Province says it will support midwifery students impacted by Laurentian cuts

Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano issued a statement today about the midwifery program at Laurentian University, which was cut earlier this month. 

Laurentian's $1M in provincial funding will go to Ryerson and McMaster Universities for midwifery programs

Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano says the province is working with northern and francophone partners to help ensure that the current and the next cohort of students can train to become midwives without leaving northern Ontario. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano issued a statement today about the midwifery program at Laurentian University, which the institution cut earlier this month. 

It's one of three programs in Ontario and the only bilingual program in the country.

Romano says he is concerned about the program ending, and that the government's priority is to maintain a northern and bilingual midwifery program. No details were provided and he declined an interview with CBC News

For students like Samantha Smith-Bird, who's just finished her 3rd year of midwifery at Laurentian, the lack of answers are vexing.

"What's gone on at Laurentian is truly unprecedented. I want to know that they're doing what they can, and I want to hear actionables as to what that means," she said.

"And I want to hear that they will support midwifery training now and in the future."

A ministry spokesperson told CBC News that the province is not saying it will be able to preserve Laurentian's midwifery program, but that it will be making efforts to ensure current students can complete their studies.

The $1 million previously allocated to Laurentian's program each year will be redistributed to Ryerson and McMaster Universities, so they can offer programing to Laurentian's midwifery students.

The province says the aim will be to deliver "pathways" for students impacted by the program cut to complete their training without leaving northern Ontario. 

Provincial funding 'not adequate'

A court filing in connection with Laurentian's insolvency explains that the university had to cut the program due to underfunding from the province.

"Laurentian Univeristy (LU) made the decision to close the Midwifery program due to the financial costs associated with running that program that could not adequately be met by funding received from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Health pursuant to a transfer payment agreement."

The filing goes on to say: "As financial support to post-secondary institutions generally is subject to the prerogative of the Province and Midwifery is an expensive program to run (relative to other programs), it is difficult for LU to solely rely on grant funding to continue operating the program. Further compounding matters is the fact that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has imposed an annual cap of 30 new students that may be accepted into the Midwifery program at LU, which limits its potential growth."

Minister Romano Statement on Midwifery Program

"The Ontario government has been carefully monitoring Laurentian University during its CCAA proceedings. I want to reaffirm our commitment to the students of Laurentian University to ensure the future of their learning. That is why we are working with the institution to understand their plan to support students and we are prepared to fill any gaps for students that are impacted, if necessary.

An area of concern for me, and all of Northern Ontario, is the University's decision to end the midwifery program. This program is the only bilingual midwifery program in Canada. It is crucial that we have the necessary health human resources to provide high-quality health and wellness care in Northern Ontario. That is why the Government provided Laurentian University $1 million annually to offer the program. I want to be clear; the government's priority is to maintain a Northern and bilingual midwifery program option.

However, I know that the creation of a new midwifery program is not a quick process. To that end, while the government continues to work on longer-term solutions, we are presently working on immediate pathways for students impacted through the only two other universities that offer midwifery programs, Ryerson and McMaster. We are also working with our Northern and francophone partners to help ensure that the current and the next cohort of students can train to become midwives without leaving Northern Ontario.

We have committed to monitor the situation and to ensure that we protect Laurentian student's continuity of education, and we will continue to do so going forward."


With files from Sarah MacMillan


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