The time has come for the federal government to quit playing mind games with the First Nations University of Canada.
Past management misdeeds and careless administration practices were admitted to long ago and rectified. A couple of additional firings of those who were being held responsible for a lot of those error-filled administrative moves were carried out. The misdealing governance body has been released and replaced.
FNUC now deserves a second chance to prove itself. Otherwise, what is the alternative?
Closing the doors and decommissioning Canada's first and foremost post-secondary institution for First Nations students would send what kind of message to 35 per cent of Canada's population who claim Aboriginal or Metis ancestries?
Federal Minister in charge of First Nations Affairs Chuck Strahl needs to step up immediately and make the intention clear. The federal government is either in or out with its $7.2 million in funding support.
FNUC has made its move and they passed muster as far as the provincial government was concerned. The province restored its $5.1 million in funding support.
The university's new board of directors/governors agreed quite willingly, we hear, to a plan that will see a major accounting firm serve as the intermediary for the dispensing of the provincial funds moving forward. In the following three years, the funding will be directed first to the University of Regina and then on to FNUC to ensure that the funds will be dispensed correctly and in a timely manner and used in the manner in which they are intended.
With those safeguards in place, we find it quite mysterious as to why the feds are still balking at the plan.
The money in question, while not minor in scope, is minimal in terms of what other institutions receive from federal coffers.
Time is now of the essence. FNUC is in danger of having to close its doors next week; that's how close this brinksmanship game is being played by Strahl and Company. April 1 was the date given as being the day when the current funds dried up. The final semester was slated to end April 14. That means that students and support staff were having to bet that their teachers and professors just might be willing to stay aboard long enough to see them through to the end of the academic year. But they couldn't count on it, especially if they weren't going to be paid for the final two weeks.
If no support is found, then what?
One of the proudest looking buildings on the U of R campus, a model for First Nations youth across Canada, could be closed. It could be reduced and ridiculed as just another failed experiment for First Nations people. That, naturally, will lead to further resentment, accusations of racism and another division between First Nations people and the rest of the Canadian community. Strong progressive steps toward adding to the First Nations educational experience will be down the drain.
Unless there is some kind of terrific alternative plan stirring in the minds of Strahl and his department, we can't help but wonder out loud what's holding this financial support up? It's not as if restoring funding that was already in place was going to cost this government votes in Ontario and Quebec, and it would certainly reaffirm the very strong voting support they already receive in FNUC's home province of Saskatchewan.
It's difficult to figure this one out. No votes lost, plenty of goodwill to be gained, support for First Nations post secondary education, new governance, assured administration security. What are we missing here? Is it simply one cabinet minister's stubbornness?