FNUC funding hopes dashed
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.