The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, representing 350,000 students across the province, is shocked by the devastating news for students, staff and faculty coming out of Laurentian University on April 12, 2021. Due to administrative mismanagement and a lack of adequate provincial government funding, close to 70 programs are proposed to be cut that is more than a third of the university’s overall programs. Whole departments and their faculty have now been terminated. Over 80 faculty members and many staff who students rely on for their education have been terminated. Northern students, already facing monumental challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, now have their degrees and education in doubt.
French courses represent the major proportion of program cuts and French language students are being targeted. Nearly 40 French-language programs will no longer exist at Laurentian University. Once again, the provincial government is showing their open disdain for francophones, as seen in previous budget cuts to French language services and education. Many unique French language programs that have been cut, like the midwifery program which is the only bilingual program of its kind and the only one in the North, are essential. Sébastien Lalonde, Chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, highlights,
“Laurentian University is one of the most significant Francophone institutions in the province. Francophone students are being told that their education, language, and culture aren’t worth saving. This government has time and time again shown that Francophone students and the services they rely on are the first to be cut.”
While Laurentian is a bilingual institution, its mandate is tricultural and, in particular, offering a hub for Indigenous learning and research. The program cuts will also have severe and negative impacts on Indigenous learning and Indigenous language degrees. These groundbreaking programs have made significant contributions to Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and decolonization through research and expansive curriculum. These cuts counter the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Call to Action 16: “We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.”
Laurentian University this month dissolved its relationship and degree granting powers with its federated universities (University of Sudbury, Thorneloe University and Huntington University). Francophone courses, Indigenous Studies, Women’s Studies and many other programs are based at the federated universities. After investing years of time and money, students are now losing supervisors, and facing program cancellations. Many have been told to choose different or ‘similar’ programs and are now being forced to relocate if they want to continue their education. Laurentian administration has offered little to no clarity, rationale, consultation, or support to students with these unprecedented changes and demands.
The undemocratic Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process was never intended to be used by public-sector institutions. This is the first time a publicly funded university in Canada has used a court process normally reserved for private corporations. The administration and provincial government are using this mechanism to avoid oversight and consultation with students, faculty and the general public, while forcing a heavy-handed restructuring process with the affected parties under duress with inappropriate timelines. Kayla Weiler, National Executive Representative at Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, notes
“It is unacceptable that students, who have invested so much in their education, are impacted by financial challenges created by reckless administrative decisions and the erosion of public university funding. The manufactured crisis at Laurentian could be stopped at any time by the Ontario government. The 2021 budget is the third budget in a row with reduced funding for PSE. It is time to invest in all students no matter where they live in Ontario.”
Communities and students in the North continue to ask, “Where is MPP Ross Romano?”. The Minister of Colleges and Universities has claimed that they are committed to Laurentian, that they will ensure students are protected, stating that no students will suffer in any way, that students will not be impacted and that students will not lose a year of study. But the reality of today’s announcements and the inaction from the Minister and government has been nothing but broken promises. Students in the North deserve the same opportunities for high quality, affordable and accessible post-secondary education as all other students in the province. It is time for Minister Romano and the Government of Ontario to provide adequate funding for Laurentian University.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario is the oldest and largest student organization in Ontario, representing over 350,000 college and university students in every region of the province.
SOURCE Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario
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