The First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) faces a $2.3 million deficit next year. FNUC have made headlines this year due to the acrimonious relationship between the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA). This debate over funding, accountability, and sovereignty has the media trudging through a quagmire of politics and grievances. Students will be the most affected if the situation does not improve, and a $2.3 million dollar shortfall means drastic cuts for the institution and a possible closure of the Saskatoon campus.
On July 29 a meeting of the board assembled to discuss budget cuts due to the withdrawal of funding. An internal memo from FNUC outlines losses of $700,000 from provincial and federal governments and $800,000 from Aboriginal Healing Foundation. On the chopping block are the International Program, the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program, and seven positions held by sessional instructors and academic administrative assistants. A task force proposed by the Chiefs in February has not materialized.
Since February, FSIN Vice-Chief and chair of the university’s board of governors Morley Watson has fired four senior officials: Wes Stevenson, former vice-president of education; Winona Wheeler, dean of Saskatoon campus; Dawn Tato, Dean of Regina Campus; and recently Leonzo Barreno, the head of the school’s department of international projects.
URFA is the union representing the faculty and staff from all three FNUC campuses: Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert. URFA says that no employees can be fired without consulting the union first. The debate over the suspensions and dismissals initiated the controversy after an internal financial review aided by the RCMP.