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|First Nations University to Close
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
“Today’s announcement is concrete evidence of our commitment to a partnership framework that creates accountability and stability,” stated Chief Lonechild. “We are doing precisely what we indicated we would accomplish. That is, we are making continued, significant progress toward effective governance and a strong First Nations University.”
The Memorandum of Understanding will see provincial dollars for First Nations University flow as conditions are met.
“This is an excellent step in the right direction,” concluded Chief Lonechild. “The stated commitment on the part of Saskatchewan Advanced Education Employment and Labour Minister Norris to strongly urge the federal government to follow the provincial lead is yet another important step. It is now crucially important that the federal government show its commitment to the future of our students.”
"We believe that action was warranted. We do believe that he failed to satisfactorily perform his duties," said Joely BigEagle, chair of the board of governors.
BigEagle declined to give the reasons behind the firing, which was decided at a Thursday night board meeting in Saskatoon. Pratt had been on leave since Feb. 8.
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said the allegations of inappropriate hirings, spending, travel and payouts detailed in a report by the university's former chief financial officer formed the basis for the firing.
BigEagle said the board is working hard to work out a new funding arrangement for the school.
Earlier this year, Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris announced the provincial government would cease its more than $5 million in annual funding to the school due to stalled reforms. The announcement took many by surprise, as it came as the delegates of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) were debating, and later approved, the reforms.
Shortly after, the federal government followed suit and gave notice it would stop contributing more than $7 million a year to FNUC.
University officials said the school will close its doors at the end of this month unless funding is restored.
Norris has been open to a new funding arrangement, which cedes most control to the University of Regina. Federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, however, has said repeatedly the federal decision is final.
Despite these pronouncements, BigEagle said the board remains hopeful.
"We're progressing forward. We're doing our best," she said.
FNUC funding hopes dashed
CBC News, 16 March 2010
The federal government has not changed its mind about cutting funding to the First Nations University of Canada, the Saskatchewan government learned Tuesday.
Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris spoke with Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl Tuesday morning, but the discussion did not go well, Norris told reporters later.
Strahl would not reverse his decision to end Ottawa's $7.2-million grant to the university.
When he announced the cut last month, Strahl said serious problems at the university have dragged on for years with no resolution in sight. He also referred to the $5-million provincial funding cut already announced by Norris.
Since then, First Nations University has scrambled to stay alive.
Its owners, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, moved quickly, dissolving the board of governors, appointing a new board and agreeing to a shared-management arrangement with the University of Regina, whose main campus is next door.
Shared management would mean the U of R would handle First Nations University university's finances, but First Nations University would remain an independent academic institution.
However, the proposal hasn't been formally approved by the U of R, a situation Norris said left him in a weak position talking with Strahl. Without a signed deal between the U of R and the smaller university, Norris said there wasn't much he could say.
The minister's dismal report dashed the hopes of students and FNUC faculty who had gathered at the legislature for the latest news.
Restoration of federal funding was seen as a catalyst for getting the university on a stable financial footing and possibly winning back the provincial commitment as well.
Randy Lundy, a spokesman for the First Nations University faculty association, said Norris should have pushed Strahl harder to reinstate the money.
"He should be our biggest supporter at this point, as the minister of advanced education," Lundy said. "He should be going to Chuck Strahl and saying the $7.2 million needs to be on the table and it needs to be restored."
Norris said he's been working hard for the university and believes that even without the main federal grant, there may be some funding available from Ottawa for specific programs.
However, Lundy said it's impossible to run a university on such an uncertain source of cash.