Trudeau holds town council for questions at the FNUC 

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Justin Trudeau is swarmed by members of the town council as he makes his exit. 
Funding concerns and food insecurity still left in question. Gillian Massie

Students who did not get their questions answered get a voice here 

From dying Indigenous languages to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answered various questions in a town hall meeting at the First Nations University of Canada last Thursday. 

Trudeau’s brief visit to Regina concluded with a few hours of questions from an audience of about 100 people. While many were eager to ask the prime minister a question, many students were left with no answers to questions regarding food security and funding at the FNUC.  

Ben Redcrow, president of the First Nations University of Canada Students’ Association, has witnessed first-hand how students are struggling to keep up with high food costs. Right now, Redcrow is having difficulty keeping the community fridge in the FNUC hallway stocked.  “There’s no reason that we should be playing cat and mouse with issues like food [security],” said Redcrow. He was determined to ask Trudeau how the federal government will continue to help the university when their students are “starving.”  

“It’s hard to be a student. It’s a blessing in disguise because we get to make these friendships, but on a personal level it is hard. You have to take care of your rent and your bills. It all becomes too much. Sometimes you need to go out and ask for help but that help isn’t being provided,” said Redcrow.   

FNUC is not the only one seeing empty shelves in their fridges. Community fridges across the University of Regina have been emptied by students going head-to-head with high inflation costs.  

“It’s more of a struggle than a joking matter. What is there to eat before I go to class? What is there to eat after I go to class? How are we going to take care of ourselves if we can’t take care of ourselves in the first place,” said Redcrow.  

Redcrow felt that Trudeau did not answer questions with enough urgency as they required. Vice-Chief Aly Bear of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations questioned whether or not the federal government was taking serious action to fund the search and protection of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Redcrow felt Trudeau did not go into detail of how the federal government planned to help.  

“It burdens me, women are the ones that keep our homefire warm. They were the original chiefs before the men,” said Redcrow. He spoke about how he worries for the safety of his niece. While many questions for the afternoon were geared towards provincial jurisdictions like healthcare and education, Redcrow said Trudeau could have given a better answer on MMIWG funding.  

Redcrow was pleased that Trudeau stayed over an hour to answer the public’s questions but wished there he did not “run around the answers.” 

Juleah Duesing-Bird, a biology major in their third year, hoped to ask why funding had not been increased in 15 years at the FNUC.  

“There are so many people that would like to do post-secondary education, but they may not even have the option to leave their communities,” said Duesing-Bird.  

Indigenous knowledge and teaching are very specific to the culture and land it begins on. The FNUC currently has three campuses across Saskatchewan, the northernmost being the Prince Albert campus. The opportunity to expand campuses across provinces could greatly improve accessibility.   

“Most of the time you need to make these Indigenous people move to the cities in order to get their education, you have to make these Indigenous people leave their communities and that is displacing them again,” said Duesing-Bird. More funding allocated to the FNUC would show a commitment to improving Indigenous post-secondary education and making it more sustainable and accessible for more generations. 

“It’s just these barriers that we were told are going to be addressed still aren’t being addressed,” said Duesing-Bird.   

Duesing-Bird has seen what a successful university with multiple campuses looks like in a recent trip to Brazil, but these kinds of things take a lot of people and a money. Right now, the technology they are using needs an upgrade.  

“The technology that we have right now to connect to those other university campuses is really not that great, but what we would like to see is the FNU in all these other provinces,” said Duesing-Bird.  

Duesing-Bird said it was their first time at a political town hall, and it was very interesting to see how Trudeau answered questions.  

“Pretty much the answers were ‘they are working on it,’ ‘things take time,’ and ‘it’s going to happen soon,’” said Duesing-Bird.  

  Brianna LaPlante, fourth-year fine artist at the FNU, explained her question related to the preservation of Indigenous languages. LaPlante is currently working with other artists across Canada for a print collective called Echoes of the Land: visioning – revisiting Truth and Reconciliation to shine a light on the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report.  

“The government took away so much, but as much as there is intergenerational trauma, there is that intergenerational strengths, and I feel like art is one of them that is empowered by language,” said LaPlante.  

LaPlante has committed to creating art around Call to Action 15 “We call upon the federal government to appoint, in consultation with Aboriginal groups, an Aboriginal Languages Commissioner. The commissioner should help promote Aboriginal languages and report on the adequacy of federal funding of Aboriginal-languages initiatives.” Much of LaPlante’s art surrounds spirituality, language, and medicine, and connects themes of identity and reclamation of culture.  

LaPlante explained she has a duty to learn languages like Nehiyawewin, Nakawemowin, Michif, and Nakota, but learning these languages did not begin when she was a child. “I didn’t grow up with my language, my grandma feels terrible that she couldn’t pass it down to us being a victim of the Sixties Scoop,” said LaPlante.  

LaPlante said that much of the language that was taught to her was taught through North Central community schools. She would like to see a greater commitment to preserving these languages before they may be forgotten completely.  

Someone in the audience did ask what the government’s commitment to preserving Indigenous languages was, to which Trudeau answered by explaining how they are committed to reconciliation through the Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act. Trudeau added that restoring Indigenous identity by reclaiming culture and language is a priority.  

LaPlante was satisfied with the answer that was given to the audience member, but felt that the questions from the rest of the town hall were unanswered.  

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