A group that advocates for preserving university education in Sudbury that reflects English, French and Indigenous perspectives released a statement featuring members of the three communities, outlining their hopes for the future of education in this city after the insolvency of Laurentian University.
The Tricultural Committee for University Education in Sudbury is made up of members of a Northern Ontario coalition for a French-language university in Sudbury, Indigenous rights advocates and Save our Sudbury.
Its goal is to make connections between the three major demographic groups and work together on a new future for university education in Sudbury. According to its recent statement, this should involve an independent Indigenous university, an independent Franco-Ontarian university, and a refocusing of Laurentian University’s mandate as an English-speaking school.
“The current crisis we find ourselves in, in my opinion, is the deepest in the history of not only Sudbury but northern Ontario,” said David Leadbeater, a former Laurentian economics professor who lost his job in the restructuring process.
The committee plans to hold its first town hall in October to gather these views.
Laurentian University announced that it was insolvent in February 2021. It embarked on the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process, to begin restructuring the institution shortly thereafter. .
Advocates say this process was unnecessary and inappropriate for a public institution like a university. Laurentian has dropped more than 30 programs and laid off more than 100 faculty and staff. Many of the most significant cuts occurred in programs that served communities such as Francophones and Indigenous peoples.
Planning a new way forward
David Leadbeater was one of the main architects of the committee’s statement, its introduction said.
“The declaration is a way of approaching the first steps forward, that is to say to recognize the profound failures of Laurentian and to open a discussion on the possibility of having three independent but cooperating institutions”, a he declared.
Leadbeater described the main elements of the statement. It begins with discussions about the consequences of the CCAA process and why the group says it goes against the best interests of Sudbury and northern Ontario.
Second, the statement indicates that the Board of Governors and Laurentian University President Robert Haché have lost the confidence of Sudbury and northern Ontario, especially among Indigenous and Francophone populations.
The third part of the declaration is to establish new guiding principles for the future, including giving Laurentian University a new mandate away from its existing tricultural orientation and allowing Indigenous and Francophone schools to exist separately, said Leadbeater.
The authors of the statement share their concerns
Will Morin, a former professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Sudbury, said a main problem is that Laurentian has long presented itself as a tricultural institution, but Indigenous voices in particular are often understated, while like their shared history on campus.
“Laurentian is appropriating voices. Our communities have spoken. We are asserting our voices and calling on them in this public declaration, ”said Morin.
Save Our Sudbury representative Scott Florence said the CCAA process does not address a major concern: accountability.
“We all want to know what happened, where the money went, how we got into this crisis. see everything that happened, “he said.
A preliminary report in February from Ontario councilor Alan Harrison said Laurentian has been running deficits since 2014 and the financial problems existed before the current administration.
This report also said that the damaging process of creditor protection did not have to happen as Ontario offered the school $ 100 million in emergency funding, but only with a third-party review of the school financial situation. The school received $ 12 million instead.
The tricultural committee plans to circulate its new statement to collect supporting signatures.