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Wednesday, April 21, 2010 — For Immediate Release

The First Nations University of Canada Students’ Association is extremely pleased following the return of Murray Westerlund to the First Nations University.

On Monday, April 19, students learned that the CFO fired by the previous administration was invited, and agreed, to return to the University.

“This is a major step forward for the institution, and we are thrilled to have Murray back,” said Diane Adams, President of the Regina Students’ Association. “Murray Westerlund was the whistleblower—and his return means the chapter on our University’s troubled financial past is definitely over,” she said.

The Students’ Association is now calling on the federal government to direct a minimum of 7.2 million dollars to the institution. “The return of Westerlund is yet another piece of undeniable evidence that the First Nations University has turned the page,” said Adams. “The right people are now in charge of our University, there is no reason to further delay restoration of the full federal dollars.”

Students are anxiously waiting for good news from the federal government.

Students of the First Nations University continue to live in the University, a place they feel is their second home. “We are not leaving until Chuck Strahl announces long-term funding for the First Nations University,” said Desarae Eashappie, of the Regina Students’ Association.

“We are on day 29 of the live-in. We won’t leave until we know the First Nations University will be here for years to come. This University is the key to our future,” Eashappie said.

The First Nations University of Canada Students’ Association is calling on Stephen Harper to address his self-proclaimed “obligation” to the students of the University by ensuring a minimum of 7.2 million dollars is directed to the First Nations University of Canada.

“The Federal government is obligated protect the students of the First Nations University by reinstating our full funding and more,” said Adams. “Anything less than 7.2 million dollars will be outright devastating to the university and the students completing degrees here,” she said.

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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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From an article by Kerry Benjoe published in the Montreal Gazette on April 2, 2010.

“There’s much work to be done in a very short period time,” said Pete. “But I think that the work both the board has done and the interim administration team has done has really paved the way for my role coming in at this point.”

Pete said she wants to remind everyone that the university has a long history in the province and plays an important role in the community.

She plans on focusing the next six months working with others to get federal funding restored to the university.

“I have to commend all the folks that have been involved to date,” said Pete. “They have worked under time crunches and, in some ways, impossible odds. They’ve done it with grace and dignity and they’ve carried forward with a very clear focus, and I hope to assume that very clear focus.”

Read more in the Montreal Gazette.

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From an article by Tim Switzer in the Leader-Post of March 29, 2010.

“The community really stepped up and said ‘No. We have to have a powwow,’ ” said [Richard] Missens. “Even if we’re not sure, what’s happening with the university, the powwow has to go on. It’s a long-standing tradition in Regina and is part of the mosaic the city has to offer.”

It is hoped by many at FNUniv that the support will send a message to Ottawa.

“When you look out in the audience and see the communities coming here, they’re coming here not just for powwow. They’re coming here because of the university and because of the students,” said Missens. “It’s their way of voting and saying, ‘We’re here for you guys.’ ”

“Everybody is here because of the university and they’re here for the powwow,” added FNUniv Student Association vice-president Cadmus Delorme.

“To feel the support, it fills my heart and I take that out there when I’m speaking loud and proud.”

Read the full article in the Leader-Post.

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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’re going to go to Mr. Dreeshen for five minutes. That will be followed by Ms. Fry.

Go ahead, Mr. Dreeshen.

Mr. Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer, CPC): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I’d like to thank the witnesses for coming here today.

I’m a former educator. As a matter of fact, ironically, I have taught for 34 years, the length of time that your institution has been around.

Whether it’s labour disputes, or week-long blizzards during diploma exams, and so on, I know that there’s a lot of stresses that students have. I’d like to refocus on the types of things that are happening for the students, because that’s really where I’m coming from, and I think as all of the educators and business managers that are here, that should be what we’re talking about.

So my question is to Ms. Adams. I’m just wondering what types of support from staff and from your peers you are getting in order to relieve some of the pressures that students will be having under this stressful situation.

Mrs. Diane J. Adams: I think that were it not for the fact that we were students of the First Nations University, we would all have had nervous breakdowns by now. Fortunately, First Nations University has been incredibly successful in creating what I like to call really a home, a safe place. In fact right now I would just like to let you know that the students of the university have moved in to the university because they feel it is their home and the faculty and the staff have committed to not only being people who facilitate education but being mentors and supporters. There’s also the fact that we have three staff elders.

So it is the cultural components that are allowing students right now to continue and the fact that I and our student association have been fighting on behalf of most of our students so that they can go back to school. However, the traumatic effects of the pulling of the funding are far and wide and I would just like to give you an example. Our president of our student association in Saskatoon is expecting and the stress of the situation, because of the government’s action to pull the funding, has put her at risk of miscarriage of her pregnancy. That is the true effect of these actions. So it’s really a situation where thank goodness we’re at the First Nations University because if we were not we would be in big trouble.

Mr. Earl Dreeshen: Thank you for your comments. I guess I was trying to see whether or not there is some sort of cohesion there or whether the problems that you’ve indicated, whether they’re being exacerbated by commentary, some of what we’re hearing today, and it’s kind of unfortunate that that is taking place.

On our tour of the territories last fall as a committee, we met with several college leaders and we found a great collaboration between the facilities and their affiliates such as the University of Regina. I was just wondering, Ms. Timmons, if you could explain how that affiliation works and how your distance learning program works. I know that a lot of discussion had taken place about language training in my former school division. This is something that we did online. It’s something that is being expanded upon. This is the way in which we are planning on reaching out to all other areas and I’m just wondering whether that becomes part of the model that you have and quite frankly, if the university was trying to expand to all people, whether or not they would be thinking of those models rather than the concept of institutionalizing, bringing people into one particular facility area.

So my first question is for Ms. Timmons, and then perhaps Mr. Lundy.

Ms. Viane Timmons: The University of Regina has extensive outreach programs, right into Nunavik where we do a Bachelor of Education program without a college, we do programs in Whitehorse, we do programs all over Saskatchewan, as does First Nations University, presently.

We have not duplicated the knowledge base at our federated college First Nations University, so we do not have the capacity in our own institution, this knowledge, to do the kind of work that First Nations does. It would seem to be ridiculous to us people where we have expertise in a federated college which our students access all the time. So as I mentioned before, a thousand of our students access courses through First Nations University. We approve all the hiring of the faculty. We approve all the courses they offer. So we’re intimately integrated but we have no intention of duplicating the vast knowledge there, and they do outreach all over Saskatchewan and into the Northwest Territories as do we. We don’t duplicate. We complement.

Mr. Earl Dreeshen: Mr. Lundy.

Mr. Randy Lundy: Unfortunately, we’ve been under-resourced in terms of developing the level of TEL, which is what we call it. Technology enhanced learning. You know, we simply haven’t had the funding in place to do as much as we would like to do in that area. So federal funding in the realm of $10 million to $12 million would be very nice because it would allow us to do that.

Mr. Earl Dreeshen: Just a question, if I could. Is this because of a lack of administrative oversight that you’ve had in the last number of years? You said that you folks had talked to the administration and said that there are problems and difficulties that occur, so I know that as you’re speaking now you’re saying, “what can we do in the future?”, but I’m curious to know whether some of those things have been discussed prior to–

The Chair: You are out of time there, so just a short response.

Mr. Randy Lundy: Yes, we haven’t had the financial capacity, to keep it short. Then, obviously we won’t have if we don’t get our funding restored, and soon.

So that has been the holdup. In terms of moving forward, absolutely, it’s an area that we do need to expand into and do more than what we have done in the past, and there is only certain programming which actually is deliverable through those models because there is some face to face that has to happen in certain programs.

The Chair: I’m sorry, Mr. Lundy, we’re out of time. I thank you very much, Mr. Dreeshen.

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From a letter by Chris Gallaway to the StarPhoenix of March 26, 2010.

A 2007 report to the McCall Review identified the University of Saskatchewan, which receives more than $80 million in operating funds from government, as having “the most secretive and non-transparent board of governors in Canada” and criticized the board for not making agendas, minutes and comprehensive financial information available for public scrutiny.

It worries me that Minister Norris is setting a double-standard by not holding his former bosses at the U of S to the same accountability standards as he has set for FNUC.

Read the full letter in the StarPhoenix.

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