TORONTO, November 21, 2023 –The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) welcomed news today from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in the Fall Economic Statement that the Federal government is reforming harmful corporate bankruptcy legislation—a crucial move that will protect public universities from corporate-style restructuring policies.
The news comes almost three years after Laurentian University entered into bankruptcy protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA). The catastrophe was the first time a public institution utilized the CCAA and BIA processes, which are designed for private companies in financial distress. The move led to devastating cuts, job losses, and learning interruptions for students, faculty, and staff, and deeply impacted the University’s community of Sudbury, Ontario.
“OCUFA and its member organizations and allies have worked for years to secure this change to bankruptcy legislation through public campaigns and lobbying efforts,” said Nigmendra Narain, OCUFA President.
The 2023 Fall Economic Statement notes that the government will amend the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, to exclude public post-secondary educational institutions from becoming the subject of proceedings under either Act.
“Through the tireless efforts of OCUFA, our member organizations, and our allies, we are proud to see real change happen today to ensure that our public universities will no longer be vulnerable to the dangers of corporate restructuring,” said Narain. “What happened at Laurentian should never have happened, and now we can ensure that it will not happen again to another public university in Canada.”
“Canadians across the country know how valuable our world-class public university system is, and we know that these reforms will help protect our public universities and help them thrive,” he added.
In 2022, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk stated the CCAA/BIA process was an inappropriate method for dealing with the financial challenges of public institutions. Documents also released at that time showed that the Ford government knew of Laurentian’s financial situation and offered little meaningful assistance to Laurentian and its community during a time of crisis.
“OCUFA has worked for years to bring about this change and today’s announcement marks a critical step in the right direction for the financial health of our country’s public institutions,” said Jenny Ahn, Executive Director of OCUFA. “The Liberal government promised to reform these laws in 2021, and we are glad to see they have kept that promise to protect our world-class public universities. We are incredibly proud of the work OCUFA, in collaboration with its 31 member organizations, has accomplished in making the necessary changes to these laws.”
Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.
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