Controversy at First Nations University of Canada

The First Nations University of Canada has had a number of controversies in the past 20 years. In May 2007, the AUCC placed FNUC on probation for alleged political interference raising concerns about the university’s independence and institutional autonomy (Macleans). Their main concern was that the role of the Vice-Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, who was responsible for Education and Training, was held by Lyle Whitefish, who also held the role of the Chair of the Board of Governors of FNUniv (Macleans). The AUCC saw this as a jeopardization of autonomy and academic freedom of the FNUniv. They expressed that it was not acceptable in Canada for a senior minister or deputy minister of the government to hold a position on the university board of governors (FNU Report).

In April of 2008, the AUCC reinstated the FNU’s membership (Macleans). They decided they were satisfied with the changes made by the university to establish independence from the the Indian Federation. They released a statement saying, “AUCC is satisfied that First Nations University of Canada and the Federation of Indian Nations have made sufficient advances in resolving governance issues at the university since the institution was placed on probationary status by the AUCC Board in April 2007. The AUCC Board believes it is possible for First Nations University of Canada to protect its uniqueness while, at the same time, sharing the attributes and values fundamental to Canadian universities” (FNU Report).

However, the Canadian Association of University Teachers were not very happy about the decision and claimed that not many of the recommendations following the 2005 incident had been put into place (Macleans). They decided to dig deeper, resulting in more suspicious findings about the FNU’s governance. In November of 2008, the CAUT ended up censuring the FNUniv, after discovering that the Board of Governors Chairman had interfered with the freedom of one of FNU’s professors (FNU Report).
Finally, the new Chief of the FSIN, Guy Lonechild, was able to get the censure lifted by partnering with FNUniv, the University of Regina and the Government of Saskatchewan. They came to an agreement that addressed concerns about the university’s governance structure and would serve to ensure financial and administrative accountability (Newswire Canada).