Sudbury coalition intends to resume French programming at Laurentian University
A coalition to establish a French-language university in Sudbury, for and by francophones, is preparing to repatriate French-language programming from Laurentian University.
The challenge comes even as Laurentian continues to market itself as Northeastern Ontario’s largest bilingual university with a bright future – despite recent cuts to English and French programming during an ongoing financial crisis.
Laurentian’s president and members of the Northern Ontario Coalition for a French University both presented their arguments to the Standing Committee on Official Languages on June 3.
President Robert Haché affirms that programming in French at Laurentian is extremely important and that after the cuts, the institution continues to offer 28 consolidated undergraduate programs and five graduate programs in French.
“Our Francophone students continue to have a variety of French courses to choose from in their programs,” Haché told the committee.
“I would like to point out that registrations to our French-language programs have increased over time. This is very important, contrary to the general trend of the declining population of northern Ontario.
He said the high enrollment in French-language programs is a sign that French and Francophone students and their communities remain engaged in what La Larentienne has to offer.
“We look forward to serving Francophone communities in the North, Ontario, Canada and elsewhere for many years to come.
However, there will be a challenge to Laurentian’s ability to offer programs in French in the future. It emanates from the North Ontario Coalition for a Francophone University, formed after Laurentian severed ties with its federated partner, the University of Sudbury.
The University of Sudbury was a founding school of Laurentian and entered into an agreement to oversee the delivery of French language and culture programs, as well as Indigenous programs, to Laurentian students.
This federation was unilaterally terminated by Laurentian in April and Haché announced Laurentian’s intention to offer programs in French using its own faculties and resources to save money during the restructuring.
The programs offered by the University of Sudbury have been canceled.
Denis Constantineau, spokesperson for the coalition to create a French university in Sudbury, told the committee that the community has lost confidence in Laurentian.
“By cutting these programs, Laurentian University is depriving the community of its leaders,” said Constantineau.
“It robs the community of essential sources of knowledge. It also forces many young Francophones and Francophiles to study elsewhere in Ontario, with all the costs that this entails. [It] amplifies the regional exodus of young people to cities, which is already too big a problem in many of our communities. “
The chairman of the board of regents at the University of Sudbury said the coalition is preparing for a constitutional struggle.
Pierre Riopel says that there has been no consultation or consideration on the impact of the elimination of French programming.
“In light of these events, the University of Sudbury is now devoting all of its efforts to a new future,” said Riopel.
“We retained the services of a legal advisor, including constitutional lawyer Ronald Caza, and adopted two resolutions on March 11, one of which was to transform the University of Sudbury into a French-language University of Sudbury.
Riopel is also asking Queen’s Park to set up an implementation committee to look at how to structure the university and its offerings.
He mentioned that just that morning he finalized a letter to Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano.
He told the committee that time is running out.
“What we are asking for are programs that must be repatriated immediately from Laurentian University in Sudbury. Time flies. It is a very ambitious effort.