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Canadian Federation of Students

Thursday, June 03, 2010
OTTAWA–

The federal government’s decision to extend funding to First Nations University for another year buys time but leaves an uncertain future for many Aboriginal students.

“Students are relieved that First Nations University will be able to keep its doors open for another year,” said Cassandra Opikokew, Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students. “However, the federal government must end the uncertainty and commit to sustained long-term, Aboriginal-controlled funding.”

Following years of difficulties, the federal and Saskatchewan governments cut funding to the University in February. Despite an institutional restructuring and the decision by the Saskatchewan government to restore funding, the federal government has refused to commit to funding beyond March 2011.

“While the government has stopped short of restoring permanent funding, we are one step closer to ensuring First Nations University has a future,” added Opikokew. “The restoration of funding is a clear sign that students’ actions are having an impact.”

The First Nations University of Canada is the only institution of its kind in Canada and has been a leader in Indigenous education for over 30 years. First Nations University was designed to be the home of treaty education and to serve as a model for First Nations-controlled education.

Founded in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is Canada’s largest student organisation, uniting more that one-half million students from ten provinces. The National Aboriginal Caucus is the voice for Aboriginal students in Canada with members on campuses from St. John’s to Victoria.

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Contact: Cassandra Opikokew, National Aboriginal Caucus Chair
Tel: 306-537-2043

Contact: Dave Molenhuis, Canadian Federation of Students National Chairperson
Tel: 613-232-7394

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From an editorial by Doug Cuthand in the StarPhoenix of April 30, 2010.

The First Nations University of Canada, too, has been cast aside by the federal government. This month’s payroll may well be the last for many FNUC staff. Funds have run out and Ottawa refuses to reinstate its funding despite all the positive moves the university’s new board of governors has made.

The University of Regina is onside to provide administrative support, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers has lifted its censure of FNUC. The university is on the right path to reform, but the federal minister is steadfast in his refusal to support this institution. It’s obvious that First Nations institutions are not part of the Conservative government’s political landscape.

Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl began his political career as a member of the Reform party that begat the Canadian Alliance which morphed into the new Conservative Party of Canada. The Reform party was to the right of the old Progressive Conservative party and made considerable noise about First Nations politics and accountability.

This may have appealed to the Tories’ redneck base, but once in power they tried to bury their past. However they continued to attack First Nations and aboriginal issues. They scrapped the Kelowna Accord, refused to sign on to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples and, when FNUC encountered internal problems, they jumped on the chance to destroy the university.

In spite of the best efforts of the new board, the new president and the University of Regina, the federal government remains steadfast in its desire to shut down FNUC.

Read more in the StarPhoenix.

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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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REGINA, March 31 /CNW Telbec/ – Students at the First Nations University of Canada have been hung out to dry by Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, who announced yesterday that the federal government will only provide funding for students at the University until the end of the academic year.

“Minister Strahl has exposed the federal government’s contempt for Canada’s Aboriginal peoples,” said Thomas Roussin, representative of the National Aboriginal Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Students at First Nations University need a future, not a five month contract.”

Following years of difficulties the institution recently restructured and reached an agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the University of Regina on principles for a new funding mechanism that will address issues of governance and make the institution more accountable. Shortly after reaching the agreement the government of Saskatchewan committed to restore funding; however without the federal government’s $7.2 million annual contribution, the University cannot afford to keep its doors open.

“The federal government is ignoring its treaty obligation to fund Aboriginal education,” added Roussin. “While the government of Saskatchewan has recognized the vital need for a First Nations institution, Ottawa is turning its back on the only such University in Canada.”

First Nations University of Canada has been a symbol of leadership in Aboriginal post-secondary education to people around the world. The University serves as a model for Aboriginal controlled education. The Canadian Federation of Students and National Aboriginal Caucus have called on the government to honour their apology to the Residential School Survivors and increase funding to Aboriginal education and healing.

Founded in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is Canada’s largest student organisation, uniting more that one-half million students from ten provinces. The National Aboriginal Caucus is the voice of Aboriginal students in Canada with members on campuses from St. John’s to Victoria.

For further information: Thomas Roussin, National Aboriginal Caucus representative, (306) 596-6716

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Ninanaskomon. I give thanks.

Maskoc kika miyitotinana kispin oma kita kipiyihkatik FNUC iskwahtim.
Definitely will we break this bond between Us as Treaty Canadians If the FNUC door were to be suddenly shut.

Nikiskisin ekospi kaki sohkatoskit peyak iskwew kaki macihtatht oma kihci kiskinahamatokamik
Remember do I when One Woman worked laboriously, persevering to lift up the SIFC now FNUC believing this bilingual/bicultural institution to be of a Sacred Nature.

Owehowin awa Ida Wasacase. Niki wapamaw mehcitwaw iyahkamiyimot, imasiniyhiket, ihatosket ekiya ipakicit.
Her name is Ida Wasacase. I did see her so determined, writing proposals, memos, press releases, working tirelessly and not Giving Up.

Metoni maskoc kika mamatoo ekohk i sohki pakiciwepinsocik oki oskiyiyak, inanaskomot, imiywatahk iyahkamiymocik kita nepowisytakik oma kihci kikway Kisiyinewak mena notikwewak kaki kiskiwe iyahk.
Definitely She (Ida) would cry with gratitude an joy seeing the Young people of today Standing Up, determined to support this Sacred Institution the Our Elder Women and Men saw in prophecy as Our means of Surviving and making a Livelihood.

Iki nanato itehitamok oma ka kakwe moniyaw masinahikiyan ota oma mamatawi apacicikan. Nitihi oma ochci nesta ka pikiswatamak oma kita manacihtiyahk oma kikiskinahamtokamikono kahkiyo ohci kiwahkomakanawik mena kiciwaminawak.
Please don’t mind me for this broken way of communicating through this electronic magic instrument. It is fro my heart that I too support the remaining open of the FNUC Door for all Indigenous and European Cousins alike.

Niya oma peyak nistam kaki papam acihoyan ka intomiyakwow oskiyiyak kita pe kiskinahamasocik oti nekan.
I was one of the first recruiters that traveled this province for SIFC, now called FNUC.

Ekosi Pitama. Namoya iyiwak kaki itweyan. Kitatamiskatina wow Kajiyo niwahkomakanik.
That is all for now. No more do I need to say for now. I greet you all respectfully my Relatives.

Joseph Naytowhow
SIFC Summer student recruitment (1975)
Inter-Disciplinary Artist/Drummer/Actor/Musician
Advocate for Education as a Right for all Humanity

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March 19, 2010

First Nations University of Canada provides a unique academic and cultural post-secondary education experience. With over two-thousand and five hundred graduates working regionally, nationally and internationally our Alumni are educators, social workers, artists, nurses, doctors, lawyers, policy analysts, researchers and Chiefs.

Our Elders teach us that education, or ‘the new buffalo’, is the key to prosperity, livelihood and economic independence. A post-secondary education is a good investment. Canadians cannot ignore the detrimental effects that the lack of education among Aboriginal Peoples is having on all Canadians.

Canada originally was a partnership between three Nations: the Anglophones, Francophones and First Nations. Through binding legal agreements now called Treaties, First Nations people allowed for peaceful settlement and access to the land in exchange for support to participate in the new economy. These Treaty rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as Part II of the Constitution Act, 1982 Sec. 35. First Nations University of Canada is a manifestation of those Federal constitutional obligations.

The First Nations University of Canada Alumni executive support the vision of first-class education. Achieving this vision will be for the benefit of all Canadians, with current alumni having made positive contributions to communities across Canada.

We invite all Canadians who share this vision to challenge governments on all levels to clearly demonstrate how their actions both current and future will support the First Nations University of Canada. The time for rhetoric is over. The Federal Government and the Province of Saskatchewan must provide clear and detailed firm commitments which support the First Nations University of Canada.

Aboriginal Peoples and Canadians deserve nothing less.

Respectfully,

FNUC Alumni Executive Team
Milton Tootoosis, BA, PAED, President
Alika Lafontaine, M.D., BSc.
Marmie Poitras, B.Admin.
Pearl Yuzicappi, B.Admin.

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Hansard, March 5, 2010

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday’s budget mentions post-secondary education for aboriginal people, but there is no mention of funding and no mention of First Nations University in Regina. That institution is working hard with partners to correct its governance problems. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the University of Regina and the government of Saskatchewan are all pulling together to help.

Will the federal government fully support these combined efforts to first fix and then preserve First Nations University?

Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we continue to work on options to ensure the affected students complete their academic year. That is our primary concern. As previously stated, we will not be renewing the funding agreement with First Nations University. In terms of discussions with the province the department continues to look at a wide range of options for the funding.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is about hundreds of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students now at First Nations University and generations yet to come. It is about treaty rights and it is about the federal minister’s fiduciary responsibilities. It is about the proper administration of a genuine university and $8 million in federal funding without which a noble vision will get thrown out with the bath water.

Specifically, is that money in fact in the federal budget for 2010-11? Exactly where is it in the budget and will it be directed to the students at First Nations University?

Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the department has been working since 2005 with the university to address longstanding and systematic problems. There have been allegations of mismanagement of funds, audit information handed to the RCMP commercial crimes unit, and politicization of the board on all issues. Meanwhile attendance has been falling. That is why the university was censured by the major teacher’s union and it is why the province withdrew its funds as well. We need to be accountable to Canadians as well as first nations.

Hansard, March 8, 2010

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last Thursday the Minister of Agriculture said that the federal government supports the concept of First Nations University and will work with the University of Regina on ways to save the institution. However, on Friday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development suggested there would be no federal support for First Nations University, period.

Could the minister correct any misimpression here and confirm that some $7 million will be available to and through the University of Regina once the U of R and other partners finalize a remedial plan with First Nations University?

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC): Mr. Speaker, of course we have announced that the funding for First Nations University will not be renewed. The hon. member would know why.

Back in February 2005 when it all started and even before then, senior administrators were suspended from the university. The then Liberal government launched investigations. Forensic audits were done. Those results were handed over to the commercial crime unit of the RCMP. Subsequent to that, we have tried every conceivable way to try to get First Nations University to change the way it does its administration on the board of governance always without success.

For the sake of transparency and accountability, we have had to remove the funding for First Nations University. There will be funding; that money will be put into the university programming generally–

Hansard, March 10, 2010

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations voted yesterday to turn financial control of First Nations University over to the University of Regina.

Will the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development agree now that he should reinstate funding to the university, or will he let a great institution die, just when the Speech from the Throne says that education is a priority?

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC): Mr. Speaker, there is some dispute about whether it is a great institution or not.

What we have had over the last number of years is an escalating series of problems, starting with investigations, criminal investigations, forensic audits, and there have been reports of trips to Las Vegas and Hawaii. Now the latest one is that $400,000 of money designed to go to student scholarships has been used for other purposes.

How long does one just cut a blank cheque to that kind of organization? We are here to help the students. That is what we are going to do. That is what we promised to do in the throne speech, and we will deliver on that.

Hansard, March 11, 2010

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development met this morning with Chief Lonechild of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. The chief no doubt informed the minister about the decisive action he has taken to fix the problems at First Nations University.

Chief Lonechild has worked sincerely and successfully with a new interim board of governors and CEO, with faculty and students, with the University of Regina and Premier Wall’s provincial government. A strong remedial plan is in fact in place. Will the federal minister now support that plan?

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I did meet with the First Nations University delegation today. I repeated our position that the current funding formula for First Nations University ends as of March 31. Of course, we will continue to help aboriginal students directly through our post-secondary programming and institutions through our Indian student support program.

Unfortunately, however, repeated and ongoing efforts over the past several years did not bring about the change in accountability that Canadian taxpayers expect and aboriginal students deserve. It is time to focus our attention on those aboriginal students themselves and ensure we have more and continued success for them going forward.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the minister does not reach the March 31 deadline, if certainty is not achieved by then, First Nations University will begin to disintegrate and faculty, staff, and students will need to go elsewhere. Sadly for hundreds of young aboriginal students, there is no elsewhere. Their dream of post-secondary education will simply be over.

Surely the minister will not visit upon these innocent young people the past sins of others. Will the minister ensure the problems are fixed and multi-year federal funding is in place on time?

Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CPC): Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member wants to look at the past sins of others, he should start by getting up in the morning and looking in the mirror.

If he had taken action when he was still the finance minister for the former Liberal government, then perhaps we would not be in this position today. However, he did not take action.

After repeated efforts, time and again, we ended up where we had forensic audits, trips to the commercial crime unit. The last chief financial officer is talking about trips to Las Vegas, trips to Hawaii. Now $400,000 is missing from students’ scholarship funds and we do not know where it is.

It is time to be accountable to taxpayers and to students and get this fixed.

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