Dear members of the University community,
The University is currently going through troubling times. Many of you are understandably bewildered and I feel it is important to remind you today of the fundamental values that are central to our institution’s mission and to reiterate the role that La Francophonie plays in our very existence.
Over the past few days, the University of Ottawa has condemned repeatedly the “vindictive words, incivility, and sweeping generalizations” at the centre of the controversy, as reported by various media outlets. These do not further the “values of rigour and tolerance that we wish to convey to our students and that we wish to share with all the communities with which we work every day.” We strongly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination.
By virtue of its historic mission, as stated in its foundational legislation, the University of Ottawa plays a special role in the development and success of La Francophonie in Ontario and has always extended this role to include other Francophone communities elsewhere. We are a major educational, training, and research institution that was built by, and for, two language communities, in a city that has always reflected the great diversity of Canada.
I also want to be perfectly clear: our history is marked by very strong ties to the Quebec nation. Over 5,500 uOttawa students live in Quebec and each day, hundreds of academic and support staff members who work within our community come from Quebec. The University of Ottawa has educated generations of students, and has thousands of alumni, from Quebec; they represent us around the world. We are what we are because our university is Francophone. The University of Ottawa intends to remain the largest French-English university in the world. Since 1848, we have embodied this Francophone presence and we intend to strengthen it throughout the 21st century.
I am convinced that as a community, we will get through these difficult times as we have throughout our history, so long as we remain true to ourselves by reaffirming that we value recognition and respect for others, diversity, and inclusion. This is the glue that binds us together as one great family. Therefore, I feel that we must most urgently focus on respect for human dignity and healing.
Over the coming weeks, I intend to initiate significant discussions with key stakeholders in our community, namely researchers, professors, and teaching assistants, as well as staff members and students. Public meetings will be held in each faculty to discuss and implement simple and effective measures to ensure that La Francophonie reaches its fullest potential within the University of Ottawa. To all those who believe that being a bilingual university is more than just a catchphrase – that it is a genuine intellectual and educational goal – I invite you to participate in these discussions so that together, we can achieve an outcome of which we can all be proud.
To conclude, I would like to inform you that very shortly, Jacques Frémont, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa, will be addressing the entire University community to make an announcement about these important issues.
We will get through this together.
Vice-President, International and Francophonie