(Toronto) Ontario voters will go to the polls on June 2 to choose their next government. The press we strolled through Greater Toronto to take the pulse of our neighbors in Canada’s most populous province.
Posted on May 30th
November 15, 2018 marked the francophones of Ontario. Six months after his election, the progressive Conservative government of Doug Ford announced the end of the Université de l’Ontario français (UOF) project and the dissolution of the Office of the Commissioner of French Language Services. Four years later, the university settled in downtown Toronto, but the francophone agency still hasn’t regained its independence.
This “Black Thursday” had the effect of an electric shock. The Ford government quickly turned around. Creates the post of Commissioner for French Language Services in the Ombudsman’s Office and re-establishes the Ministry of Francophone Affairs.
But Franco-Ontario want their university. Thousands of them take to the streets and Congresswoman Amanda Simard knocks on the door of the Progressive Conservative Party. She would later join the Liberals.
“It was a time when this government became fully aware of the demands of French Ontario,” notes UOF Dean Pierre Ouellette.
Mr. Ouellette welcomes us to its campus located in one of the most beautiful areas of downtown Toronto, just steps from Lake Ontario. The university is surrounded by skyscrapers that can be seen from its large windows where abundant light penetrates. The small facility occupies 60,000 sq.two of a new building. Classrooms are modern. Your library is fully digital.
It was able to see the light of day last September, thanks to an agreement concluded between the federal government and Ontario that provides funding of $126 million over 8 years. The first year was quite difficult: 90 students enrolled, almost 70% of whom came from abroad. That’s half the target set by your government.
“We must always remind people that we launched a new university, with new employees, with new programs in COVID mode with people who, in many cases, did not know each other and had never met”, underlines Ouellette.
The UOF has the capacity to accommodate 2000 students. The dean hopes to gradually increase their number by the end of the agreement to obtain sustainable funding.
Ford balance sheet
The creation of this first French-speaking university in Ontario gave rise to the hope of seeing a French-speaking university network like that of the Université du Québec. Progressive conservatives have granted autonomy to the Université de Hearst, in the north of the province, which also offers programs exclusively in French.
“The government of Doug Ford has done more for francophones than the liberal government has done in 15 years,” defended French affairs minister Caroline Mulroney during the mid-campaign debate in French.
She was responding to attacks by Liberal candidate Amanda Simard, who accused the Progressive Conservative government of having sent “the message that French in Ontario is not important” and of having “betrayed the Franco-Ontarians”.
Sudbury in line of sight
The Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) is now calling for a third university “for and by francophones” in Sudbury to replace the programs cut by Laurentian University in 2021. This bilingual establishment eliminated 48% of French-language programs when it was brink of bankruptcy.
With no programs of study in their language nearby, French-speaking students often go into exile in the south of the province or assimilate into the English-speaking majority.
Young people who are trained in French in their hometown will do their internships in their hometown and will have the opportunity to receive job offers in their region. Young people who are educated in English, unfortunately, we lost them.
Carol Jolin, Speaker of the Assembly of the Francophonie of Ontario
This situation is all the more worrying as the French-speaking community faces a serious shortage of manpower, particularly in education and health.
New Democrats, Liberals and Greens promise a French-speaking university in Sudbury. Progressive conservatives await the recommendation of the independent commission responsible for evaluating the quality of post-secondary education before deciding.
“A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the famous Black Thursday in French Ontario,” notes Stéphanie Chouinard, professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada. “The government has changed its tone and yet has made significant progress. »
One of these advances is the modernization of the French Language Services Act led by Minister Mulroney. This legislation was first adopted in 1986. Its new version promotes an active offer and makes it possible to offer new service points outside the 27 designated regions.
“In an election, it’s not what you do, it’s what you do that counts for the next four years,” says Carol Jolin. The AFO president says he had a much closer ear from the Ford administration after the 2018 cuts. “We met and worked together,” she admits.
However, progressive conservatives have no intention of restoring the francophone watchdog’s independence. All the other major parties promise to remove the Commissioner of French Language Services from the Ombudsman’s office to give him a “bite”.
To know more
- Number of francophones in Ontario
government of ontario
- Ontario horseback riding where francophones are the majority
Ontario Francophonie Assembly