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University of Sudbury offers best hope for a French university in Northern Ontario, supporters say

The Regroupement des professeurs(es) francophones de l'Université Laurentienne and others pushing for the ‘long-standing dream’ of a French-language university
The Franco-Ontarian flag flying outside Laurentian University. (File)

Some of the strongest Francophone voices in Northern Ontario are continuing their call this week for a “renewed, independent and fully francophone University of Sudbury.” And those voices, if you support their call, want you to add your voice to theirs.

Regroupement des professeurs(es) francophones de l'Université Laurentienne (RPF), an independent organization that represents more than 110 Francophone and Francophile professors and lecturers, are encouraging supporters of French-language post-secondary education in Ontario to sign a petition calling for the establishment of a Francophone university in Northern Ontario. You can find a link to the petition at the end of the article.

RFP also issued a statement discussing a resolution that was adopted at a meeting on April 16, rallying behind what they called the “long-standing dream” of a French-language university.

“For a university by and for the Francophone community of the Moyen-Nord (Middle North) in all its diversity,” read the statement, “the resolution adopted unanimously on this occasion states that the University of Sudbury project is the most credible way to realize this long-standing dream.”

The statement then lists the actions the group asks of the “Ontario government,” and echoes the call that has moved across the city since the events of ‘Black Monday,’ April 12.

Those ‘asks’ include:

  1. Ensure the repatriation to the University of Sudbury of all programs and courses offered in French, and the transfer of all material, physical, human and financial resources (including but not limited to archives, scholarships, donations, and copyright) related to Laurentian University's French-language services and programming, available and offered as of April 9, 2021;
  2. Put in place a one-year, renewable moratorium on all Laurentian University and federated university Francophone programs offered as of April 9, 2021, to ensure that they can be offered in their entirety by the end of the transition of Francophone resources and programs to the University of Sudbury;
  3. To establish an implementation committee to ensure the transfer of programs to the University of Sudbury and to support the development of the University of Sudbury in the context of the sustainability of French-language post-secondary education in Northern Ontario, which will give priority to the needs of current and future Francophone students;
  4. To ensure, by all means, that current students in Francophone programs affected by the restructuring of Laurentian University will be able to graduate in the program in which they were enrolled as of April 9, 2021, without additional courses or costs beyond those initially planned.

It is a common refrain, one that most within the Franco-Ontarian community have been calling for over many years. The refrain came early last week from the Association canadienne-française de l'Ontario du grand Sudbury (ACFO), a group that oversees the development and growth of the Franco-Ontarian community in the region and has worked for many years behind the concept of ‘pour, par et avec’ (for, by and with). ACFO released a statement saying the group was “abasourdie”— astounded — by the actions of the Laurentian University administration against the Franco-Ontarian community in Northern Ontario. 

That call also came from Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas and Mushkegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgouin, the NDP critic for Francophone Affairs, who sent a letter addressing their concerns Francophone Affairs and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano.

In all cases, the theme is the same, the need for a ‘nothing about us, without us’ approach to Franco-Ontarian post-secondary education. There is a need, a desire and from many a demand for a “fully francophone university of Sudbury,” says the RPF.  

Further in their release, Denis Hurtubise, a member of the RPF Coordinating Committee, said Laurentian can no longer claim to be a champion of French-language post-secondary education in Ontario. 

"The cuts announced by Laurentian University last Monday are devastating,” Hurtubise said. “Laurentian University can no longer claim to be the 'torch' of Ontario's Francophonie, having cut half of its French-language programs (20 out of 40) and fired 40 of its Francophone professors.”

Gina Comeau, also of the RPF, added that this will not only help the current Francophone population of Sudbury, but provide a welcoming enticement to Francophone newcomers.

 "We are excited to join our voice with so many others in the northern Francophone community and across the province," said Comeau in the release. "It is by all pushing in the same direction that we will achieve this long-standing dream of Franco-Ontarians in the North and their Francophile and New Canadian allies."

You can find the RPF petition to form a Francophone university in Northern Ontario here.

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Jenny Lamothe is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at She covers the Black, Indigenous, immigrant and Francophone communities.