House of Commons holds emergency debate over Laurentian crisis
SUDBURY -- Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus looked incensed as he waved a copy of the court filings of Laurentian's creditor case inside the House of Commons on Wednesday.
To Angus, this is personal.
He along with his London, Ont., colleague, were granted the emergency session after seeing the devastating cuts on Monday.
"What we heard on Monday was a shocking attack on education on programs, on opportunities, slash, slash, slash, slash, slash," said Angus.
He said Parliament needs to study the issue and come up with solutions. His concern is that provinces will use Laurentian as a precedent, allowing them to go into creditor protection.
And if nothing's done, this could spell the beginning of the end for publicly funded post-secondary education.
"I mean, Doug Ford and his buddies probably don't think it's a problem that if you're in Kapuskasing or Hearst, well just go down to Toronto, just go down to Guelph," he said. "Laurentian makes it possible. Laurentian removed the barriers for so many people in a region that has suffered such youth outmigration year in, year out."
Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre, who has announced he isn't seeking re-election, said he, too, was surprised by the university's moves.
"It's hard to understand," Lefebvre said. "We have many questions, there are many concerns. I am very worried -- I'm worried for the mental health of teachers, students and their families. They don't know what's going on. There's a lot of uncertainty -- there's not much communication."
He's working on a private member's bill to keep universities from seeking creditor protection.
"The government has admitted that French is declining in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada - and now the government needs to put its money where its mouth is," Lefebvre said.
While much of the debate focused around the need for funding, others said this is an attack on French studies.
"The minister has a duty to act and that's what we expect, Mr. Chair, in this case we expect action on Laurentian University," said Steven Blaney, a Quebec Conservative MP.
"The government has admitted that French is declining in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, and now the government needs to put its money where its mouth is," said the Bloc Quebecois' Mario Beaulieu.
Politicians called for the federal government to do what it can to help the situation.
Melanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, said she's been in touch with her provincial counterparts.
"They agree that they need to step up and perform their roles in order to protect this francophone institution in northern Ontario," Joly said. "I'm ready to work with them and have many discussions to come, but our provincial partners need to come forward with solutions and we will be there to support them through funding."
While university administration is still not offering any public interviews, the school did issue a news release saying it planned to have 107 courses in both French and English, but the email offered few details.
Talk of Laurentian University is expected to continue on Friday on Parliament Hill.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, along with Northern MPs Angus and Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing's Carole Hughes, will be addressing the media Friday morning and then meeting with affected faculty and students throughout the day.