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Postsecondary education in French: a “gray area” of federal intervention


FRANCOPRESSE – The suspension of French-language programs at post-secondary institutions has made headlines in recent weeks. The Faculté Saint-Jean in Alberta and Laurentian and Saint-Paul universities in Ontario have all announced major cuts to French-language programs. Although under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government has already been involved in safeguarding postsecondary education in French, as was the case for the University of French Ontario (UOF) at the start of the year. In the current context, could there be an intervention from Ottawa?

Second article in a two-part series on cuts to post-secondary education in French

Bruno Cournoyer Paquin – Francopresse

Post-secondary education “is a bit of a gray area,” according to Stéphanie Chouinard, professor in the Department of Political Science at the Royal Military College of Canada. “Education, training, is the responsibility of the provinces according to the constitution. On the other hand, the federal government, as in other fields, can interfere with the spending power. Moreover, he has been doing it for several years. “

“The federal government is already intervening through the official languages ​​in education program,” says Rémi Léger, associate professor in the department of political science at Simon Fraser University. “This program transfers funds from the Department of Canadian Heritage to education departments in other provinces. The majority of funds are intended for French-language schools and immersion programs, but a small proportion is set aside for French-language programs at the post-secondary level. ”

To read the first part of this series of two, click here

Less than half of the funding for Francophones

Joined by email by Francopresse, Jérémy Ghio, director of communications in the office of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, highlights the federal commitment. “In post-secondary education, in partnership with the provinces and territories, the federal government invests more than $ 235 million per year to support minority-language education and second-language instruction through the through bilateral education agreements, including support for post-secondary education. ”

It should be noted, however, that of these 235 million dollars, only 103 million are allocated to education in the language of the French-speaking minority, the remainder being invested in education in the second official language and in education in the language of the English-speaking minority. In addition, the agreement stipulates that these funds can be allocated to post-secondary education, but that this constitutes a “non-compulsory” measure.

One of the problems with these agreements, according to Stéphanie Chouinard, is the inability to keep track of spending. For example, she adds, federal funds should not be used as core funding, but rather to enhance the existing educational offer.

“We know very well that in several provinces federal funding is in fact used for basic funding in French-language schools, and to pay the salaries of teachers of French as a second language”, specifies the political scientist.

Sheila Risbud, President of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA). Credit: Courtesy

A situation deplored by Sheila Risbud, president of the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA). “We, what we saw in Alberta is that they [les fonds fédéraux] are not there to supplement, that they are starting to be part of the basic funds. So we find ourselves in the situation where the province does not necessarily invest its share in the funding and relies on these federal funds to improve, or rather, maintain its programs. ”

“We absolutely must protect Campus Saint-Jean, which is a fundamental institution for the Canadian Francophonie and Franco-Albertans,” explains Jérémy Ghio. “As an ally of the Francophone communities, we are ready to intervene, but the federal government cannot go it alone.”

Towards other funding models?

0820 Série éducation Role du fédéral Rémi Léger cr. courtoisie
The funding model of the University of French Ontario demonstrates an innovation on the part of the federal government. Credit: Courtesy

In the case of the University of French Ontario (UOF), the federal government made a commitment to cover the costs during the first four years, by obtaining a financial commitment from Ontario for the follow-up. A funding model that demonstrates the federal government’s innovation in the negotiation of education agreements, according to Rémi Léger.

“So we could imagine a scenario where the government negotiates with Ontario for Laurentian University or with the Government of Alberta for Campus Saint-Jean,” says the researcher.

However, he adds, “in the case of the French University of Ontario, or in any case the model that can be derived from it, the province must agree to play the game. So in Ontario, the province has committed to disburse $ 60 million ”. An amount that must be paid in 2023.

An opinion shared by Stéphanie Chouinard. “The provinces concerned must be at the table, and there must be a written promise that whatever the federal government puts on the table, the province is ready to put as much, and even more, to ensure sustainability. . The federal government will want to be assured that the funding granted to keep the head above water for these institutions, that in five years we will not find ourselves having the same discussions. ”

0820 Série éducation Role du fédéral Stéphanie Chouinard cr. Courtoisie
“Education, training, is the responsibility of the provinces according to the constitution. On the other hand, the federal government, as in other fields, can interfere with the spending power. ” Credit: Courtesy

“With regard to the University of French Ontario, the project saw the light of day thanks to existing programs and only because both levels of government were involved,” recalls Jérémy Ghio from Minister Joly’s office. “As in the case of the University of French Ontario, for Campus Saint-Jean to obtain funding, the province must contribute and submit a project in due form to the federal government […], an amount of $ 3.7 million was granted for a special infrastructure project, funding that has still not been used by the province, ”adds the director of communications.

For Professor Chouinard, it is clear that the UOF case “was really a lifeline in an emergency situation, but I do not believe that it is a model that has durability or that is repeated in others. provinces. “

The federal government has the means to act

If there is political will, believes Rémi Léger, “the federal government has the means to intervene” in issues affecting the Canadian Francophonie. The federal government, in recent years, has invested in economic development, training of health professionals, and immigration programs intended for Francophone minority communities.

“All that to say that we have examples over the past 20 years where the government, after years of lobbying, has decided to put money on the table. And I believe the government could do the same with post-secondary education. ” explains Rémi Léger

For Sheila Risbud “when it comes to linguistic minorities, the federal government plays a particular role that unfortunately the provinces do not do in a uniform manner across Canada. We must ask ourselves whether the federal government is effectively protecting linguistic minorities by leaving jurisdiction [en éducation] completely to the provinces. ”

At the end of July, we learned that the Saint-Jean campus of the University of Alberta was granted a reprieve for the fall, but was forced to cut 77 programs in French from its more than 400 programs. In August, Laurentian University in Sudbury announced the suspension of registrations in ten French-language programs while, for its part, Saint-Paul University in Ottawa suspended 13.

The article Post-secondary education in French: a “gray zone” of federal intervention appeared first on Le Franco.


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