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March 27, 2010

Dear Prime Minister Harper and Minister Strahl:

I am writing to urgently request that you please reinstate funding to the First Nations University of Canada. This is an essential institution and its closure will have serious repercussions for generations to come, and for the future of Canada.

Canadians have an awareness of the many challenges that First Nations communities across this country face. Again and again, the public hears stories in the national media about the abhorrent living conditions in these communities — the lack of clean drinking water, housing shortages, substance abuse and the suicide epidemic amongst First Nations youth. Many people hear these stories and are at loss as how to begin to address these challenges. At this moment in history, many Canadians are looking to federal leadership to seek solutions to these problems.

One of the most fundamental ways of addressing some of these challenges is to provide Aboriginal people with access to postsecondary education. Only 3% of First Nations people in Canada have university degrees compared to 18% in the general population. First Nations University provides this vital access to education for many Aboriginal people, an opportunity they would not otherwise have. The closure of First Nations University will have immediate and dire consequences for the students who attend, but will also have more serious ramifications for generations to come.

It is absolutely crucial to keep the doors to the First Nations University open, as many Aboriginal people will not attend university at other institutions. Pursuing a postsecondary education can be a leap for anyone, but that leap is often greater for Aboriginal students who may be facing additional challenges. These students need an institution where they welcomed and their culture is celebrated. Many will simply not thrive in another university setting.

The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, held last night in Saskatchewan, are a reminder to us all about the incredible contributions that Aboriginal Canadians have made to all aspects of our society and to the formation of Canada. Their continuing contributions are an essential part of our country’s future.

Please demonstrate your vision for the future of Canada and the next generation of Aboriginal people who have a contribution to make in this country. Show your commitment to those who will not have any other opportunity to a postsecondary education, and reinstate funding to First Nations University. Prove that your government is willing to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Sincerely,

Danis Goulet

cc: Todd Russell, Federal Liberal Critic for Aboriginal Affairs
Jean Crowder, Federal NDP Critic for Aboriginal Peoples Affairs

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