The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) wants to build a new northern campus in Prince Albert, Sask. On Monday, city council voted unanimously at a special meeting to transfer five acres of land to the university for that project
FNUniv will purchase five acres of the land immediately southwest and adjacent to 10th Avenue West and 28th Street West for a nominal cost of $1.
"It is a significant project for First Nations University of Canada. It's our number one priority and it has been for a few years, and we'd like to see this come to fruition over the next couple of years," said Gord Hunchak, vice president of university relations at FNUniv.
"It also goes a long way in terms of working toward reconciliation and in addressing some of the TRC calls to action."
There is currently a FNUniv campus in a leased space in downtown Prince Albert at 1301 Central Ave. The university says it's one of its fastest growing campuses, but no longer meets the needs of the students.
Right now there are just under 400 students there, according to FNUniv. The university is expecting that number to grow to a minimum of 600 students within the next 10 years.
On Monday, FNUniv said the new building project will cost between $40 and $60 million. That means jobs for people in the Prince Albert area.
"We feel this is a very important project for the city. We know it's an important project for the youth here in Prince Albert and the north, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous," said Hunchak.
"This is an amazing opportunity to provide the student experience and the programming that they deserve that we currently can't offer here at our current facility."
Coun. Blake Edwards of ward 6 pointed to the benefits of having another big construction project in a city that already has an arena and aquatics facility project on the go.
"Wow. There's a lot of positives going on in the city and this is just one major part of it," said Edwards.
Second time's the charm?
In 2021, Prince Albert city council approved a similar request to sell five acres of land immediately east of Saskatchewan Polytechnic so that FNUniv could apply for funding from the Infrastructure Canada's Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) federal fund.
However, FNUniv was ultimately unsuccessful with that application. Now the university is focusing on the new proposed location, which it says would serve students better due to its proximity to recreation and hospital services.
The northern campus provides programming in Indigenous health, Indigenous social work, Indigenous education, Indigenous languages, Indigenous studies and Indigenous business.
Now that city council has approved the land transfer request, FNUniv will once again submit an application to the GICB fund.
In addition to the usual needs of a university like classrooms and studios, the new campus would include childcare, spaces for elders and knowledge keepers spaces, as well as a ceremonial space.
FNUniv said the proposal for the new two-story building includes a plan to transition to onsite renewable energy in the future.
Since the campus project is contingent on federal funding, a proposed schedule has not yet been submitted to city council.
In the meantime, city councillors have voiced their enthusiastic support for the project, seeing it as a major step forward for Prince Albert.
"We're looking forward to cutting the ribbon," said Mayor Greg Dionne.