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Native education

Ottawa pledges $3-million for struggling <br/>First Nations University Add to ...

Students at the country's only aboriginal-run university will be able to complete their school year with a $3-million pledge from the Harper government. After that, however, it is not clear that Ottawa will continue its funding of the university.

"We are determined to help them finish their academic year," Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said this morning.

The federal money stops at the end of the academic year on August 31.

What Mr. Strahl did today was to restore the same amount of funding the federal government had given the school last year on a month-by-month basis until the end of August.

Last week, FNU, which is based in Saskatchewan, was in a perilous situation; its money was about to run out. But an agreement was reached between the province and the school that restored $5.2-million in funding. Then pressure was put on the federal government to help.

According to reports, the school has suffered for years from allegations of financial mismanagement. Under the agreement with the province, the University of Regina will oversee the school's finances for the next three years.

Both the provincial and federal governments had earlier this year halted their annual funding of $12-million after reports of questionable spending practices. In his remarks today, Mr. Strahl noted that the university had to show some progress and improvements.

"What's not clear to us," said Mr. Strahl, "and is not completely evident is whether all of the planned reforms that are being talked about are going to happen or whether it's doable."

He said he has heard promise before.

"We've been promised that big reforms are coming, that new financial arrangements are going to be in place, new checks and balances.

"That is to be hoped for," he said.

(Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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