Advocacy

Preserving the rights of Franco-Ontarians to French-language post-secondary education

Published on: 20 Apr 2021

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An Open Letter from the Institut d'Histoire de l'Amérique française and the Canadian Historical Association
 

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Montreal | Ottawa, 19 April 2021

Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities

Dear Prime Minister Ford,
Dear Minister Romano,

The Institut d'histoire de l'Amérique française* and the Canadian Historical Association** have been following the Laurentian University file with shock and dismay for the past few months. The joint appeal we launched in February asking you to intervene quickly to preserve the mission of this institution has not been heard. The outcome, made public on April 12, is a real tragedy for the discipline of history and the humanities in general, for the large francophone community of Sudbury, Ontario and Canada, as well as for the entire academic world.

Since the creation of Laurentian University in 1960, professors and researchers in history and the humanities have played an important role in the development of the Franco-Ontarian community. They have documented it and accompanied its dynamism. As academics, they have also contributed to the vitality of research across Canada. This week's brutal cut, abolishing 28 French-language programs, including undergraduate history in French, graduate history in English and French, French studies, philosophy, etc., is seen both as a negation of these years of effort, and as the end of a hope. We therefore strongly condemn the elimination of all these programs and their related jobs.

We are also deeply shocked at the way in which the faculty, staff and student community of Laurentian University have been treated throughout this process. The use of the Creditors Arrangement Act to "restructure" the institution has allowed decisions to be made behind closed doors, flippant dismissals, and the negation of the collegiality that is at the very foundation of the academic world. The information that has come to light over the past few days demonstrates that the administration of Laurentian University has made unwise decisions over the past ten years, in the context of funding cuts and a demand for profitability that cannot be justified in the academic world. This entrepreneurial logic, based on the demand and profitability of programs, not only unfairly and disproportionately affects the Franco-Ontarian community, but also weakens university research and teaching in a regional context. More broadly, it jeopardizes the primary mission of the university.

Your government must respect the rights of Franco-Ontarians to French-language post-secondary education by ensuring adequate public funding. With the lowest per capita investment in post-secondary education in the country, the Ontario government is responsible for the crisis that Laurentian University has created for the students, faculty and staff with outrageous layoffs, as well as the entire Francophone community of Ontario.

This unprecedented crisis is a categorical illustration of Laurentian University’s failure of its institutional bilingualism. It is now up to you to act in partnership with the federal government, which claims to want to assume its role in supporting linguistic minorities, to ensure that the University of Sudbury has the necessary means to take over and offer a complete university education in French in the Middle North of Ontario. This is an essential condition for the vitality and social, economic and cultural development of the Franco-Ontarian community.

Sincerely,

Brigitte Caulier
President
The Insititut d’histoire de l’Amérique française

*The Institut d'histoire de l'Amérique française, founded in 1946, is the principal association of professional historians of Quebec and specialists in French America. The Institute brings together professors, professionals and history buffs from all regions of Canada and abroad.

Penny Bryden
President
Canadian Historical Association  | Société historique du Canada

** The Canadian Historical Association  | Société historique du Canada is the largest association of professional history in the country. Bilingual, it has been dedicated since1922 to promoting the scholarly study and diffusion of history in Canada.

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