First Nations University says it’s being “picked on”

Both province and feds are withholding funding from beleaguered university

Officials from the First Nations University of Canada are accusing the federal and provincial governments of being uncooperative and unnecessarily negative in their attempts to address alleged governance problems at the Saskatoon school, according to The StarPhoenix.

“The government should just get off its pot and start doing something more positive,” said faculty member Sharon Acoose in a speech to a gathered crowd of about 100 at Thursday’s open house. “Work with us. We have a beautiful university. Open your eyes and see that.”

In 2005, Morley Watson, chair of the university’s board of governors, suspended several senior administrators and allegedly seized the university’s central computers, copied the hard drive with all faculty and student records, and ordered administrative staff out of their offices.

Since that time, two different studies by both the provincial government and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations have recommended changes to the university’s board structure in an effort to improve transparency and good governance. Enrolment at the school has plunged, and many of the faculty and administrative staff have left.

In November 2008, the Canadian Association of University teachers imposed censure on the university, which meant that most of the Canada’s university teachers have been told to refuse appointments at the university, decline invitations to speak or participate in academic conferences hosted by the university, and turn down any distinctions.

Last March, the province suspended $200,000 of funding to the school, saying that “fundamental changes” needed to be made, and the federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is withholding more than $2 million for the same reason.

Those reactions are not sitting well with many of Thursday’s speakers, reports The StarPhoenix.

According to Acoose, the university is being “picked on.” She praised the work of university president Charles Pratt and vice-president of finance Al Ducharme. “Let us do our jobs. Quit holding the purse strings above our heads. We are not puppets.”

The university’s vice-president of academics Herman Michell said he agrees with Acoose.

“Sharon Acoose mentioned the struggles our university has gone through in the past four or five years. She’s right. As far as I’m concerned, we should have 50 of these First Nations universities across Canada. A lot of institutions across Canada are facing the same challenges we are,” he said.

“I call on the federal and provincial government to step up to the plate and help us do our work.”

A spokesman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada says his department is “not going to address the comments made at the open house.” He said the funding conditions will remain, along with their late-November deadline.




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First Nations University says it’s being “picked on”

  1. Victims, all of them. They are not our leaders – if anything they keep hurting our institution and have been acting against the wishes of its students and faculty.

    FNUC is NOT an university – it is a federated college. They were bold enough to rename themselves as one and even as dumb enough to push their mis-spelled acronym – FNUniv .. since when is the acronym for university, Univ? duh!

    Please please please stop all monies going to this place until the senior admin get replaced (President, VP Finance, [acting] VP Academics) – they are impostors who have been appointed by a political board to drive this university into the ground.

    the Faculty and staff at that place are SO qualified and hard working – it is a shame that all their hard work is going in vain

    Stop payment now!
    thank-you

  2. Not to be too aggravating about this, but it seems to me the government -is- doing the only thing in its power to do, save take over or shut down the university. Demands that the government just write a cheque like any other year, and ignore what’s going on in governance, amount to demands that government actually not doing anything – despite claims to the contrary.

  3. FURTHERMORE:

    We have been waiting for 4 years for the FNUC to get it together.
    1 internal review (2005)
    1 Provinically funded 3-rd party review (2008)
    1 more internal review (2009)
    and now another review conducted by the BOG itself

    No more chances!

    ekosi!

    Why is the same old man always asking me for my pocket change downtown?
    Because I keep giving it to him.

  4. We learn about self-determination in class and come out to see this happening. Year after year.

    leadership now.
    de-politicized board, needed as soon as yesterday.

    This is the type of place that could reap tonnes of $$ every year from private donors if they’d just start following some of the rules universities are expected to. It is suppose to be a champion of Indian Education. It may be, in the classroom – but the administrators and BOG are bogging it down.

    ekosi (for real this time)

  5. It is highly unfortunate that the flagship of educational institutions for the First Nation communities across Canada is undergoing these stressful times. There are many arguments, and I can see both sides – on the one side, the University requires the funding in order to continue operating, in order to keep the dream alive of those who have come before us and broken down the barriers of post-secondary education for First nation people. Withholding the money amounts to a paternalistic approach towards my community – the same approach that has been taken from day one between first the British government, then their predecessors, the Canadian government and the First Nation people. It’s a control mechanism, like so many control mechanisms that have been forced upon First Nation people in the past, especially in the area of education – I’m thinking of the Residential schools specifically, and more recently in the last decade within the area of gaming – I’m referring to the destructive raid in the 90′s on the White Bear First Nation casino, and then later the regulations and benchmarks that were imposed on SIGA by the SLGA in the early 2000′s due to “misspending”.

    I understand this debate also from INAC’s point of view – they are doing everything in their power to try and help our community root out those people who have been there for too long, and to aid us towards our goal of self-governance. As a First Nation young woman from the local First Nation Treaty 4 area in the Regina region I also know about how sick our First nation government in our area is right now – we have some great leaders out there trying to work hard to make and create positive change in our community, and it’s unfortunate because they eventually become oppressed by our other leaders because of the good work they are doing in attempting to create accountability and transparency in our government procedures and administrations. And then we have those who are oppressing their own people – leaders who have been in positions of authority for far too long and have stagnated their growth and creative energy when it comes to leading our people into the future, passing these stagnated teachings on to young leaders who once had the potential to flourish and change our community and governance for the better, but have now become just as stagnated as those leaders who they chose as mentors.

    I’m a young First Nation woman – 27 years old – and yet I see this sickness in my own government, and while I know it is terrible and unfortunate, and in some ways it is like taking two steps back, I hope everyone remembers that sometimes we need to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture – withholding the funding is obviously a last ditch effort to attempt to create positive change at our educational institution. I know staff at FNUC, I know of the good people who lost their jobs, who chose to quit rather than work in a poisoned environment – poisoned by politics, and who knows what else. I know of the good staff that stayed on in the hopes of reviving and pushing forward through these tough times to see the FNUC succeed. I also know of the changes that have been recommended and the question that resounds for me and I think for our First Nation community, and the non-First Nation community alike, is what is keeping the FNUC from making the recommended changes? What is so terribly hard in these recommendations that the Board of the FNUC and the Chief’s of the FSIN legislative assembly cannot implement? Are they simply refusing on principle? Is there more to it than the public knows? And if there is more to it, then why don’t they inform the public so that our institution stops receiving such bad press? Our leaders are simply making it harder for First Nation people to thrive within our communities, specifically the areas with large populations of non-aboriginals such as the urban areas. My job is to attempt to create an inclusive environment at my place of work – incidents like this make my job ten times harder as non-aboriginal people use information like this to further reinforce the myths and misconceptions that they already have about First Nation people.

    While I realize that there are excellent leaders out there who truly do have the best interests of our First nation people and our Treaties at heart, from both the Northern Bands and the Southern bands of Saskatchewan, I know it is unfair to paint them all broadly with the same brush, however for those other leaders, I want to know: When will you stop being apart of the problem and start to become apart of the solution?

  6. Pingback: A Beginning and an Ending, FNUC and MediaINDIGENA

  7. I agree! Natives think money comes from the government, but it’s actually coming out of our pockets!! Those who don’t pay taxes wouldn’t understand that. As far as i’m concerned, the government is doing their job, and a damn good one that that. Their job is to protect our tax dollars, and as far as i’m concerned cutting off unproductive and expensive native funding is #1 on the list.

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