Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.
I want to open by acknowledging that we are convening on the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. I'd like to thank the committee members for coming to Whitehorse to hear our story and the stories of all Yukoners as you help to construct the next federal budget.
My name is Karen Barnes. I am president and vice-chancellor of Yukon College, soon to be Yukon University, or, as we like to call it, “Yukon U”. I'm honoured to introduce Grand Chief Peter Johnston, who leads the Council of Yukon First Nations, the organization that set in motion the modern treaty process with the delivery of the landmark report “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow” to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau more than 45 years ago. Chief Johnston is here to demonstrate support for Yukon U and is available to answer any questions.
To get straight to the point, we are here today to request that you, the finance committee, recommend to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister that budget 2019 include $21.5 million for the construction of a science building at Yukon University, Canada's first university north of 60.
Here's why this federal funding matters. The new Yukon University will be a hybrid institution that will offer students made-in-the-north degrees, diplomas, certificates, trades, and academic upgrading, all designed to offer a pathway for northerners and all Canadians to pursue an education that is relevant to the place we call home. The people of the north and the businesses that employ northerners simply can't wait any longer.
Yukon College has been educating students for 50 years with an award-winning track record of success that reflects three pillars: indigenous self-determination, climate change research and sustainable resource development. We offer students an education that is consistent with our local and national values. Becoming a university does not just happen overnight, but we are ready. Yukon College has spent the last decade establishing the capacity, governance structures and external accreditations to enable our transition to a university. We have met the same rigorous quality assurance standards that every other university in Canada meets. We have developed curriculum and degrees built on northern values, and we are part of the University of the Arctic, in fact a founding member. I am very proud to say that this fall the first cohort of students entered the Bachelor of Arts in indigenous governance program, which is the first stand-alone degree program at Yukon U. Next year, we will launch a Bachelor of Arts in northern business administration, which will offer a uniquely northern perspective on business and entrepreneurship.
The final step in the governance process is charter legislation from the territorial government. The Yukon government has begun consultation on this legislation, with the commitment that it will be passed by spring 2020, in time for our first Yukon U graduates to receive their degrees, and marking the moment Canada joins every other circumpolar nation in the world with its own truly northern university.
Of course, as we all know, growing from a college to a university takes more than establishing governance structures. You also need to have the physical structures and facilities to foster learning. Yukon University requires significant investment in capital construction, upgrades, and student-centred investment. Through our foundation, we have launched a $65-million fundraising campaign targeted largely at private sector donors, but we also need federal funding to meet our goals.
As I mentioned at the outset, and as outlined in our pre-budget submission, we are seeking a $21.5-million investment from the Government of Canada in budget 2019 to help us build a new science building. We call it the “Knowledge Building”, where traditional knowledge and scientific research will come together. This investment by the Government of Canada would provide a permanent demonstration of Canada's commitment to reconciliation, competitiveness, inclusive economic growth, responsible resource development, climate change adaptation, fostering innovation, and Arctic strategy.
Our overall fundraising campaign will be focused on other facilities: a new gateway building to create culturally appropriate gathering spaces for students and visitors, and to provide classroom space for our new Institute of Indigenous Self-Determination. A third building, the student hub, will serve students while celebrating and acknowledging the cultures of the two first nations whose land this campus sits on. Given our northern reality and the changing face of post-secondary education delivery in this country, we will also be raising funds to implement a robust distance-learning infrastructure to connect students living across the north. Every Yukon U capital project will create short- and medium-term jobs in the Yukon, offering local businesses procurement and business development opportunities and establishing legacy buildings that all Canadians can take pride in.
What would make an investment in Yukon University unique is that we will also be investing in the next generation of leaders who will help the north transition to a truly self-sustaining region of this country, because that's really what our transition is about: building a future that northerners and all Canadians can be proud of.
As you prepare your report on these hearings, we hope that you will recommend this $21.5-million federal investment into Yukon U. It would be a lasting and concrete example of the Government of Canada's belief in the future of our northern people and of the Yukon.
While you are here in Whitehorse, I'd like to invite you to take a short drive down the road and tour our campus, meet our students, see the amazing research, and experience first-hand the success that will soon be Yukon University.
With that, I would like to close my comments. Thank you.