Sudbury·Audio

University of Sudbury pushes to become French only

L'Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario (AFO), a group representing Franco-Ontarians, has thrown its support behind the University of Sudbury in its push to become a French-only school.

Future uncertain for students in English programs at the institution, including Indigenous studies

The University of Sudbury says it wants to become a fully-French school. (uofsudbury.ca)

L'Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario (AFO), a group representing Franco-Ontarians, has thrown its support behind the University of Sudbury in its push to become a French-only school.

The University made the announcement Friday, posting it on Facebook.

John Meehan, the university's president, said during the announcement that the future of Laurentian University is "quite uncertain."

"With that arises the important question of the sustainability of post-secondary education in French in northern Ontario," Radio-Canada reported on its web site

Carol Jolin, president of AFO, said it's been a decades-long battle for a French university in northern Ontario, and Laurentian's current financial crisis acted as a kind of catalyst to help push the vision for a Francophone school forward.

"Let's say that at this point, for everything that happened in the situation where Laurentian has to be protected from its creditors, it created a situation where we saw a possibility for the Francophones to basically to do something that could have been done a long time ago," Jolin said. 

"If you read the history of the University of Sudbury, people have been talking about an independent post-secondary institution for a long, long time," Jolin said. "And unfortunately, for all kinds of reasons, it didn't happen in the past."

But some students aren't excited about the news.

Page Chartrand, who is majoring in Indigenous studies, said she feels Indigenous students may be left out if the school adopts an all-French focus.

 

It's a bit of a question of uncertainty.- Page Chartrand

"It was a little shocking considering that their biggest program is an English program," Chartrand said. "It's a bit of a question of uncertainty in the terms of what happens to the Indigenous studies program."

Chartrand, who is fluent in French, said students are still reeling from the announcement that Laurentian was seeking creditor protection.

"They touched on it a little, but they didn't provide any kind of details to ease the concerns of students and staff," she said. "And this court thing going on right now. They're just adding more uncertainty to the students that are involved through U of S.

"So now we have two institutions that are telling us the future is so unclear." 

The University of Sudbury declined to speak with CBC.

Once all the dust settles in Laurentian University's financial struggles, one of the three federated schools, the University of Sudbury hopes to emerge as a unilingual French university. Carol Jolin says it's about time. He is president of L'Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario. 7:11

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca

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