have documents available for committee members, particularly if you’re going to refer to them, they must be circulated to committee members in both official languages. That is the rule that we would like to abide by.

I would ask, Ms. Crowder, that you may have been given a copy of this privately but you’ll have to keep that separate from your arguments or questions that you put this afternoon.

Ms. Jean Crowder: I guess the only comment I was trying to make was that members of this committee have indicated they wanted some assurance there was a signed document. I have a copy and can say I have a copy of the signed document then. I won’t refer to the contents of the document.

The Chair: Please, yes, unless we have it in both official languages.

In fairness, it should be available to all members of the committee if it’s going to be part of our discussions.

Ms. Jean Crowder: I understand it has been sent to the clerk and perhaps in the interim between the time we recess and we recommence, perhaps it can be made available to all committee members. I don’t know of the ability of having it translated in a short notice. I’m sure it won’t be–

The Chair: We’ll investigate that option.

Go ahead.

Ms. Jean Crowder: I want to come back to the committee members just in terms of a letter that came out from Arok Wolvengrey and I wanted to touch on one comment in that letter. It says:

At this time of supposed reconciliation for the disastrous effects of the residential school system, language is the greatest issue remaining to be addressed by the governments of this land.

I think that speaks to the importance of the first nations university and I’m going to throw it open for comment at this point. Also, if you wanted to have any further comment on the agreement that’s been signed.

Chief.

Chief Guy Lonechild: I’ll ask for some support very quickly that we believe the Speech from the Throne talked about strengthening student support and that strengthening student support also means that institutions that serve post-secondary students in this country such as the First Nations University are an integral part of that. That the Indian students support programming. That the post-secondary students support programming as a vital and important part of that as well.

In this way forward, I think, as a whole, we can say that the economic spin-offs from graduates as opposed to people who are on the welfare line speak loud and clear that we have a real concerted effort as Canadians to ensure that we move forward in strengthening opportunities as opposed to closing doors.

The Chair: Ms. Myo.

Ms. Dorothy Myo: Thank you.

The very reason why the First Nations University of Canada which, I guess, was firstly as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College was opened or established in the first place was to look after languages so that we could preserve and protect them and pass on the indigenous knowledge as I said earlier. That was the vision of our elders as to why this university was so important to our young people and for future generations.

We are committed to having a first nations university that’s transparent and accountable to all first nations and the other, I guess, our neighbours, our non-first nations and first nations alike. So this is the kind of benchmarks we’re setting for ourselves as a working group to have that kind of accountability, not just financial accountability, management accountability, governance accountability, but also our historical, our language, our cultural accountabilities that I think are a really important part of this institution.

Thank you.

The Chair: Point of order, go ahead, Mr. Duncan.

Mr. John Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are sitting here and I’m sorry, but we are talking about a document that is brand new. We don’t know what the federal government approach is on this document. We don’t have it available in French.

I’m sorry, but to perpetuate this meeting doesn’t work for us. I don’t think it’s appropriate and I think it’s out of bounds. So my suggestion is that in order to properly deal with something that has occurred here, the appropriate measure for this committee is to adjourn and reconvene when we’ve all had a chance to digest exactly what has transpired here. To continue these proceedings is simply unworkable and inappropriate.

The Chair: Okay, on the point of order.

In deference to my earlier comment, I would just say that there’s no procedural reason why a document that is circulated privately can’t be commented on. It would be no different than someone providing a newspaper article or something one would want to quote from and I’ll get to your final question in a moment.

That said, it’s recognized that this particular document that’s been referred to brings a substantial element to our discussions this afternoon. I would think it only proper that whoever is the source of that document might consider providing all members with the pertinent document. However, it can’t be ordered as such.

To Mr. Duncan, are you moving then for adjournment, Mr. Duncan?

Mr. John Duncan: Yes, I am. I’m move to adjourn, because this is a seminal document, central to the discussion that’s going on here, and it’s inappropriate to the extreme.

The Chair: We have a motion to adjourn.

As you would know, Mr. Duncan, just to clarify, we do have a second part to this meeting this evening. Is it your intention that we adjourn this meeting completely? We have witnesses scheduled for this evening.

Mr. John Duncan: We have time between adjournment now and when we would reconvene, in any case, after the votes, so we have an opportunity to revisit.

The Chair: So the motion would be to suspend the meeting until after votes. That is the motion. The motion is not debatable, members.

Chief Guy Lonechild: Just to add that this has been sent to the clerk, for the record.

The Chair: I don’t know that’s been verified. As you know, the clerk is with us here this afternoon. We can’t verify that in fact it has been received, or that we can have it available in both official languages.

Nonetheless, the motion has been put on the floor. We’re past the point of order. I ruled on the point of order. We now have a motion to suspend. It’s not debatable.

(Motion negatived)

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Duncan, for your intervention.

We will continue on, but I will say again for whomever is the source of this document, this is extremely pertinent to our conversations here this afternoon, and I would urge you to consider sharing it with all members of the committee.

Monsieur Lemay, vous avez un point à soulever.

M. Marc Lemay: Je ferai un rappel au Règlement, monsieur le président. Je crois qu’on peut continuer à entendre nos invités. Je sais que M. Goodale avait des questions, alors on pourrait entendre ses questions et ensuite ajourner la séance pour aller voter dans 10 minutes.

Entre temps, on prend le document et on le sert. On n’a pas droit de s’en servir, puisqu’il n’est pas dans les deux langues officielles. C’est évident qu’on ne peut pas discuter d’un document qui n’a pas été traduit et qui n’a pas été déposé officiellement dans les deux langues officielles. Mais on pourrait du moins permettre à ceux qui avaient des questions de continuer à les poser pour qu’on puisse terminer.

The Chair: Thank you for your intervention. However, I do have a speakers’ list at the moment, and the meeting will continue.

Actually, Ms. Crowder, you had about a minute and 20 seconds left if you would like to finish your five minutes.

Ms. Jean Crowder: I know there were other people who wanted to comment.

Diane, I know that—

Mrs. Diane J. Adams: I would just like to sort of build on the idea of the languages and how important they are. Languages are just a small piece of the puzzle of all the important cultural preservation that the First Nations University has been doing for 34 years, and really tell you that students at this university are being told time and time again by the Government of Canada that they are being protected, but when first nations students and non-first nations students, who have chosen to study at the First Nations University, are being told that the university that has been working so very hard to preserve their culture, their languages, and all of those things that we’re lost through residential schools, is going to close and they will be forced to go and integrate into mainstream institution that has not been doing that important cultural preservation work, on the floor and to the students feels like a policy of assimilation.

I will say very strongly that is the reality of how students are interpreting this, and how they feel it is a real attack on their ability and their right to learn in an environment that honours their traditions and their culture, and is no different than French Canadians deciding to study at a French university, or Christian people deciding to study at a Christian university.

Le président: D’accord. Merci, madame Crowder.

That’s the end of our time.

Merci, Ms. Adams.

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From a letter by Gary Merasty in the StarPhoenix of March 25, 2010.

However, the value of this institution for both Saskatchewan and Canada is unquestionable. For more than 30 years, we have been the proud provincial host to the only indigenous university in Canada, an institution that has generated thousands of graduates — non-First Nation and First Nation — who’ve gone on to contribute to the economic growth of the province and country.

Establishing FNUC was not an easy process. It was created through the dedication and hard work of many First Nations and non-First Nations people who recognized that Saskatchewan long has been a place of indigenous innovation, creativity and achievement.

It’s my hope that government and leadership ultimately do not blindly walk away from this institution. That would be a monumental mistake.

Read the full letter in the StarPhoenix.

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For Immediate Release
March 24, 2010

OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today reiterated his call for the Harper government to restore its portion of funding to First Nations University, following the lead of the Saskatchewan government.

“Yesterday, the Saskatchewan government restored $5.2 million in funding to First Nations University because they realized the importance of this institution to the future success of so many First Nations students,” said Mr. Ignatieff, who raised the issue in the House of Commons. “The Conservative government must follow suit, or their snap decision to pull FNU’s funding will continue to cause very real harm to hundreds of students and faculty.”

Mr. Ignatieff said everyone recognizes that there are problems at the institution that need to be addressed, but the provincial government is working with university faculty and students, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the University of Regina to keep it operational.

“Stephen Harper sat in his office on Parliament Hill and decided its problems weren’t worth expending his time and effort on – he simply decided it wasn’t worth saving,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “I visited FNU. I met the leadership. I met the students. And I can tell Mr. Harper that these are hard-working young people who deserve a chance to get an education – a chance that will be lost if Mr. Harper doesn’t reverse his decision.”

Mr. Ignatieff argued that the Harper government’s attitude towards FNU reflects their overall lack of support for learning, with harmful consequences for the Canadian economy

“Mr. Harper just doesn’t seem to get the importance of a learning society to the future success of our country. He has cut funding to FNU, cut student grants and scholarships by $254 million, cut adult learning and literacy programs, and he has put a new tax on research that will make it harder to recruit world-class researchers.”

“This is not how you build the innovative economy of the future.”

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Contact:

Press Office
Office of the Leader of the Opposition
613-996-6740

Pour diffusion immédiate
Le 24 mars 2010
L’Université des Premières Nations a besoin de l’aide fédérale, selon Michael Ignatieff

OTTAWA – Aujourd’hui, le chef libéral Michael Ignatieff a de nouveau pressé le gouvernement Harper de rétablir la part fédérale du financement de l’Université des Premières Nations, comme l’a fait le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.

« Hier, le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan a rétabli un financement de 5,2 millions de dollars en faveur de l’Université des Premières Nations parce qu’il a compris l’importance de cet établissement pour la réussite de nombreux étudiants autochtones, a déclaré M. Ignatieff, qui a soulevé cette question à la Chambre des communes. Le gouvernement conservateur doit emboîter le pas. Sinon, sa décision impulsive de couper les vivres à cette université aura vraiment des conséquences néfastes pour des centaines d’étudiants et pour les enseignants. »

Selon M. Ignatieff, tout le monde reconnaît qu’il y a des problèmes à régler à l’Université des Premières Nations. Mais le gouvernement provincial collabore avec les enseignants et les étudiants, avec la fédération des Nations indiennes de la Saskatchewan et avec l’Université de Regina pour qu’elle continue de fonctionner.

« Stephen Harper s’est assis dans son bureau de la Colline parlementaire et a décidé que les problèmes de l’Université des Premières Nations ne valaient pas la peine qu’il s’en préoccupe. Il a décidé que cet établissement ne valait pas la peine d’être sauvé, a ajouté M. Ignatieff. J’ai visité cette université. J’ai rencontré ses directeurs et ses étudiants. Et je peux dire à M. Harper que ces jeunes travaillent dur et méritent une chance de s’instruire. Or ils perdront cette chance si M. Harper ne revient pas sur sa décision. »

M. Ignatieff soutient que l’attitude du gouvernement Harper envers l’Université des Premières Nations témoigne du fait que de manière générale, il ne favorise pas l’éducation, ce qui a des conséquences néfastes pour l’économie canadienne.

« M. Harper semble ne pas comprendre du tout qu’il est important d’avoir une société instruite pour la prospérité future de notre pays. Il a coupé le financement de l’Université des Premières Nations, réduit de 254 millions de dollars les subventions et bourses aux étudiants, sabré les programmes d’éducation des adultes et d’alphabétisation. En outre, il a frappé la recherche d’un nouvel impôt qui va nous empêcher de recruter les meilleurs chercheurs au monde. »

« Ce n’est pas ainsi qu’on construit l’économie innovante de l’avenir. »

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Renseignements :

Service de presse
Cabinet du chef de l’Opposition
613-996-6740

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