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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 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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From an article by Patrick White in the Globe and Mail of Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

At a celebration of the school’s academic research on Wednesday, teachers will lecture on topics ranging from the geometry of teepees to songbirds to native plants. It’s part of an effort to persuade Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl that the university is a serious academic institution that deserves to have its funding restored.

“Minister Strahl has made some degrading comments about the university in the last few months and he’s really off base there,” said Jesse Archibald-Barber, an English professor at the school who will give a lecture comparing Mr. Strahl with Duncan Campbell Scott, the head of Indian Affairs between 1913 and 1932 who championed native residential schools. “This conference is a response to those remarks and him calling into question our academic integrity. We have the largest concentration of first nations PhDs in the country. It’s frightening to think that could just dissipate.”

Read the full article in the Globe and Mail.

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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.

Le président: Maintenant Mme Crowder pour sept minutes.

Madame Crowder.

Ms. Jean Crowder: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank the witnesses for appearing today. I’m going to have a question for Ms. Cram and for Minister Norris.

Ms. Cram, just to clarify, because I’m less optimistic than M. Lemay, my understanding of what you’re saying is that the ISSP money, the $7.3 million will be allocated to the province of Saskatchewan for post-secondary education. However, it will be proposal-driven and will not provide core funding.

Ms. Christine Cram: I would say, Ms. Crowder, no, I’m not saying…there have been no decisions made about who would be recipients of the $7.3 million.

Ms. Jean Crowder: Okay, so let’s say hypothetically the University of Regina applied for an ISSP program that they would use to keep the doors of FNUC open. Would that meet the criteria of the program as it stands now?

Ms. Christine Cram: It depends. The ISSP program does not permit the covering of operational costs.

Ms. Jean Crowder: So in other words, FNUC would need to find another source of funds for operational costs, but it could provide for the delivery of programs that are currently…for example, language problems that are currently delivered.

Ms. Christine Cram: It’s possible.

Ms. Jean Crowder: It’s possible.

Ms. Christine Cram: It’s possible for a program that that…depending upon the proposal and the analysis, etc. That is possible.

Ms. Jean Crowder: But in effect it could not cover core funding.

Ms. Christine Cram: No.

Ms. Jean Crowder: Okay,.Minister Norris…and I don’t know which camera I’m looking at…this one.

Minister Norris, I have a question for you in that if, for example, the government does allocate the $7.3 million to the province of Saskatchewan but without any commitment that it could go to keeping the doors open of FNUC, where does that leave the province of Saskatchewan? I guess the question is will FNUC have to close if the federal government does not come to the table, in your view?

Hon. Rob Norris: Thanks very much. I appreciate the question.

For the Province of Saskatchewan and what we’ve said consistently is that while there is no renewed funding to First Nations University, this partnership and certainly the agreement today is vitally important. We will invest in that partnership as long as conditions are met and certainly the financial circumstances within which First Nations University finds itself, these are going to be taxing. What we’ve done is said as long as those conditions are met and so far we’re the only partner at the table that has put real dollars on the table and that is over $5 million.

We have some reference points for what other federated colleges are able to operate with regarding their funding and it is to reiterate First Nations University is a federated college in the University of Regina. But at this stage, I want to reiterate the funds certainly … we want them to stay in Saskatchewan, ask respectfully that they stay in Saskatchewan, we think and have confidence that the partnership provides a balance between the accountability piece that has been missing in the past and greater certainty for the students.

As far as the instrument, the federal instruments that may be considered or utilized for that funding, we want to work as constructively as we can to ensure that the partnership and also some of the circumstances that Ottawa may have. But the bottom line is we are going to need federal dollars and that’s been on the table right from the start. We certainly don’t want to see those dollars no longer flowing to Saskatchewan. We expect that they will.

Ms. Jean Crowder: Thank you, Minister.

The Chair: I’m sorry, Madam Crowder.

A point of order.

Mr. John Duncan: A point of order. I know it says we’re going to be here until 7:30. It is now 7:30. I move to adjourn this session.

The Chair: Okay, we have a motion to adjourn the meeting. This is a motion that is not debatable.

So we will now put the question.

All those in favour of adjournment? I see five. Opposed? I see four.

(Motion agreed to)

Witnesses, thank you very much.

Meeting adjourned.

La séance est ajournée.

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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: We now go to our second videoconference witness, and that will be Mr. Lorne Dennis.

I’m going to ask our other two witnesses, who are joining us by videoconference, you’ll have to turn your microphone off so that Mr. Dennis will be able to join us with his being on. So we’ll do our best. That would be Minister Norris and Ms. Macdonald, make sure your microphone buttons are off, and we’ll see if we can get Mr. Dennis up on line here.

Mr. Dennis.

Mr. Lorne Dennis (As an Individual): All right, coming through.

The Chair: So it works when we want it to.

You’ve heard the audio here, Mr. Dennis. Delighted that you could join us here this afternoon from Edmonton. Members may know that Mr. Dennis is a former CFO for the university.

Mr. Dennis, you have five minutes for your presentation.

Mr. Lorne Dennis: Thank you so much.

And thank you for giving me, as an individual, the opportunity to actually address the committee. As I’m not representing any group, I suspect the flavour of my comments may be somewhat different than what you’ll hear from others, and I beg your forgiveness if I may not be quite as politically correct as some.

The issue I’d like to address is if there is a significant long-term value in keeping FNUC open and operational.

And let me give you a little bit of background as to why I have anything at all to say on this topic. I became connected with the First Nations University of Canada in the first half of 2004 and the last half of 2005 when I was under contract to the school. I was indeed the senior financial officer.

I came to FNUC as a skeptic. I was a management consultant, an MBA with a 15-year history dealing with businesses in crisis–bankruptcies, insolvencies, and turnarounds. I had seen it all from the perspective of bad management and I was led to believe that I would see more of it at FNUC.

I found the school to be a place of extremes. I was impressed with the overall competence of the staff. I was also profoundly struck by their commitment and passion for the school. Conversely, I was extremely frustrated by the ongoing interference of the FSIN, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, in both operations and financial processes.

I worked at the school for about a year. In July of 2005, following Dr. Dr. Eber Hampton’s retirement as president of FNUC, I was instructed to use funds belonging to Dr. Hampton’s Indigenous Peoples Health Research Center for FNUC operations. I refused, and offered my resignation, or perhaps more accurately, I terminated my contract at that time. So that’s my connection.

Why is FNUC important? From my perspective, let me make a couple of general comments. Higher education is aligned with greater employment opportunities within Canadian society. If we are going to be concerned about growing aboriginal employment, post-secondary education for aboriginal peoples needs to be preserved and developed.

Those of us in the west and the north are painfully aware of the need for both skilled aboriginal workers and aboriginal professionals. First Nations people understandably and correctly demand that they be participants in northern development but they need the educational and intercultural tools to do so.

First Nations population growth is explosive, running at six times the national average. Where aboriginal peoples exercise control over their own education, success rates are dramatically improved. However, aboriginal involvement in post-secondary education still lags well behind that of the non-aboriginal population. FNUC, I would suggest, is a bright light in this relative darkness.

First Nations, Métis, and other indigenous peoples’ success in higher education will breed more success, and it will also fuel our country’s economic engine. As a corollary, it will reduce social assistance.

Let me make some FNUC-specific comments. First Nations University of Canada is a unique institution, growing out of the Indian Federated College, founded by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. When it became FNUC, that expanded to include all indigenous people of Canada. Its staff and faculty are almost all first nations and Métis, and are competent as well as committed. Nevertheless, the school is not exclusive. It offers higher education in a first nations-friendly environment, but provides that education not just to first nations folks but to all who choose to attend.

A culturally compatible education at FNUC provides the tools for first nations and Métis people to achieve academically. A vanilla, heterogeneous approach is much less successful than a culturally compatible or culturally relevant program.

What I observed at FNUC was that they empower students intellectually, socially, and emotionally. The school uses specific first nations culture, including cultural objects and symbols, to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The school’s faculty create a bridge between first nations students’ experience and their education, while still meeting the needs of the curriculum. Its approach to teaching utilizes first nations background, knowledge, and experience to frame and help inform each professor’s lessons and methodology. Then the experience is reinforced through its own affirmation of first nations culture, and it works.

Now, in my opinion, using the current governance structure or indeed any governance structure that gives a political organization control will not succeed.

Points have been made before with regard to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and their longstanding issues. as well as NFU’s volatile history, clearly shows a governance incompatibility with regard to the school and its political masters.

The Chair: Mr. Dennis, if I could just ask you to sort of sum up now. We are a bit over time, so if you could just bring it to a close, that would be great.

Mr. Lorne Dennis: Thank you.

I guess the question then becomes is it wiser to repair or to allow the broken institution to die and then start fresh. While a green field approach can be attractive, in the business world it’s an option that’s seldom chosen. It’s much more difficult to start a new business than to save one that’s not completely gone.

Apart from politics, NFUC has been a success in every way. Rather than ignoring those success and giving up on the vision, I strongly believe we should be remedying the clear and identifiable problems and then moving forward.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

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

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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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