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Analysis by Sean Dunham

The provincial government will be presenting the budget on March 24 and no one knows what it will hold for the First Nations University of Canada.

Earlier this year, the Sask Party had pulled $5 million in funding from FNUniv, originally stating that they would not be reversing their decision. FNUniv has taken steps to get the funding back, including replacing its board of governors.

Since then, the Sask Party has been lobbied by several First Nations groups to reinstate the funding.

It is usually rare for pulled funding to be reinstated, but it has been known to happen when the province is convinced an organization has answered a 'wake up call.' 

In 2009, after the firing of Shauneen Pete as vice-president of academics, the province withheld $200,000, but later that month returned half the funding because they felt enough progress had been made to deserve it back.

Hopefully, enough progress has been made in this case. This week, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Legislative Assembly voted in favour of extending the transitional board of governors for FNUniv to March 31, 2011, and approved the proposed interim “shared management and stewardship” transitional model.

“The decision by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Assembly is a positive step toward bringing a greater level of certainty to the situation facing FNUniv," said University of Regina president Vianne Timmons in an email.  "However, as I have stated before, it is only one more step in a broader process. I remain hopeful that we will be able to continue to advance the process in a manner that satisfies all of the parties involved.”

If the steps that FNUniv have taken are sufficient enough, the Sask Party would be wise to return the $5 million. If they don’t do it now, they may find it difficult to restart the program in later years.

If the funding is approved in the budget on March 24, all FNUniv structures, staff and students are all still in place. If it is not approved, the program could be lost forever because the future governments will find it much more expensive to establish all of these things in the future.

All of the questions over the future of FNUniv will have a lot more answers after the release of the budget on March 24. The current board of governors have made gigantic steps in improving and changing the institution but it still unclear whether it will be good enough.

If the funding is not approved in the budget, it will not be very likely that the government of Saskatchewan will have an easy time funding FNUniv in the future.

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