For my colleagues, including some deans, and me, yesterday (Monday, November 27) was a day of pilgrimage to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. We used our time at Queen’s Park to meet provincial MLAs and civil servants, to sing the praises of what I consider a jewel in Ontario’s postsecondary education system, the University of Ottawa.
Indeed, this day of lobbying was not an accident. I have regular discussions with Ontario ministers and government officials, but yesterday was first and foremost an opportunity to remind them of the University of Ottawa’s major contribution to all Ontarians, and the francophone community in particular.
For example, I made a point of reiterating our support for the creation of a French-language university in the Greater Toronto Area. The University of Ottawa is ready to provide ongoing support for this project and to serve as an enthusiastic mentor for the new university. However, I insisted on one key point: the creation of the Université de l’Ontario français must not come at the expense of the existing institutions and the programs they already offer. French-language educational offerings will grow across Ontario through collaboration and mutual support between institutions.
For some, offering postsecondary education may be a nuisance. However, we at the University of Ottawa see it instead as an invaluable asset. As I stated clearly at the annual general meeting of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO), for us, being bilingual does mean offering courses and programs in English and French. But it also means providing nearly 300 programs entirely in French with classes in French for francophone students living in a francophone setting. If today we have many French-speaking doctors, lawyers, health professionals and teachers everywhere in Ontario, it is in large part because of the University of Ottawa’s actions.
However, we must continue to look towards the future and always be seeking ways to improve. Although there are hundreds of programs provided entirely in French, there are no programs in science or engineering (part of what are referred to now as the STEM disciplines), either at the University of Ottawa or elsewhere in Canada outside Quebec, that are offered entirely in French. Now more than ever, it’s time to fix this.
That’s why some time ago, the University of Ottawa proposed that the Ontario government extend our French-language programming to include these areas of knowledge. Ontario also needs French-speaking engineers, mathematicians and chemists. These new programs could be quickly developed and offered starting in September 2019 if Ontario government support materialized.
Ontario francophones deserve the highest calibre university in Toronto. But they also deserve access to French-language programs in all areas of knowledge, as well as world-class francophone networks of scholarship. This is what the University of Ottawa will continue to offer them — in all fields, including engineering and the sciences.