CNC consultation leaves Burns Lake residents skeptical

Community members questioned the board’s intentions during meeting in Burns Lake.

The College of New Caledonia (CNC) is holding a series of community consultations on the development of its 2016-2020 strategic plan.

The first community consultation, which was held in Burns Lake on Jan. 25, exposed how several residents of the Lakes District, as well as staff of the Lakes District campus, have become skeptical of CNC’s board willingness to take communities’ concerns into account.

“Our community has been involved in quite few of these types of meetings for over a year now, and so far our feedback hasn’t been taken seriously at all,” said a participant during the Burns Lake meeting.

A CNC Lakes District campus employee added that some of her co-workers have lost hope that the college’s board will actually listen to their concerns.

“A lot of my colleagues are not here today because they say ‘What would be the point? We’ve lost;’ that’s the attitude here, it’s very sad,” she said.

The college has been making a series of cutbacks to address a deficit of $2.8 million in its 2015/16 operational budget.

Back in April 2015, the CNC board of directors decided to transfer the Lakes District family programs – regarded by college employees and residents as one of the college’s most successful operations – to other community agencies. Community leaders have continuously expressed their concern that once these programs are transferred to other agencies, some of the services might get cancelled.

Cathy Ashurst, President of the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society, explained the importance of the family programs during the meeting.

“For many years we were a very successful campus, it had anywhere between 300-400 full time equivalent students every year and it relied on those family programs to make it work in this community,” she said. “Here in Burns Lake it was truly a community driven process, and all of that has been taken away.”

Joan Ragsdale, member of the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society, said during the meeting that holding community consultations at this point is pointless.

“For me, it’s like strategic planning after the fact – decisions get made, then we get consulted.”

One participant added, “As First Nations we’ve had a history of people coming in an telling us what is best for us; I’ve just become so disillusioned with what has come down the pipe to this point; someone in Prince George is making these huge decisions and then coming back after the fact to say ‘Okay, now we shall consult with you,’ after so much damage has been done.”

A member of the CNC board of directors, Bob Folwer, suggested the CNC board is not solely responsible for its decisions by saying, “People should keep in mind that the college’s board is guided by ministers and mandates.”

“We met with the minister just last week and he said to us that our mandate is education, academic, not family stuff,” said Folwer.

Consultant and community and students services coordinator at CNC in Prince George, Elyse Giddens, also offered her take, “The strategic directions that we’re working through, it is hard to provide input and comment on them when there isn’t that trust right now between the region and Prince George, but this is a great opportunity to provide input.”

One community member responded, “I don’t believe the board or the administration will listen, but we still try; it’s a problem we have, we can’t give up.”

Community consultations will also be held in Prince George, Quesnel, Fort St. James, Mackenzie and Vanderhoof until Feb. 11, 2016.

The college’s 2016-2020 strategic plan, which will be completed by mid-2016, will outline strategic directions and supporting measurable actions that will guide the college through the next planning cycle.

 

 

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