Toronto, Nov. 16, 2018 - Yesterday, the Ontario government cancelled plans to open
the province's first French-language university in southern Ontario, set to open
in 2020, despite having made promises not to do so during the election campaign
and after taking office.
In the same announcement, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli indicated that the
province will be eliminating the positions of three independent officers – the French
Language Services Commissioner, the Environmental Commissioner and Ontario Child
Advocate – and rolling their responsibilities into the offices of the auditor general
and the provincial ombudsman.
Both of these announcements were made as part of the government's cost-cutting plan
"For the People" to reduce the provincial budget.
This unexpected news has been met with harsh criticism and disappointment among
Francophone students, faculty and community groups across Ontario.
"Creating this French-language university was necessary to improve the quality of
education for the 600,000 Francophones living across this province," said Nour Alideeb,
Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. "French-speaking students
in Ontario pay some of the highest tuition fees in the country, yet face all sorts
of challenges when attending college or university due to a historic lack of resources
and programming for French-language learners. In their short-sighted attempt to
save money, Ford's government has essentially wasted decades of funding and consultations
that had been building towards this project."
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario had lobbied the provincial government
for increased funding for French-language education and to ensure that the funding
for the new French-language university did not take away from existing Francophone
The cancellation of the French-language university comes only a few weeks after
the sudden cancellation of three additional new campus projects in Milton, Brampton
and Markham. These actions amount to a significant funding cut for the post-secondary
"Now by eliminating the position of the French Language Services Commissioner, who
was responsible for protecting the rights and interests of Franco-Ontarians, it
will be harder for people to advocate for themselves when the services they need
are not being provided," said Alideeb. "When looked at side-by-side, these two cancellations
amount to a huge step backwards when it comes to improving the social, economic
and political life of the Francophone community in this province."
The French Language Services Commissioner was responsible for receiving complaints
about French-language government services and exercising its powers of investigation
to make recommendations with respect to the delivery of these services.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario represents 350,000 students in Ontario,
including the majority of Francophone post-secondary students in the province.