Debates of the Senate  
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 147, Issue 14.
  Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Question Period: Indian Affairs and Northern Development

First Nations University of Canada- Aboriginal Education

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my mailbox is filling up with letters in support of the First Nations University of Canada from people around the world, including Spain, Ireland and Australia. I have received letters from the University and College Union that represents 120,000 academics and academic-related staff in the United Kingdom asking the government to restore full funding to the First Nations University of Canada. How can the government not restore that funding at this time?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government is fully funding the students until August 31, 2010, so that they are able to complete their year. The honourable senator claims to have received letters from around the world. I hope that they are more respectful of our institutions than the gentleman from the University of Regina who appeared on "Power Play with Tom Clark" last week. If his statements were an example of the type of views that people share, that does not stand us in good stead.

I believe I put the following on the record the other day, but I repeat: Since 2006, when the Conservative Party formed the government, the government has invested $395 million in the completion of 94 school projects. Canada's Economic Action Plan provided for 10 new schools and three major renovations to schools. The Building Canada Fund provided for eight new schools or renovation projects. As well, the government invested $100 million over three years for the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership and $75 million in the new two-year Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategic Investment Fund. In December 2008, Minister Strahl launched two new programs to help Aboriginal students succeed academically: The Education Partnership Program and the First Nation Student Success Program.

I will be happy to provide the honourable senator with that information so that she may respond to all those letters from people around the world who mistakenly believe this government is doing nothing for Aboriginal students.

Senator Dyck: I believe that the honourable leader said the funding was coming through the Indian Studies Support Program. According to the January 2009 internal audit of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the only organization that is authorized to receive funding through the Indian Studies Support Program on an annual ongoing basis is the First Nations University of Canada. It is allowed under the terms and conditions of the program to receive operational funding. The requests made by the government for the university to put forth a proposal go against the terms and conditions of the Indian Studies Support Program.

How does the government justify that request when the policy is already in place that the First Nations University of Canada is entitled to ongoing operational funding on an annual basis?

Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator must acknowledge that there have been serious accountability problems at the First Nations University of Canada. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Honourable Chuck Strahl, is working hard on all these files and has met with the various stakeholders. He made an announcement yesterday to deal with the urgent need of the students in terms of the obligations to ensure that they complete their education. Beyond that obligation, there is much work to be done. Our focus should be to ensure that the students complete their school year. There will be ongoing activities at the ministry to resolve this problem, but none of these activities takes away from the other programs that are committed to the education and skills development of our Aboriginal peoples.