Fort Smith leaders question 'mistaken and misleading' Aurora College review findings

Fort Smith mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley is questioning the veracity of the entire report, which is based on responses from 15 students out of 1,421 surveys sent out.

Task force co-ordinating 'formal' response to review based on 15 student survey results

Fort Smith Mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley says the Aurora College review has been 'so frustrating.' She calls into question some of the report's findings. (Submitted by Lynn Napier-Buckley)

Fort Smith's mayor and council have created a special committee to respond to the N.W.T. government's Aurora College review, a document they say is based on poor methodology and flimsy statistics.

The territorial government released the review in late May. It comes with 67 recommendations, including transforming the college into a polytechnic university to be based in Yellowknife.

The college is currently headquartered in Fort Smith.

Leaders in the community have railed against moving the headquarters, arguing it could "decimate" Fort Smith's economy.

Survey responses not verified

Now, Fort Smith mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley is questioning the veracity of the entire report, which is based on responses from 15 students out of a total 1,421 surveys sent out.

"There's a very small sample group of where they're getting their information from," she said.

"We don't know what data they have that has been verified and if it's correct or if it's just hearsay."

The review specifically states that its authors didn't verify the information from the 15 responses they did get.

"MNP [the consulting firm] has not independently verified any of the information provided to it, and makes no representations as to the veracity or authenticity of the information," it states. 

The report asserts that students are having trouble accessing practicum placements and part-time jobs in Fort Smith, something Napier-Buckley says is "unsubstantiated."

"The idea that students can't get practicum placements here is completely untrue," she said.

Napier-Buckley also pointed to the report's claim that some students are uncomfortable staying in Breynat Hall, a student residence that is also a former residential school. She said she's never heard anybody complain about the residence, and has no idea where the consultant got the idea that it's a problem.

"For the government to take this report and go full steam ahead with it without having this information verified is unthinkable," she said.

"I don't understand it. It's more than $400,000 on a report that is, frankly, misleading and mistaken."

Committee's focus includes correcting 'misleading findings'

The committee will have four duties: it will study the economic impacts of keeping the Aurora College headquarters in Fort Smith; correct "mistaken and misleading findings" in the review, "including the post-secondary student experience in Fort Smith"; support the need for Indigenous consultation on the future of the college; and create a strategy for Fort Smith to become a "stronger partner" in the future of the college.

The committee is made up of members of the public, Napier-Buckley and three town councillors — Ron Holtorf, Anna Kikoak and Brenda Tuckey. They've already met, and will continue to meet regularly in the coming weeks, according to a news release from the Town of Fort Smith.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Brenda Tuckey as Brenda Buckley.
    Jun 25, 2018 5:00 PM CT

With files from Gabriela Panza Beltrandi and Randi Beers


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