On Campus

Former FNUC exec wants his day in court

Former vice-president Wes Stevenson insists he is innocent

A former administrator at First Nations University of Canada says he’s looking forward to his day in court on fraud charges.

Wes Stevenson, 57, of Westbank, B.C., told The Canadian Press on Tuesday that he’s been charged with defrauding the university of more than $5,000.

RCMP issued a release Monday saying that a 57-year-old man, formerly of Regina, is accused of defrauding the university of a sum exceeding $5,000 and will appear in court on July 21.

Police would not name the man, but Stevenson said Tuesday that his Regina lawyer told him they served him with papers to appear in court on July 21 to answer to the charge.

“To say that I look forward to my day in court is an understatement,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in B.C. “After three horrific years I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel here.”

Stevenson said he’s innocent of the charge.

“I must admit I am angry that it has come to this, because I have done nothing to defraud the institution. But that’s what the courts are there for,” he said.

“Having worked there for 14 years, my concern continues to be for the university itself its students and faculty. I think this next round of legal issues will only prolong the negativity that’s surrounding the once proud and growing university.”

In 2005, Stevenson and two other senior officials at the university were suspended and the university’s board of governors ordered a forensic audit of the school’s finances. He and another official were eventually fired, while the third returned to work. In the months that followed, several high-ranking officials were fired or suspended and others resigned.

Senior staff, including Stevenson, alleged political interference in the operation of the university by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and its vice-chief, Morley Watson.

Concerns over academic freedom and political interference in the autonomous governance of the university prompted the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to conduct an independent review of the university in 2007 and to place the institution’s membership in AUCC on probationary status.

The association lifted the probation earlier this year, saying the university had made progress at solving its problems.

But Stevenson said the university could face more sanctions. A member of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is meeting with First Nations University officials in Regina on June 24.

If the university doesn’t prove it has cleaned up its governance issues, there will be a vote in November of the CAUT’s general membership, which represents 55,000 university teachers in Canada, to sanction the university, Stevenson said.

The Canadian Press