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Letter: Institut franco-ontarien severing ties with Laurentian University

The director of the institute says Laurentian is turning its back on its bilingual roots, which is why the IFO is moving to the University of Sudbury

In his May 18 letter, Laurentian University President Robert Haché stated that his institution must “outlast genius and brilliance of the intellectuals, changemakers and thought leaders on whose shoulders” it was built. 

The Institut franco-ontarien de Sudbury (IFO) couldn't agree more. That's why the IFO, which is independently incorporated, has decided to sever its ties with Laurentian University and move to the Université de Sudbury.

Laurentian University has made tough, but decisive choices. It has unilaterally eliminated the federation, obliterated its core French-language programming, and thus, its Francophone soul, and decided to espouse a mercantile logic. 

We are disappointed, but we recognize the legitimacy of this decision for the future of what will become, de facto, an English university. That yesterday's Université Laurentienne is leading the way to tomorrow's unilingual Laurentian University is not a tragedy, but the logical conclusion of decisions made by its board of governors and the various administrations of the last 20 years. 

By going down the path of the CCAA and eliminating the programs that gave meaning to the institution's French fact, Laurentian has simply taken the first step in an important yet necessary shift for its future: letting go of its bilingual and tricultural mandate, which it never truly embraced. 

La Laurentienne is dead... long live Laurentian.

Indeed, Laurentian's mandate must evolve to be consistent with its laudable goal of becoming a major regional English-language institution. By engaging in the CCAA, it has clearly chosen this path for its future. 

By choosing to become an English-language university, Laurentian is also opening the door for the aspirations of the Franco-Ontarian community, which has been seeking autonomy for decades. Freed of a mandate it clearly does not want, Laurentian 2.0 would finally allow the institution to fulfil its ambitions.

The Université de Sudbury is a unifying project for Francophones and for our city.

What is constant in the long tradition of French language post-secondary education in the region is the presence and commitment of the Université de Sudbury, whose history dates back to 1913 with the founding of Collège du Sacré-Coeur. 

For the Francophone community, the last 60 years at Laurentian have been nothing more than an interlude.

For more than a month, Francophone "intellectuals, changemakers and thought leaders” have clearly expressed the vision of the change they wish to see for their community. In addition, the entire Franco-Ontarian civil society has rallied behind the project to make the Université de Sudbury fully French. 

The Université is on its way to becoming once again a Francophone institution that is embodied, anchored, committed, open and welcoming. It is rediscovering its initial vocation, that of an institution that allows for the empowerment and the emancipation of its community, and one that inscribes Sudbury’s French fact as capable of being universal. 

Furthermore, the Université de Sudbury has also invited Indigenous peoples to express their wishes for the future of the fundamental Indigenous Studies program, one of the oldest of its kind in Canada. 

Father John Meehan, S.J., President of the University of Sudbury, has offered one of its two university charters for the creation of an autonomous, Indigenous-led institution should Indigenous peoples choose to pursue this goal.

Empowering national minorities is not about telling them what they need or marginalizing them from power. It’s about allowing these groups, should they choose, to govern themselves according to their legitimate aspirations.

The Université de Sudbury, which has been serving the North for 108 years now, is in the process of making the changes that will enable it to serve the Franco-Ontarian community for centuries to come. 

That is why IFO has decided to end its 45-year, often acrimonious, relationship with Laurentian to embrace this dynamic project. We are looking forward to embracing a future based on mutual respect and the empowerment of our national minorities. With such a project, everyone in Sudbury wins. 

Dr. Serge Miville

Director, Institut franco-ontarien