U of O, Saint Paul University could help run francophone university in Toronto

Two of Ottawa's bilingual universities could play a role in helping launch Ontario's first purely francophone university.

Province to introduce bill for proposed post-secondary institution

Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde called the province's plans for a francophone university in Ontario an 'historic' moment. (CBC)

Two of Ottawa's bilingual universities could play a role in helping launch Ontario's first purely Francophone university.

On Monday, former commissioner of official languages Dyane Adam released her provincial report on the need for a Franco-Ontarian university in downtown Toronto. 

The report recommends that the University of Ottawa be a mentor to the future institution and partner with it to offer strategic programs delivered in French.

Jacques Frémont, the U of O's president and vice-chancellor, said in a written statement the report offers a "vibrant vision of the new university and of Ontario's francophone communities."

"The University of Ottawa has repeatedly stated that it wishes to be part of the solution in this matter, which is why I am delighted to see that the report recommends that the University of Ottawa be designated to mentor the future university and partner with it to offer programs delivered in French in several fields of strategic importance to francophones in southwestern Ontario," Frémont said. 

The report also notes that Ottawa's Saint Paul University, among others, has expressed interest in being affiliated with a new network of universities serving francophones.

'This is a historic moment'

Saint Paul's rector, Chantal Beauvais, said her institution could be invited to participate in the governance of the new francophone university and offer three academic programs: social innovation, conflict studies, master's in psychotherapy, counselling and spirituality. 

The three programs are already offered at Saint Paul's. Those details, however, have yet to be ironed out. 

"It's good news for us because it's good news for the French-speaking community in Ontario," Beauvais said. "The report makes clear there is a need in Toronto."

Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, said Queen's Park will soon introduce legislation for the proposed post-secondary institution.

Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde hopes the bill will be tabled in the fall, but did not make any promises.

"This is a historic moment. There will be a Franco-Ontarian university in Ontario for the first time," she said Monday.

Toronto 'wrong' location, NDP MPP says

At least one politician disagreed with the Toronto recommendation

NDP MPP France Gélinas said building the university in Toronto — far from francophone clusters including Hearst, Timmins and Sudbury — means fewer Franco-Ontarians would likely travel for their post-secondary education.

"We have over 100,000 Franco-Ontarians that live here in northeastern Ontario alone, why do we have to travel?" Gélinas said. "This is wrong."

In order to reduce costs, the new facility, to be known as l'Université de l'Ontario français, would share space and administrative staff with Collège Boréal in Toronto.

Its budget would be approximately $40 million per year, the report said.

The French-language University Planning Board, which was tasked with studying the creation of the francophone-only university in Ontario, hopes the federal government will fund half the start-up costs of the new university, which are estimated to be $83.5 million over seven years.

The board hopes to welcome the first cohort of students by 2020. 

With files from Kimberley Molina and Radio-Canada