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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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URFA is pleased for the students, faculty and staff as the announcement of $4M funding meets most of FNUniv’s requirements for this budget year. However, funding needs to be stabilized so that it does not flow through annual granting programs such as the Indian Student Support Program (ISSP) in order for the university to plan with predictability for its future growth. No other Canadian university operates its core programs on the basis of annual grants that must be applied for and this mechanism perpetuates FNniv’s financial jeopardy.

At a time when the Aboriginal population has the greatest growth rate in Canada, this institution should be looking to expand programs, not reduce them. The provincial and federal governments have a responsibility to ensure that the chronic under funding of FNUniv is addressed as they look at ways of dealing with structure and governance.

Contacts:
Dr. Miguel Sanchez, Interim Chair, URFA, 306-585-4378
Patricia Fleming, Executive Director, URFA, 306-585-4586

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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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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 an editorial by Doug Cuthand in the StarPhoenix of April 30, 2010.

The First Nations University of Canada, too, has been cast aside by the federal government. This month’s payroll may well be the last for many FNUC staff. Funds have run out and Ottawa refuses to reinstate its funding despite all the positive moves the university’s new board of governors has made.

The University of Regina is onside to provide administrative support, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers has lifted its censure of FNUC. The university is on the right path to reform, but the federal minister is steadfast in his refusal to support this institution. It’s obvious that First Nations institutions are not part of the Conservative government’s political landscape.

Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl began his political career as a member of the Reform party that begat the Canadian Alliance which morphed into the new Conservative Party of Canada. The Reform party was to the right of the old Progressive Conservative party and made considerable noise about First Nations politics and accountability.

This may have appealed to the Tories’ redneck base, but once in power they tried to bury their past. However they continued to attack First Nations and aboriginal issues. They scrapped the Kelowna Accord, refused to sign on to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples and, when FNUC encountered internal problems, they jumped on the chance to destroy the university.

In spite of the best efforts of the new board, the new president and the University of Regina, the federal government remains steadfast in its desire to shut down FNUC.

Read more in the StarPhoenix.

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From an article posted on CBC.ca on April 29, 2010.

Regina’s troubled First Nations University of Canada was threatened with closure unless it took drastic measures to address financial and management issues, documents leaked to media Thursday reveal.

“[W]e have a chance — but only one chance, with no guarantee of success, to make our case [for federal funding],” Guy Lonechild, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), wrote in a letter to the university’s president and the chair of the board of governors on April 16.

The letter was leaked to media by an employee of the university.

Lonechild wrote the letter after meeting with federal officials, including Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl. The FSIN controls FNUC through a board of governors.

Read more on CBC.ca.

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From an article by David Kirton posted to the News Talk 980 site on April 29, 2010.

A letter to the President and the Board chair of the First Nations University of Canada urges quick action, and offers a dark future if that action is not taken.

That letter, written only two days after FNUC president Shawneen Pete went to Ottawa to present a plan, was written by the Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Guy Lonechild says in the letter, obtained by News Talk Radio, that not enough has been done to convince Ottawa that the University is able and willing to reorganize itself.

The letter, dated April 16th, urges the president and board chair Joely BigEagle to act quickly and decisively.

Read the full article on the News Talk 980 site.

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