FNUniv supporters think Ottawa might drop its stubborn stance
by Stephen LaRose
As First Nations University of Canada approaches financial Armageddon, it’s discovering who its friends are. A large demonstration — complete with bannock burgers and pop — was held April 16, organized by University of Regina education professor Marc Spooner in about three days.
“He came up to us three or four days ago, and asked if some of the teachers could do something for us,” Student Council president Diane Adams said that afternoon, “and, well …” — she gestured to the massive tent over the campus academic green which housed not only the barbecue area, but also a small stage where guests made speeches, local bands and dancers performed, and participants kept everyone’s spirits up, especially students and faculty who have staged a “live in” at FNUniv since March 23, demanding that the federal government reinstate funding for the institution.
Meanwhile, as FNUniv president Shauneene Pete went to Ottawa to meet federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl to discuss the college’s funding problems, some, such as Wascana MP Ralph Goodale, say there are indications that the campaign to restore FNUniv’s funding may be working.
Strahl’s position to the institution has changed in the last few weeks from borderline hostility to non-committal, Goodale says, thanks to a large campaign crossing cultural and political boundaries in support of FNUniv.
“Mr. Strahl can now see that it’s not just the community surrounding the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations executive that is campaigning for the survival of this institution, but also a large part of Saskatchewan’s social and business community as well,” says Goodale.
Support from certain quarters, like U of R president Vianne Timmons, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the FNUniv student council, and FNUniv’s new board of governors and interim chief operating officer Del Anaquod, comes as no surprise.
But what about the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce? It recently sent a letter to Strahl’s office urging the federal government to restart its funding, says Goodale.
“Even the provincial government has agreed to restart its funding,” he adds.
“While the academic year ends this month, the fiscal year for the federal government has already begun (April 1),” Goodale says. Strahl’s announcement of $3 million for FNUniv, offered conditionally to the end of August, he adds, is a “financial bridge to nowhere for the institution.”
And while we’re on the subject of FNUniv’s tragicomic situation, prairie dog may as well own up to a howler of our own. In a March 25 article, I wrote about the presence at a demonstration of “a young Stepford Wife type” who I assumed had to be working for the provincial government, for no other reason than she was carrying a handful of copies of a letter Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris had sent to Strahl on March 18, that concluded with the following: “First Nations University of Canada is integral to the future of this province. It is imperative that you reinstate funding immediately.”
The person so described was actually Bridgette Keating, who at the time, was not working for Norris but for FNUniv, and the letter was actually not created by Norris’ office.
And, upon reflection, Keating is not a Stepford Wife-type. Our apologies.