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From an opinion piece by Richard Wagamese in the Kenora Daily Miner & News of May 22, 2010.

When it was established as a federated college through the University of Regina, the First Nations University of Canada was a beacon of hope. It offered First Nations students the opportunity to study within a framework that reflected their culture, history, languages and ceremony. This was critical. In an educational system that asked them throughout their student careers to follow outside standards and protocol many floundered, many quit and many gave up hope of ever getting the degrees they craved. FNUC allowed them to feel at home, to be surrounded by peers, to speak their languages and because of that, take straight aim at success.

In the time that I taught there I saw the light of possibility in every student’s eyes. That’s a powerful thing to be faced with. I saw youth encouraged and empowered by the presence of an institution that actually represented them and their identities. I saw a generation of potential leaders evolving under the gentle hands of an administration and faculty that understood their problems and their needs. I saw an entire student body learn to incorporate their traditional and cultural selves into a post secondary regime that’s daunting even for non-native students.

Read the full opinion piece in the Kenora Daily Miner & News.

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From an article by Barb Pacholik in the Leader-Post of April 28, 2010.

Delivering the keynote address Tuesday at the National Aboriginal Leadership Seminar, Mercredi praised those students who recently came to the defence of the First Nations University of Canada during a funding crisis.

He applauded them for standing up for a treaty right, for the beliefs of their ancestors, and for the benefit of future generations.

“It’s a big thing that you stood up for the rights of your people,” Mercredi told the one-day seminar hosted by the University of Regina’s Aboriginal Student Centre.

Read more in the Leader-Post.

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From an article by Stephen LaRose published on rabble.ca on April 13, 2010.

The province has agreed to bring back its funding — after FNUC signed a four-year deal with the University of Regina, allowing the university to handle FNUC’s money, which was where many of the battles over FNUC’s control by the FSIN occurred, and which was roasted in Westerlund’s report.

But Ottawa has thought otherwise. Four days after the chiefs’ congress removed the board of governors, Strahl announced that INAC would suspend its $7.2 million operating payment to the college. The transitional funding announced March 30 probably pays for the severance packages of professors, who will be eagerly picked up by other universities and colleges in Canada. As for the students, they get squat.

“In reality, it means the end of First Nations University,” says Jim Turk, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. (Officials from FNUC, the student council and officials from the FSIN were unavailable for comment as the story went to press.)

Strahl’s announcement does little good for FNUC’s current students. Take Swan, for example. FNUC has one of the three aboriginal linguistics programs in Canada he requires to earn his degree in his area of specialization. But if and when FNUC closes its doors, Strahl’s plan calls for students enrolled in his program to move to another university. Except, in Swan’s case, the nearest university — the U of Regina — doesn’t have an indigenous studies department, so where does he go to complete his education?

Read the full article on rabble.ca.

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FNUniv community, supporters and anyone interested is invited to come learn about the “FNUniv Difference!”

Come find out about the exciting, innovative, interesting and interactive work of faculty members at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina. Read below.. you won’t want to miss this!

Faculty and sessional lecturers from the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) will present academic seminars highlighting various research initiatives on 14 April 2010 from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm. The presentations will take place in FNUniv’s common area.

As part of the event, Jim Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), will address the current funding crisis resulting from the federal position on FNUniv.

Academic Excellence at FNUniv: Presentations

  • 8:00 Pipe Ceremony
  • 9:00-9:15 Dr. Shauneen Pete
  • 9:15-9:30 Blair Stonechild: “Post-secondary education as ‘the new buffalo'”
  • 9:30-9:45 Jan van Eijk: “Linguistics as a tool against racism”
  • 9:45-10:00 Randy Lundy: Poetry reading
  • 10:00-10:15 Bettina Schneider: “Reclaiming economic sovereignty: Native & aboriginal financial institutions”
  • 10:15-10:30 Coffee break
  • 10:30-10:45 Alfred Young Man: “Teaching Native Art in a non-Native University”
  • 10:45-11:00 Fidji Gendron: “Native Plants as Educational Tools”
  • 11:00-11:15 Linda Goulet
    & Jo-Ann Episkenew

  • 11:15-11:30 Edward Doolittle: “Differential Geometry of Teepees”
  • 11:30-11:45 James Turk: (CAUT)
  • 12:15-1:15 Lunch/ Activities in Gallery
  • 1:15-2:15 Panel on Indigenous education (David Miller, Angelina
    Weenie, Esther-Kathleen Segal, Sylvia McAdam)

  • 2:15-2:30 Jesse Archibald-Barber: “The Re-incarnation of Duncan Campbell Strahl”
  • 2:30-2:45 Arzu Sadarli: “Water quality project”
  • 2:45-3:00 Shannon Avison
  • 3:00-3:15 Olga Lovick “Songbirds and Birdsongs”
  • 3:15-3:30 Closing Remarks

Activities in Gallery

  • Judy Anderson: Hands-on art in gallery; safety pin headdress (interactive)
  • Lionel Peyachew: Drum making demonstration
  • Jeff Sanderson, Sol Ratt & Sheila Kennedy: Interactive Cree

For more information: Bridget Keating bk_keating@yahoo.co.uk

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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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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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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: Maintenant, le prochain député est M. Lemay.

Vous avez sept minutes.

M. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ): Avant de commencer, surveillons si la traduction est bonne.

Ne commencez pas tout de suite.

On vous surveillera, parce que la traduction est importante, vous comprenez.

C’est important que vous compreniez, Grand chef et madame Myo, ce que j’ai à vous dire.

No, no. I’m going to go and appeal.

On ira tranquillement et on verra si vous avez la traduction.

Grand chef, ça va?

The Chair: Everyone can hear?

M. Marc Lemay: Premièrement, merci d’être là. Ce qui se passe ici aujourd’hui n’est pas un record, mais presque un record. Pourquoi? Tous les membres du comité sont extrêmement sensibles à votre demande. Pourquoi? En effet, la Chambre a repris ses travaux le 3 mars et dès le 4 mars, nous étions sensibilisés à ce qui se passait à l’Université des Premières Nations de Saskatchewan et dès le 10 mars et le 11 mars, vous avez fait des interventions que nous avons reprises ici, en comité. Et comme nous avions d’autres travaux, nous avons décidé de mettre certains travaux de côté pour pouvoir vous entendre d’urgence. Donc, vous devez considérer — et j’espère que vous le faites — que le comité prend réellement très au sérieux votre demande.

Pour nous, je le dis au nom du Bloc et mes collègues l’ont laissé savoir aussi, ce serait une catastrophe si on devait fermer cette Université des Premières Nations.

Une fois cela dit, je dois vous dire cependant que je ne sais pas comment cela se terminera parce qu’on n’a pas rencontré les autorités du ministère — on le fera dans quelques minutes —, mais vous avez couru après le trouble. Je m’excuse de le dire comme cela. Je n’ai pas besoin que vous repreniez, je sais tout, j’ai tout lu. En trois ans, honnêtement, j’ai trouvé les gouvernements bien patients parce que cela a pris trois ans avant que l’on dise que c’était assez.

Maintenant, il faut rétablir les ponts. J’ai une seule question, une seule, et j’aimerais que l’Université de Regina y réponde, ou peut-être le grand chef également. Quelles garanties pouvez-vous donner aux gouvernements, tant de la Saskatchewan que du Canada, que jamais plus, si les fonds étaient rétablis, si l’aide vous était apportée, qu’une telle chose ne se reproduira plus? C’est la seule question que j’ai, mais j’aimerais bien avoir une réponse.

Ms. Viane Timmons: Thank you very much for the question.

The University of Regina’s relationship with its federated college was clear. We were academically integrated, but they were independent administratively and governance-wise.

FSIN, with the leadership of Chief Lonechild, has said that they are now prepared to go into a shared management model with the University of Regina. That’s a huge step, and a huge concession on the chief’s part to say, “We will give up that autonomy.” And the University of Regina has a record of good, solid fiscal management. We can guarantee, as long as we’re in a shared management relationship with First Nations University, that we will continue the history of accountability, transparency, and openness in terms of fiscal management. We guarantee that.

M. Marc Lemay: Grand chef.

Chief Guy Lonechild: Thank you very much, member from the Bloc.

It’s important to know that we’ve been down this road before in the area of gaming. We’ve seen troubles at our institution. When we restructured, we did so in the best interest, of course, of employment, ensuring that we had governance issues in place. With that institution, we now win governance awards from the Conference Board of Canada.

Again, with the First Nations University of Canada, we are serious and sincere about ensuring we come out of this, making all the proper reorganizational efforts and restructuring efforts possible. And the depoliticization is the first step. But we look at best practices from around the country. And we’ll ensure that what we learn going forward with the partnership arrangement…we’re going to have a stronger institution long into the future.

M. Marc Lemay: Êtes-vous prêts, y-a-t-il une entente, y-a-t-il un contrat, y-a-t-il un document prêt à être signé entre l’Université de Regina et bien évidemment la First Nations University? Ce sera probablement Mme Myo qui répondra à cette question. Est-ce que ce genre de document sera respecté s’il était signé au cours des prochaines années?

Ms. Viane Timmons: I just received an email that all partners have signed a contract to do a shared management agreement: the provincial government, FSIN , FNU and University of Regina. They’ve all signed on to a shared management agreement with—

M. Marc Lemay: Est-ce que ce document est disponible? Est-ce que le comité pourra en avoir une copie lorsque tout le monde l’aura signé? Est-ce qu’il pourrait être rendu public pour que le comité en ait une copie? Même s’il est en anglais, on se chargera de le faire traduire.

Ms. Viane Timmons: Yes, we can get you that. It’s signed and ready to be presented to you today, yes.

M. Marc Lemay: Combien de temps me reste-t-il?

Le président: Une minute.

M. Marc Lemay: D’accord.

J’aimerais que Mme Myo, qui est conseillère spéciale du grand chef, complète ce qu’elle a commencé à dire tantôt.

Quelle est l’importance de cette université pour les étudiants autochtones?

Ms. Dorothy Myo: Thank you.

This university is important, of course, to our students, our young people and other learners because it preserves, protects and maintains our first nations languages, cultures and knowledge and that we have the ability, a structure in place, that will pass on and transfer this knowledge to our own people, but also to share with other non-first nations, aboriginal, non-aboriginal learners and students.

With that sharing, it creates, I think, understanding not only about who we are and about our histories, about our languages, but also from that understanding I think it creates dialogue and also a place where we can begin to work together for a better future for all people.

Le président: Merci, monsieur Lemay.

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