“Another Black Thursday” necessary to resolve the underfunding of French-speaking universities, asks a liberal

Faced with the financial distress of French-speaking post-secondary institutions in a minority context, Liberal MP Francis Drouin wonders if “it takes another Black Thursday” to put an end to their underfunding.

“I don’t know if it takes another Black Thursday […]. Unfortunately, there are governments [provinciaux] who do not understand the importance of investing in our post-secondary institutions,” Mr. Drouin said Thursday morning in the Standing Committee on Official Languages. “If we need to mobilize the Franco-Ontarian community […] and French-speaking communities across Canada to make themselves heard, well, maybe that’s what we’ll have to do. »

The committee member was reacting to the remarks of the rector of the University of Ottawa, Jacques Frémont, who declared that his establishment is in a “significant deficit”, emphasizing that “12 of the 18 universities which are recognized by the Ontario government” are in a similar situation.

In a report commissioned by the Ford government and published last November, a group of experts reported that the bilingual institution had “highlighted an insufficiency of approximately $50 million” to ensure its French-speaking mission. Today, this number stands at almost 80 million, announced Mr. Frémont. However, “you will not hear me say that we are going to close programs in French, we will not close any, that’s clear”, he assured after the committee, explaining that these expenses are part of integral to the “general functioning” of the establishment.

In New Brunswick, the University of Moncton receives annual funding from Canadian Heritage that has remained unchanged since 2002, deplores its vice-rector, Gabriel Cormier. Worth “approximately $4.9 million,” this amount “represented approximately 5.5% of the university’s revenues [en 2002]. Now it’s 2.5%.”

“Postsecondary institutions need permanent support in order to develop in the long term,” added Martin Normand, director of international relations for the Association of colleges and universities of the Canadian Francophonie (ACUFC), who deplores that the fund permanent annual 80 million promised in 2021 by the Liberals has not yet materialized. A necessary action to guarantee the attractiveness of French-speaking establishments in a minority context, he adds.

According to him, the pool of Canadians who wish to complete their entire school career in French “exists”, but “the challenge is to retain them” by offering “the programs that young people are looking for”. Because “establishments do not always have the means to react promptly […] to the demands that are created within the community, […] which can, in the long term, encourage young people who are looking for very specific programs to study in English.”

Added to this is the “uncertainty” caused by the cap on study permits, says Mr. Normand. For example, Mr. Cormier predicts a “loss of 130 foreign students” next school year, which represents “2 million dollars per year for 4 years”.

Disadvantaged French-speaking research

Another priority identified by the ACUFC is the expansion of the offer of graduate programs, which are rather rare in French-speaking establishments in a minority context, indicates Mr. Normand. This “harms the competitiveness of our researchers in their [demandes de] subsidies [de recherche] “.

“Funding in Canada is based on peer judgment, so this increasingly favors research consortia with large establishments,” explains Mr. Frémont. “We lose researchers every year because there is a lot more money elsewhere. »

In terms of funding, the general director of the Collège nordic francophone, Patrick Arsenault, also deplores that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) only subsidizes the teaching of English to newcomers from the Northwest Territories. “Allophone or French-speaking immigrants […] have no option to learn or improve their French for immigration purposes,” he denounces, alleging that a “concept” was developed with IRCC this year, but “when it was time to renegotiate for the launch in September, we were told there was no money left.”

Expected regulations

Francophone establishments are therefore impatiently awaiting the publication of the regulations that will support the Official Languages ​​Act. According to Conservative Joël Godin, the Minister of Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault, announced Wednesday evening, during a meeting with the Assembly of the Francophonie of Ontario, that its regulations will be presented “in the next 18 months.” a little more than two and a half years after the adoption of the new version of the law, in June 2023.

Information confirmed by liberal MP Marc G. Serré. For his part, Mr. Boissonnault’s press secretary, Mathis Denis, wrote to Duty that the minister “did not make an official announcement yesterday”. Last October, Treasury Board President Anita Anand declared that the regulations governing Part VII of the Official Languages ​​Act would be implemented within “two to three years.”

Before the committee on Thursday, Mr. Normand also called Mr.me Anand to “accelerate” the production of his regulations, “in order to give clear indications on the new obligations of the federal government”. “We have a lot of expectations,” he added, believing that “the interaction between federal powers and provincial powers in the Official Languages ​​Act is not sufficiently precise.”

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

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