March 26, 2021 - No. 22

Fight to Defend Educational Institutions

University of Alberta Staff Launch
Mass Campaign to Protect Post-Secondary Education

Laurentian University in Bankruptcy Protection
Ruling Elite Put Public University at the Mercy of the Financial Oligarchy
Outcry for End to CCAA Proceedings
Faculty Association Launches Online Petition
For Your Information on Laurentian University

Fight to Defend Educational Institutions

University of Alberta Staff Launch Mass Campaign
to Protect Post-Secondary Education

The nearly 4,000 workers making up the Association of Academic Staff at the University of Alberta (AASUA) are taking matters into their own hands to protect the future of the university and Alberta, after Jason Kenney and the UCP government's devastating 2021 budget.

"We are concerned about our province's future and that's why we are stepping forward to protect it with a campaign to mobilize our 4,000 members alongside the entire U of A community and beyond," said AASUA President, Ricardo Acuña. "Our university drives innovation and makes our province strong. Now is when we should be investing in our future and protecting Alberta, not cutting it like the Kenney government has recklessly done."

"In the 2021 UCP provincial budget, the University of Alberta's provincial grant has been cut again by a further 11 per cent, which is $60.1 million, or almost half of the total cut to Alberta's post-secondary sector. This means that while 25 per cent of the province's students attend the U of A, our school will bear 50 per cent of the reduction in funding."

Given these extraordinarily challenging times at the U of A, the AASUA, which is made up of the university's educators, researchers, librarians and administrative professionals, is launching the largest campaign in its history. Called, "Protect Our Future: For Our University. For Alberta," the campaign will mobilize thousands of AASUA members, the broader U of A community of workers and students, as well as Albertans across the province.

A petition in support of the campaign can be signed at

"These are not normal times at the U of A and by attacking our university, the Kenney government is taking a jackhammer to the very foundation of Alberta's history and its future," said Acuña. "We are launching our campaign knowing we are up against huge challenges. But now more than ever, we need to come together to protect our future for our university and for Alberta."

(Files from AASUA. Photo: K. Taghabon)

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Laurentian University in Bankruptcy Protection

Ruling Elite Put Public University at the Mercy
of the Financial Oligarchy

Professors, staff, students and community in shock to learn that Laurentian University in Sudbury is in bankruptcy protection.

The financial oligarchy put Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario under Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) bankruptcy protection on February 1, 2021. The CCAA is a fraudulent weapon in the hands of the most powerful oligarchs to secure their private holdings in a property. The CCAA is designed to deny workers what belongs to them by right, violate the interests of the local community and broader society, and seize the holdings of smaller unsecured creditors.

Laurentian University workers and others in the community are demanding to know how a public university could even find itself in this terrible situation. Many are demanding to know what CCAA has to do with providing our youth with a post-secondary education. Laurentian University is an important institution that is supposed to be funded publicly to serve the common good. That such a crucial institution of nation-building could be put into this mess is a testament to how low the country has sunk under the anti-social offensive of the last thirty years.

By refusing to build and fund the university in northern Ontario and instead handing it over to the oligarchs to make maximum profit and otherwise serve their interests, the ruling elite have in effect prepared the conditions to wreck any semblance of nation-building and the right to education.

Laurentian is the first Canadian post-secondary educational institution to be forced into bankruptcy protection under the CCAA. People across the country cannot allow this to become a precedent. The CCAA attack on Laurentian is an opening shot against all public universities in Canada to turn them completely into private enterprises serving the oligarchy's thirst for maximum profit. This must not pass!

The notorious Ernst and Young, which has fattened itself for decades on the CCAA at the expense of workers and communities throughout Canada, will be the "court-appointed monitor" to divide up Laurentian's assets and ensure that the interests of the university workers, staff, students and community are blocked from even being heard.

Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz gave Laurentian University until April 30 to present a CCAA plan designed to restructure its operations and its finances. By issuing such a dictate, the court showed its colours of not giving a damn about the right to education but only in defending private property, which presumably is owed a lot of money by the university. The justice authorized $25 million of Debtor in Possession (DIP) financing for the university to borrow to continue its operations for three months. Under CCAA rules, DIP lenders leap to first in line for seizure of property if their debts are not repaid.

In his ruling, Justice Morawetz said the university was entitled but not required, from the date of the filing, to pay "all outstanding and future wages, salaries, employee and retiree benefits... pension benefits or contributions, vacation pay etc ."

Justice Morawetz wrote later, on February 12, that Laurentian would have the right under the CCAA dictate to permanently or temporarily cease, downsize or shut down any of its business and operations and to terminate the employment of its employees or temporarily lay off them off as the university deems appropriate.

The court order is legal within Canada's civil society where property rights deprive the people of the rights they have by virtue of being human. This is the problem and dictate the people face within the current Canadian economic, political and legal system. This is the challenge the people face to affirm their rights such as the right to their livelihood and job security as well as to education, etc. Only the organized people have the power of numbers, social consciousness and outlook to build the nation to serve the people and put an end to these attacks on their rights.

For his part the President of Laurentian University who presumably is supposed to defend the interests of the university, its staff, students and the right to education, made an open threat in the Sudbury Star on March 20 saying, "If we're not successful in mediation with all the different parties and the recommendation to senate is turned down, the university will cease to function as of April 30. It is not an if, and or maybe -- that's when the money runs out."

Thirty years of neo-liberal anti-social nation-wrecking has brought us to this: When no money is left to pay the rich, the financial oligarchy will shut the country down.

Workers' Forum joins the chorus of anger over these attacks on northern Ontario, the youth, workers, the right to education and society itself. Administrators who are appointed to run a business not an educational establishment should be replaced with those appointed by professors and staff who are dedicated educators. Universities should be organized and financed in a manner which achieves the right to a higher education for all who want it on a modern basis. People expect universities to fulfil  a duty to the society and uphold the right to education for all.

All levels of government must immediately increase their investments in social programs including Laurentian University. All enterprises in the country that employ Laurentian graduates or otherwise use the thought material the university produces must immediately pay for those services and value and together with increased government investment put the finances of the university on a firm modern footing.

This outrage against the youth, workers and others in northern Ontario must cease immediately.

Take Back Laurentian University from the Hands of the Financial Oligarchs!
Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programs!

(Photos: WF, ETT)

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Outcry for End to CCAA Proceedings

March 11, 2021. Rally at Sault Ste. Marie office of Minister of Colleges and Universities.

Demands grow for increased government funding for Laurentian University and the right to education for all.

All sectors of the community in northern Ontario are condemning the dealings of the Laurentian University administration with the Ontario Ford government and their declaration of insolvency and application for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). This outrage has occurred behind the backs of the faculty, staff, students and the communities in northern Ontario that are served by the University.

Who Decides? The People Decide!

This CCAA ambush begs the key question facing everyone: Who Decides? The system of governance at Laurentian and other post-secondary institutions disempowers those who should be the decision-makers. The system empowers private entrepreneurs who have no stake in the academic mission of the institutions, in the development of the communities and in nation-building. The broad opposition to this dictate takes many forms but raises the singular demand for nation-building not nation-wrecking and for this to happen the people must be empowered to decide.

Laurentian Community

Laurentian faculty, staff, retirees, students and concerned members of the Sudbury community are speaking out and finding creative ways of defending their interests. They have organized a group called Save Our Sudbury -- Sauvons Sudbury (SOS) with a Facebook page of the same name to advance this work, where information and comments and expressions of support are posted. SOS organized a virtual Town Hall meeting on March 3 co-hosted by Jamie West, MPP for Sudbury, and fourth-year student Katlyn Kotila in which over 500 people participated. The demand of the meeting was that the province must provide secure funding for Laurentian.

Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

In a statement posted on its website on March 9 the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) denounced the CCAA process writing, "Laurentian University President Robert Haché's recent claim that the Companies Creditors' Arrangement Act (CCAA) process provides a constructive format to engage with stakeholders is not reflected in reality. Instead, the costly CCAA process reduces students, faculty, and staff to the status of creditors, from which the university seeks to protect itself."

OCUFA condemned the "unprecedented, inappropriate, and costly decision to seek CCAA protection" by the University administration because. it writes, "In this process, faculty, staff, and students are placed in an untenable position where the university is trying to force them to take cuts to programs, jobs, and research. Students, faculty, and staff should not have to pay the price for the poor governance practices of an underfunded public institution."

Sault Ste. Marie District Labour Council

The Sault Ste. Marie District Labour Council on March 11 joined with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations to hold a lively rally at the office of the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano in Sault Ste. Marie. Workers from private and public sector unions rallied to demand that the CCAA process be stopped and the government provide proper funding for Laurentian.

Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA)

LUFA, representing 612 faculty members at Laurentian and its federated universities: the University of Sudbury, Huntington University and Thorneloe University, resolutely opposes the actions of the administration. Charlie Sinclair, counsel for LUFA, said the association is currently in contract talks with Laurentian and the union is concerned that the university will use the CCAA proceedings to eliminate programs and jobs that it would not be able to achieve through collective bargaining.

"The university is going to use the insolvency process to achieve concessions (from the union)," he said. "I just want the parties to know LUFA is up to the challenge. While we have been negotiating in good faith, it's not LUFA and its members who put the university in this position and it's not up to members alone to clean up the mess."

Canadian Union of Public Employees

CUPE writes, "The pandemic has exposed chronic underfunding of universities, which are increasingly reliant on tuition fees and private sources of funding. While many major universities in urban centers continue to attract students and private donations, schools in smaller communities such as Laurentian are struggling in the pandemic due to declining enrolment rates, exacerbated by the four per cent reduction in government funding for universities in 2019."

Ontario Branch of the Canadian Federation of Students

The Ontario Branch of the CFS writes, "Laurentian is also known for its tricultural mandate and, in particular, offering a hub for Indigenous learning and research. These programs are now faced with funding cuts that are a major loss to the local communities that benefit from such research. Northern communities thrive on the educational and employment opportunities generated by the University. The news from Laurentian University needs to be a wake-up call to the provincial government that Ontario's post-secondary institutions are underfunded and cannot take any more austerity."

The Fédération québécoise des professeures et
professeurs d'université (FQPPU)

In a statement issued on March 17 the FQPPU, which represents university faculty in Quebec, "urges the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, and the Ford government to work with the various parties, in particular the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA), to find solutions to Laurentian's funding problems. A fundamental aspect of the mission of this institution is to offer university courses to the Francophone and Indigenous peoples of Northern Ontario. The maintenance of these programs is vital to the social and economic development of these communities."

(Photos: M.McLeave, LUFA)

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Faculty Association Launches Online Petition

The following petition was initiated by the Laurentian University Faculty Association to mobilize public support for the demands of faculty, staff, students and the community to end the CCAA process and provide proper funding for the university.

"Dear Premier Ford, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Ministers Romano and Joly,

I am writing to affirm that Laurentian University is a public institution, not a private sector corporation. As such, I urge you to provide the necessary short-term and long-term funding so that we can put an end to Laurentian's insolvency and stop these inappropriate and costly legal proceedings.

As you know, Laurentian University is a public post-secondary institution with a tri-cultural mandate to support French, English, and Indigenous communities. As a result, both the provincial and federal levels of government have a responsibility to help ensure that Laurentian has the operating funds needed to secure the institution's future.

The root source of Laurentian University's financial problems is a lack of transparent and accountable institutional governance that has resulted in arbitrary, unilateral decisions being made behind closed doors. The Laurentian University Faculty Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the secretive and non-consultative approach the university administration has taken to making important financial decisions. These decisions, combined with the steady erosion of public funding, have now put the future of Laurentian University, its programs, students' educations, and jobs at risk.

The provincial government has five representatives on the Board of Governors who should have been providing oversight and good governance. Instead, they joined with the senior administration and other Board members in making irresponsible financial decisions.

Faculty, staff, and students should not have to pay the price for the poor governance practices of an underfunded public institution.

Therefore, I call on the provincial and federal governments to immediately step up and provide the long-term operating funding needed to secure the future of Laurentian University and put an end to these needless insolvency proceedings. In addition, I call on the provincial government to remove its appointees to the Laurentian University Board of Governors, who have clearly neglected their duties and responsibilities.

To sign the petition, click here.

(Photo: OSSTF)

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For Your Information on Laurentian University

Laurentian University located in Sudbury was founded in 1960 and is the largest university in northern Ontario with 9,000 full-time, part-time and online students. The university offers programs in English and French and to a significant number of Anishinaabe students. It has been instrumental in the creation of three other universities in northern Ontario: Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Nipissing University in North Bay and l'Université de Hearst.

Laurentian is affiliated with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, in collaboration with Thunder Bay's Lakehead University, and with the McEwen School of Architecture, which opened in 2013 as the first new school of architecture in Canada in 45 years, and which has played a role in renewing the downtown core of Sudbury. The university is an essential institution to provide post-secondary education to the youth of Sudbury and northeastern Ontario.

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