Francophone students at Laurentian leaving Sudbury for other Canadian schools in wake of cuts

Some Laurentian students looking to finish their studies in French say they have to leave Sudbury and are staking out schools in different parts of Canada despite the northwestern Ontario university's promise of options to complete their degrees locally.

University of Alberta, for one, extends application deadline solely for Laurentian students affected

Laurentian University students are grappling with change they couldn't have imagined at the beginning of the year. In particular, those studying in French are scrambling to find ways to finish their education, and that may be moving out of Sudbury, Ont. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Some Laurentian University students looking to finish their studies in French say they'll have to leave Sudbury, Ont., despite the school's promise there are options to complete their degrees locally as it goes through restructuring.

Lauryn Carney says she was studying psychology in French at Laurentian, and taking drama and Indigenous studies at the University of Sudbury.

She's not sure what to do, with Laurentian's offerings in limbo after the termination of the federation agreement with University of Sudbury and two other schools, and several of her favourite psychology professors lost their jobs. Laurentian's restructuring under the insolvency process allows it to stay operating while dealing with its financial situation, but dozens of programs and staff have been cut. 
"I'm kind of lost in the mess of it, because all the pressure is put on the students to figure out what we have to do for our degree," she said.

Carney is considering three different schools to finish her studies — the University of Ottawa for drama, possibly Nipissing for Indigenous studies and maybe completing her psychology courses with the remaining professors at Laurentian.

Other Laurentian students in limbo are looking at programs at the University of Ottawa as well as the University of Moncton in New Brunswick.

A University of Ottawa spokesperson said in a statement the number of applications from Laurentian students has increased in both French- and English-language programs, with a notable rise at the undergraduate level.

"Our team is supporting Laurentian University students who reach out to us to provide advice on the best pathway forward for them," the statement read.

Canadian Francophonie 'suffering'

Looking west, at the University of Alberta, officials have extended its application deadline solely for Laurentian students.

The dean of the Edmonton school's French faculty, Pierre-Yves Mocquais, said it's important to provide support to francophone students.

Laurentian University students' studies are threatened by current events. We try as much as possible to help each other, knowing that it is not easy for students across English Canada who wish to study in French.- Pierre-Yves Mocquais, University of Alberta

"Laurentian University students' studies are threatened by current events. We try as much as possible to help each other, knowing that it is not easy for students across English Canada who wish to study in French," he said.

"Canadian Francophonie is suffering from the various challenges that are currently affecting several French-speaking post-secondary institutions in a minority context. More than ever, solidarity between Francophone university institutions in a minority context is essential."

Laurentian student Maël Bisson and his girlfriend, who is also an LU student, started making a Plan B when the university first announced its insolvency on Feb. 1. They wanted to ensure they had something in the works in case they could no longer pursue their degrees in Sudbury.

"On Feb. 19, we started applying at Moncton [University] and making sure that everything was in order, just in case," Bisson said. "And then, on April 12, when we learned of the massive cuts to programs, teachers and the students that were now just without any options ... we made it official and we both went on with the Moncton U application."

Despite the program cuts at Laurentian, administration has said spring enrolment is on par with last year.

'Nothing for me at Laurentian'

Laurentian has since said it will offer francophone programming and allow people to complete their degrees through pathways in Sudbury, but Bisson said it's not doable for him, as he is studying dramatic arts.

"For for a theatre nerd like me, I'm going to school to act, to play in front of people. But the way I see it is they're going to offer courses that don't really have any link to theater for me," he said.

"It could be anything ... let's say they give me a class in geology. I don't have any interest in studying rocks. I'm someone who just wants to create and write plays and just be on stage, so there's really nothing for me at Laurentian U."

Bisson said the hardest part of moving from Sudbury will be the community of artists he'll leave behind.

"That's the bitter part of this whole thing. I had a blast with Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario for the past two years. It's a great crew. But to be able to have [a degree] and to hopefully go further in life, I need my degree for that [and] I have to leave Sudbury."

More stories from CBC Sudbury:

With files from Kate Rutherford


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