The Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, representing 350,000 students across the province, unequivocally supports the Tricultural Committee for University Education at Sudbury/Comité triculturel pour l’éducation universitaire à Sudbury’s N’Swakamok Reconciliation Declaration for an Equal and Truthful Trilateral Path to University Restoration at Sudbury. We stand with the calls for independent yet cooperating Indigenous, Franco-Ontarien, and Anglophone universities in an equal partnership that respond to the needs of communities in Northern Ontario.

The cuts at Laurentian University have been extremely detrimental to students, faculty, campus workers, and the community. At the beginning of 2021, the University entered into insolvency proceedings under the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) with the knowledge of the Ford government. This event marked the first time this process meant for private corporations has been used on a public post-secondary education institution. Under the guise of the CCAA, Laurentian University was able to slash 69 programs, lay off 200 faculty and staff, and blatantly flaunt collective agreements, leading to devastating effects within the cultural, economic, and student life of Northern Ontario.

Indigenous, francophone, and anglophone arts and humanities programs were disproportionately affected by the devastating cuts. 27 of 65 francophone programs were cut, including Théâtre, Histoire, Économie, Géographie, and Science politique. The second oldest Indigenous Studies program in Canada was slashed. 38 anglophone arts/science programs were also cut, including Philosophy, Environmental Studies, Math and Physics. The Franco-Ontarien, Indigenous, and anglophone arts communities that intersect at Sudbury were deemed unprofitable and not valuable enough to keep. Instead of preserving these important programs, Laurentian University has decided to focus on STEM and professional programs— this indicates the stark bias Laurentian University has against key stakeholders in the Northern Ontario education community.

This shift is in line with the transition of the Ontario post-secondary sector towards a neoliberal model of education. With the advent of performance-based funding, the Provincial government is encouraging institutions to consider profits over educational integrity, regardless of the communities that may be harmed in the process. To respond to this disturbing shift, the Tricultural Committee for University Education at Sudbury has proposed the creation of three independent yet cooperating Indigenous, Franco-Ontarien, and Anglophone universities.

These independent institutions will ensure that the needs of each particular community are met without compromising the needs of another. These new universities will uphold the importance of arts and cultural development while maintaining support for STEM and professional development. Similarly, funding can be allocated according to the priorities of each community, rather than split between the needs and interests of several communities. Most importantly, the tri-lateral approach will give students the opportunity to live and learn in their own language and culture, and reproduce it in an institution that serves their community. In this way, universities can remain a place of belonging, exploration and growth, rather than becoming solely a means by which students may attain a certification on their resumé.

The Federation joins in the call from the Tricultural Committee for these three independent but cooperating universities to be publicly funded by the provincial and federal government. The Federation maintains that the CCAA process be immediately halted and the leadership and funding for Indigenous and Francophone education be transferred to the new autonomous institutions. The Federation supports the restoration of anglophone arts and cultural programming at Laurentian University. These calls are coming from within communities in Northern Ontario— it is time that Laurentian University and the provincial government work for and with these communities to restore the high-quality post-secondary education necessary for Northern Ontario.

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.