TORONTO, April 1, 2022 – With the French Language Services Commissioner’s revelations that the Laurentian University administration and Ford government failed in their responsibilities to safeguard the interests of the province’s French speakers, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is calling for the 28 French language programs cut by the university to be restored.
“This report demonstrates serious failures on the part of the Laurentian University administration and Ford government to protect French language rights in Ontario,” said Sue Wurtele, OCUFA President. “Instead of following proper process and considering how these cuts would damage the educational options available to the Franco-Ontarian population, the university and government ignored their responsibilities and facilitated the collapse of French language programming at Laurentian.”
The French Language Services Commissioner’s report follows more than a year of chaos at Laurentian University. The university administration’s decision to apply for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) led to 28 French-language programs being cut along with more than 100 faculty and staff. These cuts were devastating to the university and the Greater Sudbury Community, in which 27.5 per cent of the population identify French as their mother tongue compared to 4.3 per cent across the entire province.
In the report, the Commissioner finds that the Laurentian University administration failed to comply with and in fact “violated” the French Language Services Act and that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and Ministry of Francophone Affairs failed in their duties to ensure Laurentian University was complying with the Act. The Commissioner found that throughout the CCAA process the university and government treated French language services as an “afterthought.”
“The interests of Ontario’s Francophone population, particularly their right to a French language education, cannot be treated as an afterthought,” said Wurtele. “Franco-Ontarians deserve respect and they deserve funding for French language university programming in their own communities.”
The Ford government should immediately provide Laurentian University with the ongoing funding required to restore the programs that were cut as part of its restructuring to ensure that the rights of Franco-Ontarians are respected. Further, in recognition of its responsibilities to protect minority French speaking communities across the country, the Federal government should immediately pass legislation to ensure the CCAA and its counterpart, the Bankruptcy Insolvency Act, cannot be invoked by other public institutions who might use it to cut similar programs and services for French speaking populations.
Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 30 member associations 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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