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Distortion and Misinformation in the INAC letter to the Toronto Star February 8th

by NationTalk on February 9, 2008982 Views

Politicians imperil native college
Column, Feb. 6

After reading Carol Goar’s column about the First Nations Technical Institute, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide clarification on the federal government’s role in the funding of this institute.

On Jan. 30, 2008, I announced a supplementary one-time contribution of $528,121 for the current school year to ensure that students will be able to complete their semester. This is the third consecutive year that additional funding has been required by FNTI officials so that classes could continue. (FNTI funding has been reduced from $2.7 million in 2004).Although the government has been providing funding to FNTI since 1985, our work with the college has always been based on an understanding that it would develop a sustainable business plan to take to the private sector, the Ontario government, the business community and alumni for funding consideration. We continue to encourage them to seek alternative funding sources and develop a sustainable business plan.(code for removing the federal role – FNTI has been planning to ask for private sector assistance for our new building and our student endowment fund, but with operational insecurity, this is impossible.)

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada does not provide basic operating funding for post-secondary institutions; that level of education falls under provincial jurisdiction. Moreover, the majority of Canadian post-secondary institutions have private-sector support in addition to alumni support to offset the rising costs of education.(primarily for buildings, endowment funds, and special projects – not general program development and delivery)

I am also troubled by the fact that FNTI’s 2008-09 business plan already includes a deficit in anticipation of once again calling for more money, while seven other aboriginal post-secondary institutions in Ontario have not received emergency funding for programming since 2003. (Not True – the 08-09 business plan shows a break even figure if the federal government provides $2.5 million. None of the other seven institutions were funded in the manner of FNTI – INAC broke a unique multi-year funding agreement with FNTI in 2004 and left it with insecure funding ever since. INAC funding to institutes under the Indian Studies Support Programf (ISSP) has essentially been frozen since 1996 and has no tie to program or student growth. For example, FNTI having 343 post-secondary students last year actually received less in ISSP funding than three other institutes which have less than half the FNTI student population. Despite that fact, INAC funding to all institutes is inadequate. There is very little post-secondary rhyme or reason in the INAC funding regime for ISSP.)

Our Conservative government recognizes the crucial importance that education plays in improving the quality of life for First Nations, and we are committed to working with FNTI to develop a sustainable business plan (FNTI has not been contacted by government representatives since the submission of the business plan although an INAC staffer called two weeks ago to ask if FNTI had yet found other funding) and help it evolve into a fully self-sufficient, sustainable educational institution.

Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa

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