Ottawa, February 7, 2019 – Appearing before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the deputy minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, Ms. Marie-Lison Fougère, and the deputy minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Mr. George Zegarac, confirmed that, to their knowledge, the decision to stop funding the Université de l’Ontario français (UOF) and the decision to transfer the Commissioner of French Language Services to the Office of the Ombudsman were not taken by their respective ministries and the university’s economic impact was not studied.
“No one [within the government] disagrees with the fact that there is a real need” for post-secondary programs in the Toronto area, said Mr. Zegarac, adding that 110,000 students are registered in the French-language school system and 200,000 in immersion.
The presentations by the two deputy ministers indicate that both decisions were taken without considering their impact on the Franco-Ontarian community and were made at a higher level of government.
“The Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) calls upon the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario to begin discussions very soon to ensure the university’s long term durability and allow it to open its doors in September 2020. Both deputy ministers stated that the decision was purely financial and not in opposition to the Franco-Ontarian community,” said the AFO’s president, Carol Jolin.
What have we learned?
• The deputy minister of Francophone Affairs was not consulted and did not take part in the decision to transfer the FLSC to the Office of the Ombudsman.
• The deputy minister of Francophone Affairs does not have access to documents that indicate savings resulting from the transfer of the FLSC to the Office of the Ombudsman.
• The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities was not informed of the decision to cut funding to the UOF before the government published its economic statement.
The Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) is the umbrella organisation and the political voice of Ontario’s Francophone community. Its mandate is to assist the Francophone community across the province in working together and to provide community representation, in particular to advocate for the rights of Ontario’s 744,000 Franco-Ontarian citizens.