Establishment of a Fully Francophone University in Ontario
Serving Ontario's French Language Population
OTTAWA, ONTARIO, JANUARY 15, 2017 - The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) is a nationwide initiative dedicated to the well-being and the representation of student voice, both anglophone and francophone.
Back in November 2016 a bill was passed by the provincial legislature concerning a Francophone university in Ontario. Ever since it was passed, France Gélinas, Francophone affairs critic, has been pushing to establish the new institution. The University of Ottawa’s English newspaper states: “Franco-Ontarians are plenty in number but hugely underrepresented at universities.” Gelina declared that “Ontario is richer because we have Francophone people within our midst.” A new Francophone university would help preserve French culture in the province and create a more comforting environment for francophone ontarian students.
According to the AFMO (Association française des municipalités de l’Ontario), the French presence in Ontario dates back nearly 400 years to the establishment of what is now Simcoe County back in 1639. Like the general population of Ontario, the Franco-Ontarian community is diverse and vibrant in many aspects. For many years, it has welcomed francophones from various different places such as: Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe and today represent a total of 10% of the province's Francophone population. This adds to Ontario's francophone total community number of 582,690, i.e. 4.8% of the province's total population (according to Statistics Canada 2006 census). French culture is a fundamental value of Canadian society and it contributes to the social, economic, cultural and political fabric that forms different parts of Ontario. Being the residence of choice of the highest francophone population outside Quebec, Ontario should continue to recognize its important responsibility in ensuring that this francophone community has access to the resources and opportunities required for it to ensure its long-term growth and development. This is especially crucial in terms of education, a prevalent aspect in everyone’s lives.
As there have been interlingual tensions in Canadian history, it is undoubtedly both a federal and provincial duty to mend past relations. Considering Ontario’s large Francophone community, it is only fair that they are given their own governing voice in education. Although many are satisfied with bilingual universities, Francophones are still, however, being directed by a dominantly English-speaking board. Instead of promoting bilingualism by having Francophones adhere to the English language and culture, it should be promoted by allowing Francophones to choose for themselves in which ways they wish for their community to grow. Giving Canadian students the opportunity to attend a Franco-Ontarian university would make the bold yet essential statement that Francophones are not just a minority but rather an essential part of Canada’s identity in which they have the sovereignty to preserve and promote their language, culture and community.
According to francophone students from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. :”[...] They were pleased with the number of options, 38 fully- French programs and growing.” Gelinaalso recognizes that l’Université de Hearst is a french language university located in northern Ontario with a large population of francophone students, but a fully Franco-Ontarian university would be necessary to wholly conserve the french culture and create a community amongst themselves.
This genre of institution would be greatly beneficial to the province, offering a full range of university degrees and programs in French, as opposed to the current situation where there are only selective programs offered in French. A notable benefit that has been advocated for: the creation of a positive environment for francophone students to feel comfortable and accepted. The REFO (Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien) comments that: “It’s really a question of having the rights to it.” In addition to this, Francophones would be able to call the university their own; a university for Francophones directed by Francophones.
Recently, Marie-France Lalonde, the Ontario Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, has created a planification committee composed of mostly Toronto-based individuals above the age of thirty years old, hence excluding francophone youth from the planning process. Furthermore, the composition of the committee further excludes representatives of the other regions of Ontario, where francophone student voice can play a pivotal role in the decision-making process.