Laurentian University protesters demonstrate outside president's residence
SUDBURY -- It was a passionate crowd who gathered along Paris Street on Friday morning to send a message to the president of Laurentian University, the Ontario premier and the Minister of Colleges and Universities.
Organized by midwifery students, whose program has been cut by the school, their message was simple: reverse the cuts.
On Monday, the school terminated at least 150 positions; 110 of them were faculty and nearly 70 programs were also cancelled.
"Today we have people coming to support us in fighting Laurentian's program closures so we are trying to get some attention of the big people, the government, that can really help us reverse these cuts, fund Laurentian and help Laurentian be on track so they can eventually be sustainable on their own," said Melanie Murdock.
Murdock, a recent graduate of the French midwifery program, said she was shocked to hear it had been cancelled. The closest programs in Ontario now are either at Ryerson in Toronto or McMaster University in Hamilton.
"It hits close to home, so I'm here not only to support those still in the program, but to support the program as a whole because I think this threatens northern midwifery, it threatens Indigenous midwifery and it threatens Francophone midwifery as well," she said.
It's not just the midwifery program – protesters were demanding the cuts be reversed entirely.
Alyssa Smania calls Sudbury her hometown. A first-year midwifery student, she'll have to move if she wants to continue in the program.
"I'm here for reproductive justice, I'm here for women's health care rights, accessible health care and for all birthing bodies in northern Ontario," she told CTV News.
Smania said she was shocked to hear the news. She said they had been told their program would be saved. They didn't find out until news broke around 2:30 that afternoon.
"I chose Laurentian because I was born and raised in Sudbury. I want to pursue my education in the north," she said.
"I would like him (LU president Robert Hache) to know not only is this an attack on midwifery students, but all students and faculty at Laurentian," Smania said. "This is also an attack on women and all birthing bodies, on LGBTQ and BIPOC students and this is an attack on accessible healthcare in northern Ontario."
"I came out here to support all the students and professors who are getting affected by the cuts at Laurentian," said recent computer science graduate Josh Renelli. "It's almost gut-wrenching, the way that they've been doing it is in humane, it's unjust and they should have done it better."
Renelli and his group were waving signs of support near the Bridge of Nations.
Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti was out at the start of the protest to show his support for the city and those affected.
"I went to Laurentian University," Signoretti said. "What it's done for our community is immense, so to lose this would be a catastrophic loss to our community and the jobs and potential of students not coming to our community... that's something that I have to advocate for."
Carrying a sign that read #FUND LU, Signoretti said more needs to be done to retain students and jobs in the city.
"I was sad, I was disappointed, it was very unnerving to know that this could happen in our community," he said. "If they could have had more time, there could have been something that could have brought all parties together to collectively figure something out that would have lessened the impact.
"This is something that just didn't happen overnight, but to leave the students, leave the workers in a place of dismay, is unfortunate and something that shouldn't be happening in our community," he added.