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Local Conservatives criticize Singh’s response to University of Sudbury francophone education plans

‘Mr. Singh’s comments demonstrate how his interest in this issue is completely symbolic,’ say Symington and Humphrey

Following federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s visit to Sudbury on Saturday, local Conservative Party of Canada candidates have issued a release criticizing his statements related to local francophone post-secondary education.

“Today, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh refused to support francophone post-secondary education in Northern Ontario,” said the emailed statement from Dr. Ian Symington (Sudbury) and Charles Humphrey (Nickel Belt).

“Mr. Singh’s comments demonstrate how his interest in this issue is completely symbolic. He does not seem to understand that his position would prolong the precariousness of studies for those affected by the cuts to Laurentian University. His electoral platform does not even contain any mention of funding or protection for studies in minority settings.

“Canada’s Conservatives are listening to students, professors and organizations like the Assembly of the Francophonie in Ontario who are pursuing a plan to transfer lost French-language programs from Laurentian University to the University of Sudbury.

“Moreover, in Canada’s Recovery Plan, we are committing $30 million per year to provide federal funding to minority francophone post-secondary institutions and participate significantly in their future financing, in collaboration with the provinces.

“If you don’t care about francophone post-secondary education, you have three parties to choose from in this election. If you do, then there is only one choice - Erin O’Toole and Canada’s Conservatives.”

The University of Sudbury, where Singh spoke Saturday, is one of three educational institutions operating on Laurentian’s campus that was, until recently, federated with LU, and provided courses that counted toward Laurentian degrees.

As part of its insolvency restructuring, Laurentian terminated the federation agreement with the University of Sudbury along with Thorneloe and Huntington universities in the spring, as it wanted to keep in its own coffers the government and tuition funds transferred to these schools.

For its part, the University of Sudbury is currently working with the francophone community to become a French-language university, but hasn’t received the government approval it needs to proceed this fall. It has also given a similar offer to the Indigenous community.

The University of Sudbury wants Laurentian University to transfer all of its French-language programming to the formerly federated university, but so far Laurentian has refused.

Singh was asked in French by a TFO reporter Saturday about whether he would support the transfer of French-language Laurentian programs to the University of Sudbury, and whether he would provide financial support to the University of Sudbury.

But Singh did not commit to either idea.  

In response to the question about the possible transfer of French-language programs to the University of Sudbury, he said in French the NDP’s goal is to save Laurentian University.

He said the work of the University of Sudbury is incredible, but the party does not want to reduce services in French, it wants to increase them.

The reporter also asked whether the NDP would make a financial commitment to the University of Sudbury.

Singh said his party would support Laurentian, although he did not provide any figures for how much money would be provided. 

In response to a question from Saturday about what the NDP would do to support Laurentian as it emerges from its insolvency restructuring next year, Singh said the party wants to save “all the programs” at Laurentian.

Laurentian already made massive cuts to its staff and programs this past spring, many of them French-language.

“We want to invest in protecting this university and saving it,” said Singh.