TORONTO, February 1, 2008 - The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is calling on the Ontario Government to act to prevent the closing of the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI), an Aboriginal post-secondary institution on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Quinte. Officials at the Institute have indicated that they will be forced to close, displacing over 300 students unless they obtain about $60 million in funding support.
Founded in 1985, the FNTI currently caters to over 300 Aboriginal students and provide training in a variety of programs, granting diplomas and degrees through relationship with a number of other mainstream institutions. One of the principal obstacles in the resolving this issue is the jurisdictional conflict between the federal and provincial governments. The federal government claims the province is responsible for education, while the provincial government takes the position that Aboriginal issues of this kind falls within the purview of the federal government.
"It would very sad state of affairs if this valuable entity, FNTI, were allowed to close because of governments' lack of coordination on this issue." observes the Executive Director of the CRRF, Dr. Ayman Al-Yassini. "We're appealing to the province to essentially take the high road to save the Institute while continuing to work out a solution with the federal government. This is not the first time the Foundation has raised the issue of funding of Aboriginal Institutions."
In 2005 the Foundation co-sponsored, with the Aboriginal Institutes' Consortium, a research report on government policy towards Aboriginal institutions: Aboriginal Institutions of Higher Education - A Struggle for the Education of Aboriginal Students, Control of Indigenous Knowledge and Recognition of Aboriginal Institutions. One of the top recommendations was for the two levels of governments and representatives of Aboriginal institutions work collaboratively to ensure that Aboriginal institutions have access to sustainable funding in a similar manner to funding provided to recognize mainstream institutions.
"We hope that the Ontario Government will act to ensure that the students and instructors have a clear sense of direction, bearing in mind that there is also an economic impact as well," concludes Al-Yassini.