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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.

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: Next, we introduce and welcome, Diane Adams. Diane is a representative for First Nations University of Canada Student Association.

I will just at this point, for the benefit of all witnesses, as well, as a reminder, we do simultaneous translation through the course of your remarks. So the pace at which you speak, if it’s just even slightly slower than you normally talk, our interpreters will be able to keep up with the translation.

And I see you’ve got your listening devices all in check there, so that’s great.

Ms. Adams, please go ahead. Five minutes.

Mrs. Diane J. Adams (Representative, First Nations University of Canada Student Association): Hi, there.

My name is Diane Adams, and I am a Métis woman from Sioux Lookout, Ontario in the Treaty #3 Territory. And I am the president of the First Nations University of Canada Student Association in Regina.

Today I am sitting before you, representing the 2,000 students currently taking classes at the First Nations University of Canada. We currently have 400 classes going on at three campuses: one in Regina, one in Saskatoon, and our northern campus in Prince Albert.

My first and foremost objective today is to illuminate why it is imperative that the federal government commit sustained multi-year funding to the First Nations University and how important it is. We’re receiving $7.2 million and we can only build from there.

I’ve come here today to not only share my own experiences but also the accomplishments of our prominent and successful students and alumni. My own educational journey began at a mainstream institution but two years ago I picked up and moved to Regina to study environmental health and science at the First Nations University of Canada. This is the only place in Canada that I can obtain the specialized education I need to pursue a career as an environmental health specialist for first nations communities, developing innovative, culturally acceptable, and economically feasible solutions to the health problems associated with water, sewer, and housing infrastructure on reserves.

That is what the First Nations University is all about–innovation through bicultural educational. It is a place where knowledge is shared and students go forward with the best of both worlds. The sharing of knowledge is the most important thing to our students, so they can come out with dual skills sets; how to succeed in both mainstream society and with their own first nations traditions.

Last October the students were very pleased when the FSIN Chiefs and Assembly elected Guy Lonechild as their leader because he had actively campaigned to bring changes to the First Nations University, the same changes that the students had been calling for, for some time. When the FSIN dissolved the board and put our own respected academics in charge, we knew this was the beginning of a new era of accountable, transparent, and qualified governance and leadership at our institution.

So while this new era of change for the First Nations University is here, we cannot go forward without the commitment of the $7.2 million that our university had historically been receiving. We cannot go forward without that.

The First Nations University has taught many prominent first nations and non-first nations students over the years. Our students have gone on to be lawyers, doctors, politicians, nurses, managers, and social workers, just to name a few. One of our alumni, Alika Lafontaine, won the prestigious Canada’s next great prime minister contest and is now a medical doctor currently specializing in anaesthesiology. Connie Walker is an accomplished journalist working for CBC’s The National. We have a provincial deputy minister. And our alumnus, Perry Bellegarde, ran a campaign for national chief of the AFN last year.

Countless others have completed their graduate degrees and Ph.Ds. And in the past five years, our nursing program has graduated 71 nurses who are now working in their northern communities. And we have the only school of dental therapy in the country.

That is just a sample of the many reasons that committed, sustained multi-year funding must be immediately restored to the First Nations University of Canada.

As a student, I must point out that no other university in the country relies on or could operate on an annual proposal-based funding for its core operation. We could not attract or keep the quality of students I just mentioned on year-to-year funding. Degrees take four years to complete and all students know that.

I’d like to just close by reminding the committee that it is the educators at this university who are teaching a new generation of first nations leaders the value of accountable, transparent, and qualified governance in leadership. Tom Benjoe was a fellow student association member and last year he was named the Red Cross young humanitarian of the year and has received more than 30 regional, provincial, and national scholarships. He wanted me to relay this to you today, and I quote,

I strongly believe that change has come. As future first nations leaders we are proving how education is changing the landscape for our futures and we are demanding greater accountability and transparency both for our institutions and for our communities. The First Nations University is helping develop those changes and so it is only fitting that the change must begin there.

The First Nations University needs that sustained multi-year funding from the federal government. If this is not the case, the Canadian government is sending a strong message to the students of the First Nations University of Canada, to the next generation of young leaders that accountable and transparent conduct will not influence the government decision making when it comes to financial matters.

With that, I pray to this committee and the Canadian government to lead by example and give value to our commitment to accountability and transparency by reinstating a minimum of $7.2 million directed to the First Nations University of Canada.

Thank you.

Le président: Merci, madame Adams.

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Kim McKay-McNabb, Assistant Professor, Department of Science. Kim has been a faculty member since 2006. She is originally from Sakimay First Nation in Saskatchewan. She was born in Regina and has lived here most of her life. She is the mother of five children, one of who attended the First Nations University of Canada; Kim hopes that the others will consider attending First Nations University when they are old enough. Kim is an alumnus from the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College where she received her undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and her Masters of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology. She is currently completing the requirements for her Doctorate, in Clinical Psychology at the University of Regina. She will be one of the few First Nations Registered Psychologists in Canada once she completes her degree. Kim also coordinates the National First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program (NFNECP). This program is administered at the First Nations University of Canada in partnership with First Nations Inuit Health Branch, Research and Monitoring Section and the Assembly of First Nations. The objective of the NFNECP is to help the First Nations of Canada assess the extent of their exposure to environmental contaminants and the potential for associated risk to their health and well being (see www.nfnecp.ca for more information). Her research interests are Environmental Health, Aboriginal Health, Aboriginal communities and HIV/AIDS. She is a community-based researcher who believes in action-based research.

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Please support and help us save First Nations University of Canada.

  1. Send this video to FOUR Friends
  2. Go to fnuniv.wordpress.com
  3. Print the letter of support and send it to your MP, Minister of Indian Affairs, and/or the Prime Minister.

The Four Friends video can also be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zc1xmmQlOY

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His Worship Pat Fiacco
Mayor, City of Regina
Mayor’s Office
PO Box 1790
Regina, SK
S4P 3C8

Dear Mr. Fiacco,

It is with deep concern and disappointment that I write to you. I am aghast by the way the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments are treating the faculty, staff and students at First Nations University of Canada (FNUC). The FNUC provides a completely unique place of learning for Canadian students, and is stewarding precious indigenous knowledge that will be crucial to the future our province and country. The closure of FNUC would displace students, many of whom would not have felt comfortable/supported engaging higher education at an institution other than FNUC. This is not to mention the loss of staff and faculty positions! FNUC has the highest ratio of learned First Nation scholars and elders than any other Canadian institution, and provides a culturally appropriate entrance for many students into university.

The closure of First Nations University is completely unprecedented in Canada. There has never been another Canadian university closed during the entire history of our nation. If the government allows the dissolution of FNUC, it will serve to communicate deep-seated racial antipathy towards Canadian Aboriginal people. The irony is thick that such a message would be sent in the wake of Harper’s “Great Canadian Apology”. The support of such actions by local governments through their silence reads as compliance.

The Aboriginal demographic is growing in Canada and even more in Saskatchewan. We must consider the significant impact that the loss of jobs by FNUC faculty and staff and the reduced number of highly trained students will have on our local economy. Furthermore, a portion of the direct tax revenues arising from the university’s $20 million budget will be lost to our community, reduced local spending capacity will affect local businesses, and prospective investors may seek out better opportunities. One would also expect an increased demand for social assistance services.

A better-educated Aboriginal population and any student educated with indigenous knowledge will ultimately benefit the people of Saskatchewan. An operational FNUC will ultimately help alleviate existing shortages of doctors, nurses, and other professionals and, in particular, ensure that northern residents get the services to which they are entitled. I personally know many students who have successfully graduated from FNUC and who are currently engaged in productive careers in Saskatchewan. One recent Health Studies FNUC graduate is currently working in LaRonge, bringing her newly honed skills both to her job and the community.

Although there are other institutions in Canada, such as the Native Education Center in BC, that help to ease the culture shock experienced by many students transitioning to university, FNUC is irreplaceable, as the only university. Mr. Fiacco, I respectfully urge you to join our voices in support of an operational First Nations University of Canada. I hope that you will take immediate action to lobby our Members of the Legislative Assembly and the Premier of Saskatchewan, and that you will encourage our fellow community members to do the same.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Tanya E. S. Dahms
Associate Professor
Biochemistry
University of Regina

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