Youth 'have to hold their leaders accountable,' student leader says at U Sask. FSIN forum

With voting for in Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations election starting next week, students at the University of Saskatchewan asked what the candidates are doing to better support First Nations students in the province.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations election takes place next week in Saskatoon

Indigenous Students' Council president Regan Ratt-Misponas, left, and students from the University of Saskatchewan with some of the FSIN candidates at Thursday night's forum. (Darian Lonechild/Facebook )

All seven candidates in next week's Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations elections were at the University of Saskatchewan on Thursday night to talk about their mandates with students.

The forum was organized in part by the Indigenous Students' Council and was attended by Bobby Cameron and Delbert Wapass, who are running for the position of FSIN chief; Edward "Dutch" Lerat, Morley Watson, and Darin Poorman, who are running for first vice-chief; and Christine Jack and Corey Bugler, who are running for FSIN third vice-chief.

Madison Kennedy, a sociology major at the U of S, moderated the panel. She says students are concerned about funding and the commitments the candidates have to helping Indigenous students.

"It's important for politicians to communicate what they're doing because Indian politics are kind of shut off, so if there's more liability into what they are doing, then maybe it will be more successful," she said.

She says the event was an important chance for students to improve communication with the elected leaders who will represent them.

"They should be informed so they can spread the message for people who aren't here, and for people in their home communities," Kennedy said.

From left to right: FSIN candidates Edward 'Dutch' Lerat, Morley Watson, Darin Poorman, Delbert Wapass, Corey Bugler and Christine Jack wait to talk to students at the U of S. (Andre Bear/Facebook )

Andre Bear, a student in the Indian Teacher Education Program at the U of S, is also a former youth representative for the Assembly of First Nations. Bear said although he is happy each candidate showed up, he thinks the organization still needs changes that should be addressed.

"FSIN needs an extreme and hard reset. Everything about the governance, the structure, the policies, the legislation — the entire assembly needs to be restructured in a way that is reflective of youth voices," Bear told CBC. 

"I think there will be absolutely no change unless youth are there, unless the youth are involved in this process, and unless youth are engaged with our leadership," said Bear.

Regan Ratt-Misponas, the president of the university's Indigenous Students' Council, says the ISC is pushing to become an independent student union and wants the support of FSIN leaders.

Misponas also noted that, as in past elections, students will have the chance to vote in this year's FSIN election.

Bear urges those students to be vocal when it comes to issues that affect them. 

"Youth have to be aware of their rights. They have to hold their leaders accountable and be involved in the decisions that are being made." 

FSIN voting will take place Oct. 25 in Saskatoon.