Toronto

'Bonne idée': Toronto good choice for French-language university, says college president

A plan for a French-language university in Ontario, probably in downtown Toronto, is a "bonne idée" because the city and surrounding area are home to a growing number of Francophones, says the head of a French-language college in the province.

Collège Boréal President Daniel Giroux says growing numbers of Francophones are living here

Daniel Giroux, president of Collège Boréal in Ontario, says: 'A lot of us have been pushing for this for a number of years now.' (Collège Boréal )

A plan for a French-language university in Ontario, probably in downtown Toronto, is a "bonne idée" because the city and surrounding area are home to a growing number of Francophones, says the head of a French-language college in the province.

Daniel Giroux, president of Collège Boréal, which has satellite campuses in several Ontario communities, said it makes sense for the provincial government to build such an institution in Toronto.

By 2030, it's estimated that 50 per cent of all Francophones in the province will live in Toronto and southwestern Ontario, many of whom will likely be new Canadians, he said. Collège Boréal has been selected as a partner to work with the provincial government to develop the new university.

"I think it's very, very exciting. A lot of us have been pushing for this for a number of years now," Giroux told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Tuesday.

"I think it's an historic moment." 
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has announced a plan for a French-language university in Toronto, the first in Ontario. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Giroux added a French-language university would not only provide high quality education in French, including degrees, to Francophones, but also enhance the ability of the province to attract international students, students from across the country whose first language is French, students who have been in French immersion, and adult learners.

"It will be of huge benefit," he said. 

Giroux explained "the biggest gap is in Toronto and southwestern Ontario" when it comes to French-language educational programs in Ontario.

School would be 'milestone'

Ontario's Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews and Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde announced the plan on Monday. 

"This is a tremendous step forward in the creation of the first standalone French-language university in Ontario, governed by and for Francophones, which will provide access to high-quality French-language university education in the Greater Toronto Area and Central and Southwestern Ontario," Matthews said. 

Lalonde said the university would help to preserve French culture in the province. 

"Francophone culture and the French language have always been essential to Ontario's identity and prosperity," she said.

"This is strongly reaffirmed today with the government's intent to provide high-quality post secondary education to Francophone students. The creation of a new French-language university, governed by and for Francophones, is a critical milestone for Franco-Ontarians and future generations."

The announcement comes a month after the French-language university planning board, a group formed last fall to look at the issue, was released. In the report, the board provided recommendations for the creation of a French-language university. 
Ontario's Francophone Affairs Minister Marie-France Lalonde said the university would help to preserve French culture in the province. (CBC News)

According to the Ontario government, an estimated 611,500 Francophones live in Ontario. It's the largest population of Francophones outside of Quebec. A total of 430,000 people in the Greater Toronto Area speak French.

The university is not expected to open until 2020. Giroux says the next step is to pick a site and proceed with a renovation or begin building.

He said the school will likely be 300,000 square feet. It could have between 500 and 1,000 students initially, but eventually could have between 3,000 and 5,000 students.

Matthews said the province intends to introduce legislation for the creation of the proposed university in the coming months.

The province currently has two publicly funded French-language colleges — Collège Boréal in Sudbury and La Cité in Ottawa.

It also has nine French-language and bilingual schools offering university programs, including Laurentian University and the University of Ottawa.

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