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Laurentian should hand over French-language programs, coalition demands

They should be given to a proposed French-language university, group says

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Laurentian University should be forced to hand over its French-language programs to a proposed French-language university in northeastern Ontario, a coalition says.

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In a release, the Coalition nord-ontarienne pour une université de langue française (the Northern Ontario Coalition for a French-Language University) said the NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party say they support the creation of a French-language university.

In addition, it said those parties agreed with the “transfer of French-language programming from Laurentian University to the Université de Sudbury.”

The coalition also said that during a televised French-language debate this week, Caroline Mulroney, the provincial minister of Francophone Affairs before the provincial election was called for June 2, “took no firm commitment towards a French-language university.”

Mulroney represented the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election debate.

“All signs,” the coalition said, “seem to indicate that she would be amenable to supporting the Université de Sudbury in offering French-language programming without, however, compelling Laurentian University to transfer its programming to the new university. This would only lead to a potentially disastrous fragmentation in the offer of French-language programming.

“We urge Minister Mulroney and the Conservative Party to modify their position. The damage that’s already been inflicted upon the Francophone community is serious enough. It would only be exacerbated were Laurentian University be allowed to continue to offer French-language programming in competition with the Université de Sudbury.”

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The coalition said Mulroney did refer to the certification process the Université de Sudbury has started with the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board, which began after it received a $1.9-million grant from the federal government.

Since education is a provincial responsibility, the provincial government would have to approve and help fund the creation of the French-language university.

In February 2021, Laurentian announced it was insolvent, couldn’t pay its bills and would have to restructure. In addition to cutting staff and many French programs, the Laurentian federation ended agreements with the University of Sudbury, Thorneloe University and Huntington College, and started to keep the funding it used to share with those schools.

In response, University of Sudbury officials said they would work to open a French university.

The coalition said while it’s important the U of Sudbury work with the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board, “it is even more crucial that French-language university education be placed under the auspices of a French-language institution. It is the only way the francophone community’s interests will always be at the heart of the decision-making process. The community has already sacrificed enough.

“It is crucial that such a transfer be announced in the immediate future in order for the Université de Sudbury to be in a position to adequately plan its future, knowing it won’t have to share the French-language market with Laurentian. Such fragmentation, should it be allowed to occur, could prove disastrous for French-language university education in the region.

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“It is logical to demand that such a transfer occur now, while the Université de Sudbury undertakes the necessary processes under the auspices of the board. Existing French-language programs delivered by Laurentian are already approved. This would provide a good foundation from which the Université de Sudbury can build instead of starting from scratch. And it is doable, based on the example of the rapid creation of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University” earlier this year.

The coalition said it is concerned the provincial government will seek “refuge” behind the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board’s processes, subjecting “the community to a years-long process without any guarantees. Meanwhile, our youth is leaving the region and we are losing professors. The economy of the whole region is impacted by that.

“We therefore demand that Laurentian University be made to transfer all of its French-language programming to the Université de Sudbury while the latter continues its work with the board.”

Calls placed to Laurentian University seeking comment were not returned.

sud.editorial@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @SudburyStar

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