Designation under the act ensures that Francophones have consistent access to quality services in French.
It also guarantees Francophone representation in the organization’s governance and assures a written policy regarding French language services.
Laurentian University is the first bilingual post-secondary institution in Ontario to seek partial designation under the act.
The university's board of governors voted to seek the designation at their April 27 meeting.
“Our new Strategic Plan 2012-2017 reiterates Laurentian University’s commitment to the Francophonie, specifically as a destination of choice for Francophone and French immersion students across Canada and in Francophone countries,” Laurentian University president and vice-chancellor Dominic Giroux said in a press release.
“This includes continued support of our high-quality French-language programs and the revival of our certificate of bilingualism. The decision to seek this designation pushes our objectives to an even higher level.”
Last November, the Francophone community celebrated the 25th anniversary of the passage of the French Language Services Act by the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
In December, following a unanimous vote by its members, the Regroupement des professeures et professeurs Francophones de l’Université Laurentienne recommended that the university commence an application for partial designation under the act.
The board of governors’ executive committee began studying the issue in January and also met with French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau to further examine the implications of a partial designation.
“Our group applauds the university administration for launching the application for designation in such a timely manner,” Corinne Pastoret, chair of the Regroupement des professeures et professeurs Francophones de l’Université Laurentienne said, in the press release.
“The scope of this type of protection will, of course, depend on the province, but given the university’s openness to the matter so far, we are very optimistic of a favourable outcome.”
Madeleine Meilleur, minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, said she's delighted by Laurentian University’s decision.
“I congratulate the board of governors for making such an important decision that conveys a great sense of concerted leadership in the Laurentian community,” she said.
“Franco-Ontarian communities have made a lot of progress since the passage of the French Language Services Act, and I salute Laurentian’s renewed efforts to ensure sustainable development of Ontario’s Francophonie.”
The French Language Services Act guarantees services in French among Ontario government ministries and organizations in 25 designated areas.
Municipalities and organizations partially funded by the province are not automatically subject to the act.
To date, 222 organizations have committed to offering all or a portion of their services in French.
Since it was established in 1960, Laurentian University has offered programs and services in French according to its own legal framework and policies.
The institution currently serves more than 1,450 students enrolled in 35 French-language undergraduate and graduate programs.
The partial designation will cover services on the Sudbury campus and programs currently offered in French, and will exclude departments not currently offering programs in French.
The board of governors’ decision rests on a limited number of parameters which were validated in advance with the French Language Services Commissioner.
These parameters deal with the protection of academic freedom, collegiate governance and Senate autonomy, as well as the university’s discretion to not budget for or offer courses with very low enrolment, such as five or fewer students, for example.
“Over the next few months, the university will work closely with the Office of Francophone Affairs and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to develop a provincial government regulation to formalize the partial designation under the act, all the while following parameters approved by the university’s board of governors,” Giroux said.
Posted by Arron Pickard