Unsealed Laurentian documents show university avoided transparency, accountability during financial crisis

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SUDBURY/TORONTO, November 29, 2022 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is pleased that the Superior Court of Justice has agreed to unseal correspondence between Laurentian University and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities relating to the university’s insolvency claims in early 2021. However, the unsealing of these documents after 69 program cuts, more than 200 faculty and staff job losses, and interrupted learning for thousands of students is too little, too late.

“Together with our allies, we have been calling on the Laurentian administration and the Ontario government for almost two years to be transparent about how this crisis came about, and while we are glad to see these documents unsealed, we know it should not have taken this long,” said Sue Wurtele, OCUFA President. “These files show the lengths to which Laurentian would go to avoid taking accountability for their financial mismanagement, despite the disastrous effects on students, faculty, staff, and the Sudbury community.”

The letters reveal that Laurentian President Robert Haché aimed to avoid public accountability for the university’s finances following pressure from the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA). They also show that Haché wanted to avoid paying full severance to faculty members who would be terminated due to the financial situation by pursuing protections under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and bypass existing methods for addressing university financial difficulty in existing collective agreements for faculty and staff. The letters also show that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities was aware of the depths of Laurentian’s financial needs and offered minimal support at a crisis moment.  

“It’s clear that Laurentian’s senior administrators planned to forge ahead with CCAA to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, rather than face their mistakes and work together with faculty, staff, the government, and the community,” said Wurtele. “The government also clearly knew Laurentian was headed for crisis and didn’t intervene in a meaningful way early on. They could have done more to help Laurentian and unfortunately decided not to.”

The release of the unsealed documents follows the implementation of Laurentian’s Plan of Arrangement earlier this fall to pay back its creditors, and the recent publication of a damning report from the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario that found Laurentian’s senior administrators intentionally sought out the CCAA process on the advice of private financial advisors and lawyers at a cost of $30 million in fees. The decision resulted in disaster for students, staff, faculty, and the Sudbury community. The Auditor General’s report noted that these funds could have been used to invest in the university community during a pivotal moment.

“Laurentian spent millions on insolvency proceedings even though the Auditor General of Ontario found that the CCAA was an inappropriate method to deal with their problems,” said Wurtele. “That money could have been spent at the university, and the university could have worked with stakeholders and community members to ensure Laurentian’s future success. They didn’t do that, and the negative effects will be felt in Sudbury for years to come.”

Going forward, OCUFA is calling for more government funding for Laurentian and all Ontario public post-secondary institutions to ensure stability and success for students, faculty, and campus communities. At Laurentian, OCUFA supports LUFA’s push for greater transparency from administrators, improvements to governance, and increased faculty complement. OCUFA also supports legislative changes at the federal level to exempt public institutions from the CCAA and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

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.


For more information, contact:

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or manishaas@ocufa.on.ca