Release Date: March 12, 2010
Media Contact: Dale Johnson, External Relations
Phone: 306-585-5439
Mobile: 306-536-4312
Fax: 306-585-4997
Statement by President Vianne Timmons on First Nations University

Over the past several weeks, you have all heard clear and compelling reasons why a new model for First Nations University is necessary.  I won't be revisiting those details today.

What I would like to do is publicly acknowledge the progress of the working group partners.  By working together toward a common resolution to this funding crisis, the partners have achieved a great deal of progress.  That partnership has demonstrated that progress is possible when we work together respectfully and constructively.

All parties have indicated there is still work to be done to bring those discussions to a positive conclusion.

I look forward to the completion of the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the new partnership between First Nations University and the University of Regina. The University continues to promote discussions to support that effort.

All parties have indicated support for First Nations students and the critical role a university education can play in offering those students, and future generations, opportunities for success.

How we get there is important.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has made significant progress with regard to addressing accountability and governance provisions.

The Province has indicated a willingness to provide funding to support the new administrative model with appropriate agreed-to accountability in place.

The University of Regina has agreed to the principles of a shared management model where the stewardship of the administrative and financial management of FNUniv is placed with the University of Regina through a contractual relationship for a four-year period.

There are legal imperatives articulated under the University Act, with regard to liabilities, which must be addressed to move forward. There is significant work to be done on this front.

The University of Regina Board of Governors must also approve a completed Memorandum of Understanding before we can take action.

The University fully appreciates the Provincial Government's commitment to First Nations students, and the opportunities provided to these students by the faculty and staff of First Nations University.

We are fully supportive of Minister Norris as he advocates for the proposed new partnership model with Minister Strahl.

Let me be very clear.  A reinstatement of appropriate funding is fundamental to the success of the working group.

But even more so, it is fundamental to the success of Aboriginal students served by First Nations University -which is approximately 40 % of Saskatchewan's Aboriginal university students.

As Minister Norris has recognized, provincial funding is accessible. He has committed to flow that funding through a partner, such as the UofR, with the appropriate financial accountability in place.

The question should be asked: if the accountability provisions can be sufficiently addressed to warrant a provincial reinstatement, what more does the Federal government need to warrant a reinstatement of the federal funds - particularly when the Federal government has been at the table with the Working Group?

The effort of the working group and the leadership of Minister Norris have been so important to this process, and for the sake of First Nations learners, they should not be in vain.

I urge Minister Strahl to reconsider the Federal Government's position in his forthcoming meeting with Minister Norris.

Minister Norris' success in these discussions with Minister Strahl will ultimately determine the success of First Nations students in our province.  I sincerely hope that the Federal government recognizes the opportunity that exists through First Nations University to help create a vibrant and inclusive Saskatchewan - and a vibrant and inclusive Canada.

Thank you.