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French-language university studies are in decline in Canada

Lack of funding at Campus Saint-Jean, reduction of programs at Saint-Paul and Laurentian universities in Ontario, decrease in international students due to COVID-19 at the University of Saint-Boniface and elsewhere. Certainly, francophone university studies in a minority situation are spinning badly. Where could the solution come from?

André Magny – Local Journalism Initiative – APF – West

The University of Ottawa (UO) has expressed its support for Campus Saint-Jean through a declaration 1er last September. It read that the UO “supports the University of Alberta in its efforts to find a viable alternative to ensure the sustainability of this renowned institution which actively contributes to the diversity of Alberta and Canadian society”. But concretely, will it go further? University of Ottawa spokesperson Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn says that “for now, that’s all we have to say on the subject. “

Recruit elsewhere?

To avoid cuts in programs like at Laurentian University, post-secondary institutions can try to attract students abroad when COVID-19 will no longer take its toll. This is somewhat the wish made last year by the rector of the UO, Jacques Frémont, during a speech in which he declared that “any French-speaking or bilingual university establishment in Canada must bet on the XXI.e century, that of the renewal of its French-speaking space, that of its openness to the French-speaking wealth and diversity of all countries and all continents. “

AT Association of Colleges and Universities of the Canadian Francophonie (ACUFC), we are banking on certain initiatives that would ensure the outreach of post-secondary education in French and increase the number of programs offered. This is particularly the case with a plan put forward by the ACUFC to work on the promotion of its members. She has, among others, collaborated with EduCanada regarding an international digital campaign that aimed to attract international students from different markets. Its priority, according to its site and its press releases, is to ensure that post-secondary education in the Canadian Francophonie remains a priority for the federal government.

For the vice-rector for teaching and research at Saint-Paul University, Jean-Marc Barrette, the problems facing his establishment “are essentially financial. He mentions the fact that since 2017, the basic grant has been frozen, tuition fees have been reduced by 10% at the request of the Ontario government and that there has been no compensation. No compensation either for the start of the 2020 school year with a new freeze requested. According to the vice-rector, “it is normal to close programs that have fallen into disuse and create others to renew themselves”.

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Unite the system?

Member of the board of directors of ACFAS, assistant professor and co-director of the Francophonies minorities, history and politics of languages ​​axis at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa, François Charbonneau has a lot to say about the current situation. While the demand for admission is on the rise, Campus Saint-Jean is in difficulty. For the academic, this is proof that, even if Francophones control their institutions, “if they do not control public policies in the allocation of funding, they are caught in a situation where they are at the mercy. majority decisions. In Canadian history, members of the majority have rarely been sensitive to the challenges of minorities. “

Would it be possible to federate the francophone postsecondary system? François Charbonneau would see it very well. A bit like Quebec did with its network of Quebec universities. According to him, to ensure a greater percentage of programs in French, Franco-Ontarians should have thought of federating all of Ontario’s French-speaking institutions in order to obtain “a complete postsecondary system in French.” What we did instead was start a university in Toronto. In my opinion, it was nonsense! », He says.

For his part, the director of the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs at Simon Fraser University, Gino LeBlanc, is not necessarily against the idea of ​​federating in Ontario, given the number of Francophones, “but beyond Ontario borders, no. “In the West,” we are rather trying to develop common strategies. For example, the mutual recognition of the credits made in each post-secondary francophone branch in the West goes in this direction.

Estates General on Post-Secondary Education?

What remains in the face of these problems? A desire to stir the cage for François Charbonneau. Very aware that education is a provincial preserve, he takes up the case of the new francophone university in Toronto. What happened when Ontario had its ears pulled out for the funding of this new francophone institution? Ottawa came running. The UO professor speaks of “hostage taking”. According to him, the other provinces could do the same, knowing that the federal government will race to protect bilingualism in Canada.

The UO goes almost in the same direction in its letter of support for Campus Saint-Jean: “The University of Ottawa is also appealing to the federal government to assess possible financial support for Campus Saint-Jean, as it did so for the creation of the University of French Ontario. “

Even if relations are good at the moment with the Minister of Education in British Columbia, Gino Leblanc is also aware of the limit of Article 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees the right to education. in the language of the minority.

For François Charbonneau, one could even think of creating a pan-Canadian network which could “have branches, collaborative links with the universities of Quebec”. He refers in particular to the Université de Sherbrooke, which trains medical students for the Université de Moncton. But according to him, the rectors of small universities do not want to upset things too much. “Estates general of education, yes, but we are not there yet. Education is not popular in social networks, ”he notes.