Fate of First Nations University rests in the federal government's hands

OTTAWA, March 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The federal government holds the fate of Canada's only Aboriginal university - the First Nations University of Canada - and, ultimately, First Nations students' futures, in its hands, say student and faculty leaders.

"The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the University of Regina and the new First Nations University board have all worked hard to reach an agreement in principle about a new funding formula that ensures accountability, and that agreement will soon to be formalized," said CAUT executive director James Turk.

"We've also heard from the Saskatchewan government that once a formal agreement is in place, its funding will be restored," he added. "All that's missing now is a reinstatement of the $7.2 million infunding from the federal government."

Turk was part of a delegation of student, faculty and Aboriginal leaders who met with Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl and opposition leaders from the Bloc, NDP and the Liberals last week. The delegation was in Ottawa to call on Minister Strahl to reinstate federal funding for the institution. They won full support for that call from all the opposition leaders, but the minister, citing accountability issues dating back to the previous administration, just reiterated his earlier position: that "the current funding formula (for the institution) ends as of March 31."

Diane Adams, president of the First Nations University Students Association, and Randy Lundy, Chair of the institution's Academic Council, were part of the delegation.

"The federal government must recognize that it can't on the one hand apologize for the legacy of residential schools, and on the other hand destroy the only First Nations university in the country, forcing Aboriginal students to assimilate into mainstream institutions," said Lundy.

"The fate and futures of a large number of First Nations University students is in the hands of the federal government now," said Adams. "Those students chose this university because they simply can't get this kind of education - one taking into account our history and culture - anywhere else."

"Without the supportive environment offered by the First Nations University of Canada, many of these students will not be successful, and will just abandon their dream of post-secondary education," she added.

First Nations University students and faculty say they hope Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris is backing their calls for restoration of federal funding in his meeting with Minister Strahl today.

"Minister Norris knows, like we do, that our institution cannot survive without that funding commitment by the end of the month, and we hope he is highlighting that in his meeting," said Lundy.

SOURCE Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)

For further information: For further information: James Turk, Executive Director, at (613) 277-0488 (mobile); or Kerry Pither, Communications Officer, (613) 726-5186

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