Sweeping changes coming for First Nations University - Macleans.ca

Sweeping changes coming for First Nations University

New report recommends governing board should be depoliticized.


A new report says the troubled First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) should become openly financially accountable and be run by people who are not in a conflict of interest. The report by consultants Manley Begay and Associates warns that without such changes the Regina-based school will not get the federal and provincial grants it needs and will have to sell its Saskatoon campus and other assets.

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In response to ongoing governance troubles, earlier this month the provincial and federal governments both revoked funding for the university. Grants from the two levels of government have accounted for $12 million, or roughly have of the institution’s budget.

A working group was established last Tuesday, and given two-weeks to make recommendations regarding the future of First Nations University. It is likely that the working group will recommend that government funding for FNUC go through the University of Regina, as the province has indicated it will no longer provide direct transfers to FNUC. First Nations University is already heavily integrated with the U of R. All FNUC graduates are officially granted University of Regina degrees, though the aboriginal institution is legally distinct and governed independently.

The Begay report, released late last week, recommends that members of FNUC’s governing board should not be paid and that clear rules should be spelled out for people who are involved with the school. “Establish First Nations University of Canada internal definitions, policies and procedures for violations of infractions including malfeasance, misappropriation, fraud and other white collar crimes,” says one of the recommendations in the 208-page report. “It is pertinent that the university’s new board of governors be cleared of any perceived conflict of interest and … establish policies and procedures ensuring full financial and governance transparency.”

The report says the school has been facing allegations of financial mismanagement for years, but it doesn’t provide much detail. It says on Dec. 9, a judge ruled there is enough evidence to try Wes Stevenson, the former vice-president of the university, on a charge laid in 2008 of fraud over $5,000.

The report also said in November a financial consultant working with the school made other allegations of financial mismanagement, but doesn’t go into details.

Earlier this month the Saskatchewan government said the school will be run by the University of Regina in the interim. Leaders of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which controls First Nations University, are to meet to discuss the report at a special meeting on March 8 in Saskatoon.

Federation leaders say the chiefs will be asked to ratify the report in the hope the move will free up $2 million for the university that it says has been withheld by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. “Once the chiefs ratify the report, a new level of stability will be achieved,” federation Chief Guy Lonechild said in a release.

The Canadian Press