First published in French, translated by author for this Blog
Ce texte est paru dans le journal Les Affaires le 17 février 2005, dans le cadre d'une série sur l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Il a été traduit en anglais par l'auteur.
Val-d'Or, Qc. - It's done! The Université du Québec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) has by far beat it’s objective of raising 1 million dollars, to build a First Nations Pavilion in Val-d’Or.
UQAT principal Johanne Jean was thrilled to tell LES AFFAIRES, when interviewed in late January. She wouldn’t say exactly how much money was raised, but assured the objective was beat by several thousand dollars.
As of late, the university shares a campus and classroom space with the Cégep de Val-d’Or. The First Nations Pavilion is slated for construction in that building’s parking lot. But the federal and provincial governments must first cough up a total of 5 M$ before any work is done. Principal Jean expects to close a deal before the end of spring, so the building would be up and running in January 2007.
The first cohort of full-time First Nations students has begun classes in September of 2004. The group of 50 students, mostly Cree and Algonquin, come to Val-d’Or from all over Abitibi-Témiscamingue, to study Social Work or Commerce. Already, the programs are at full capacity. With a new building, UQAT expects to enroll at least 200 First Nations students by 2008.
Classes are taught in English, which is a first for a Université du Québec affiliated school. But it’s the only language common to all First Nations students. For example, Pauline Hester, a Cree student, does not speak French. She was forced to learn English when the federal government sent her to boarding school.
And she likes the idea of studying in Val-d’Or. ‘‘I used to go to Thunder Bay to study at Lakehead University. But the students there are Ojibway. I felt isolated. Here, most students are Cree. It's very stimulating.’’And Matthew Happy Jack, who works in finance, likes the idea he can brush up on his business training, not too far from home. ''I've studied at McGill and Concordia, under special one-week programs for First Nations. Here, I'm closer to home,I can drive to school under three hours!''