Ava Carter, who is finishing up her first year in Laurentian University’s English-language midwifery program, had her life turned upside down this week.
Both Laurentian’s English and French-language midwifery programs were among the 69 programs cut as the university undergoes restructuring.
This after Laurentian announced earlier this year it is insolvent and was granted creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).
Carter and a group of pals from Laurentian were among at least 100 people who gathered along Paris Street near John Street on Friday to show their anger about the cuts at the university. The demonstrators gathered near the home of Laurentian University president Dr. Robert Haché.
The protesters were all wearing masks, and attempted to space themselves out along the roadway.
Carter said midwifery is actually a very in-demand program — only about 30 students are chosen per year out of 300 applicants. Midwives are important for providing health-care services in remote areas of Northern Ontario, the student said.
Laurentian has told the midwifery students they can switch to the university’s nursing program, said Carter.
“It shows a lack of respect they have for us,” she said.
Carter said she plans to “fight” to get into another midwifery program so she can finish her studies — either at McMaster or Ryerson University in Southern Ontario.
The situation is worse for her friends in Laurentian’s French-language midwifery program, as it was the only one in Canada.
Along with students and Laurentian employees, the demonstration was attended by many Laurentian alumni, including Brigitte Pelletier-Cisneros, who brought out her 15-month-old daughter, Madeline.
Pelletier-Cisneros is a 2010 Laurentian geography and political science graduate — two programs that were cut by the university this week.
“If the same person that I was then was alive now in Grade 12, they wouldn’t be able to study what I studied here at Laurentian,” she said.
She said she came out to the protest because she thinks the cuts are “disgusting.”
“They’re cutting people’s jobs that I know personally,” said Pelletier-Cisneros. “I’m standing up for my friends, I’m standing up for my family, standing up for my daughter, who I hope one day will go to Laurentian University.
“I feel that they’re really attacking programs. It’s the arts, it’s the humanities, it’s the languages — it’s the things that matter to women, Indigenous people, people of colour. They just don’t care.”
Also at the protest was Thorneloe University president, the Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut.
The federated university filed a motion with the courts this week to attempt to block Laurentian University’s announcement earlier this month it intends to terminate the federation agreement as of May 1.
The more than 60-year-old federation agreement going back to the university’s founding involves Laurentian and the three federated universities operating on campus — Thorneloe as well as Huntington University and the University of Sudbury.
Huntington and the University of Sudbury have announced the cancellation of all spring classes due to the situation, although Thorneloe University has not yet followed suit.
Laurentian has said students at federated universities can complete their degrees by taking Laurentian-offered courses, and Laurentian has inked a deal with Huntington to take over its gerontology program. Details on what that will look like exactly haven’t come out yet.
“We’re hoping that Laurentian will abide by its agreement so we can continue to do what we do best,” Gibaut told Sudbury.com at the protest. “It’s in the hands of the courts, but I expect a fair hearing.”
He said he came out to the protest to support students and his colleagues.
“It’s affecting the entire Laurentian community,” he said. “We’re part of that family, and we’re here to support our students.”