May 14, 2021 - No. 44
On the Situation at Laurentian University
Sudbury Says NO! to CCAA Wrecking
of Laurentian University
• Faculty, Students and the Community Speak Out
On the Situation at Laurentian University
The people of Sudbury are enraged at the wrecking of Laurentian
University by the financial oligarchy through the Companies' Creditors
Arrangement Act (CCAA). The Laurentian administration, which had
declared bankruptcy and applied for creditor protection under the CCAA
on February 1, announced its restructuring plan on April 12,
cancelling 69 programs (58 undergraduate and eleven graduate programs)
and terminating the employment of about 150 employees (faculty and
This follows the break-up of Laurentian's federation with three
other northern universities and the resultant cancellation of all
programs offered by the federated universities. This restructuring
decimated French-language, Indigenous and Faculty of Arts programs in
May 2, Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court approved
the university's restructuring, including the breakup of the
federation. Laurentian's lawyer, D.J. Miller, argued that Laurentian
needed to retain the $7.7 million in grants and funding which it would
normally disburse to the federated partners in order to reassure its
lender and qualify for another $10 million loan. In his decision the
judge approved Laurentian's restructuring plan and approved the new
loan of $10 million which allows the university to continue to operate
"while protected from creditors" until August 31.
Many of those terminated officially lost their jobs at noon on April
30. Rallies on Wheels were organized on that day in Sudbury as well as
Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston and Kitchener-Waterloo to protest the
decimation of Laurentian University, the chronic underfunding of
post-secondary education, and the refusal of Premier Ford and his
government to defend Ontario’s public education, provide
emergency funding to Laurentian and stop the CCAA process.
in the month on April 16, a four-hour physically-distanced protest
rally was held near the Laurentian president's residence. About two
hundred people attended at different times of the day and there was a
cacophony of motorists honking their horns in support. The event was
organized by Laurentian midwifery students whose cancelled
program was one of three midwifery programs in Ontario and the only
bilingual midwifery program in Canada. The cancellation of the
midwifery program, under the pretext of low enrolment, is particularly
galling as the midwifery program had three hundred applications for
thirty spots in the program and the costs of the program were
covered by tuition and provincial grants.
Sudbury and the Laurentian community are also shocked at the depth
and breadth of the program cancellations: programs in environmental
science where Laurentian is a world leader in reclaiming land
devastated by industrial processes; its physics program which has been
instrumental in the development of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
(SNOLAB) whose director, Dr. Arthur McDonald, was awarded the 2015
Nobel Prize in Physics. Philosophy, political science, gone.
French-language engineering and nursing, gone. Nor are the cuts limited
to academic programs. The University also cut the varsity hockey and
swimming programs. The Laurentian Swim Club won two Olympic gold medals
for Canada in 1984.
students and faculty have been exposing the callousness with which the
CCAA process is being implemented at Laurentian by the university
administration and the financial oligarchy. Normally, when educational
institutions cancel programs, they "teach out" the program for existing
students. Not at Laurentian under the CCAA.
Students have been left high and dry. Midwife students have been told
to transfer to nursing. Political science students have been told to
take interdisciplinary studies. Students do not feel that these options
allow them to pursue the course of studies they had dedicated
Faculty have shown how they were bulldozed into accepting the terms
of the financial restructuring of Laurentian under the CCAA. Terminated
employees were informed by mandatory Zoom meetings, a procedure which
faculty considered demeaning and insulting.
The Senate was given four hours to approve the restructuring plan,
in camera, without any opportunity to consult with their colleagues
under threat that if the Senate did not approve the CCAA restructuring
plan Laurentian University would cease to exist at the end of April.
The following day, the Laurentian University Faculty Association
(LUFA) was presented with a new collective agreement with a five per
cent reduction in pay and in other benefits, including severance pay
for the terminated employees. They were given twelve hours to agree
under threat that the University in its entirety would cease to exist
situation at Laurentian has received national attention. This is the
first time that the CCAA has been applied to a public, post-secondary
educational institution. If the financial oligarchy is successful in
wrecking Laurentian through the CCAA process, they will be able to do
the same at any public sector institution: create a crisis, proclaim
bankruptcy, apply to the CCAA, and rewrite every social, economic and
political relationship in favour of the financial oligarchy.
On April 15, an emergency debate on the situation at Laurentian
University was held in the House of Commons, but no solution was put
forward and on April 19 Paul Lefebvre, Liberal MP for Sudbury announced
that there would be no federal financial aid for Laurentian.
The Laurentian community has been receiving messages of support and
of opposition to the CCAA wrecking of Laurentian University from
unions, faculty organizations, community organizations and individuals
across Canada. Two people who had been awarded honorary doctorates by
Laurentian returned those degrees in protest. The
Chancellor of Laurentian University resigned in protest.
Sudbury, Northern Ontario and the Laurentian community have put
forward several demands surrounding the CCAA process at Laurentian
1) That the CCAA process at Laurentian University be stopped immediately;
2) That the Ontario Government provide Laurentian University with
sufficient funds to operate with all existing program offerings; while
3) Sudbury, Northern Ontario and the Laurentian community review the
programs, operations, organizational structures and finances of
Laurentian University over a period of two or three years with the aim
of building a university which serves the interests and needs of the
entire community; and
4) The Ontario Government provide the necessary funding to operate
Laurentian University as a bilingual, tricultural institution on an
Stop the CCAA! Fund Laurentian University!
Students, faculty, community members and many representing students
and university faculty have been speaking out against the use of the
CCAA to restructure Laurentian University on the backs of Laurentian
teachers, students and the community, and to destroy educational
programs that serve the unique needs of northern communities.
Workers' Forum is reproducing below some excerpts from what is being said:
Sudbury Metis Council
Open Letter to support the legacy of Indigenous Studies founders at Laurentian University
Dear Dr. Haché,
On behalf of the Sudbury Council of the Metis Nation of Ontario, we
urge Laurentian University to retain the faculty of the University of
Sudbury's Department of Indigenous Studies.
The role of community and relationships in Indigenous epistemologies
cannot be understated; the contexts and lineages of knowledge transfer
and translation are vital to Indigenous ways of understanding the
world. With their expertise in the discipline, as well as its languages
and discourses, the current Indigenous Studies faculty is uniquely
positioned to carry on the legacy in which they are rooted -- that
of some of the most respected Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, and
water- and land-protectors of Turtle Island.
Métis citizens enrolled in the program have informed us of
Laurentian University's current arrangement to dismiss the Indigenous
Studies faculty while assuming the titles and federal dollars
associated with it.
Proceeding with this plan is an act of violence that removes the
program's heart: the people who have shaped it. This arrangement
undervalues Indigenous Studies as a distinct discipline involving
apprenticeship and expertise, shows disregard for Indigenous
epistemologies and worldviews, and erodes our trust, as Indigenous
people, in LU's
capacity to decolonize education for our students.
In that spirit, and in support of our students, the Sudbury
Métis Council urges the university to keep the faculty along
with the program. To do otherwise represents another great loss and a
great step backwards in the work towards Reconciliation.
Maurice Sarrazin, President, Sudbury Métis Council
Kirsten McPherson, Secretary, Sudbury Metis Council
Kristen Lavallee, Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work
After describing her experience, which is the experience of many
students, of being blocked by the university from having what they need
to complete their courses, she addresses the bigger issue of what is
being done to the Indigenous Studies program:
"Laurentian University's current administration is attempting to
take the knowledge of the Indigenous knowledge keepers who have created
the Indigenous Studies program at University of Sudbury. This is an
attempt to appease the students to develop the knowledge being taken
into an Indigenous perspectives path at Laurentian University.
"The dissolving of the federations, the mining of knowledge and silencing of the students are colonial efforts."
Dr. Dieter K Buse, Professor Emeritus,
Laurentian University Department of History
"Yesterday changed Laurentian University from a community-serving to
an industry-serving university. I emphasize that the incompetent and
unrepresentative board and negligent top administrators altered the
fundamental nature of local higher education from broadly
community-serving to narrowly industry-serving. The technical college
will emerge will lack the balance to have a notable reputation."
Reuben Roth, Terminated Co-Ordinator of the
Workplace and Labour Studies Program
In response to a question from a student in a Facebook forum as to
whether the CCAA court would consider an alternative to Haché's
"The plight of students won't rend their hearts, these are corporate
lawyers and judges. Sharpshooters like lawyer D.J. Miller have made a
quarter-century career out of using bankruptcy and insolvency
legislation to dissemble companies and sell them off for pennies on the
dollar, they regularly gut workers' pensions, tear up their contracts,
enrich their clients at the expense of employees who were never in
positions of power. It's their job and they're well-compensated for it.
"Plus, they've been destroying the lives of employees' families
longer than my students have been alive. Life lesson: don't expect
sympathy from sociopaths. [...]
"Air Canada's bailout by the federal government could bail
Laurentian out 677 times. That's not a joke. So universities die while
businesses are bailed out by governments.
"And we need this law, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act,
scrapped or reformed. Whether you're in the public or private sector,
it's been responsible for the destruction of working-class families'
lives for decades."
Canadian Federation of Students -- Ontario
In a statement entitled "Broken Promises and Devastating Cuts for Laurentian University Students:"
"The administration and provincial government are using this
mechanism to avoid oversight and consultation with students, faculty
and the general public, while forcing a heavy-handed restructuring
process with the affected parties under duress with inappropriate
timelines." Kayla Weiler, National Executive Representative at Canadian
Federation of Students-Ontario, notes.
"It is unacceptable that students, who have invested so much in
their education, are impacted by financial challenges created by
reckless administrative decisions and the erosion of public university
funding. The manufactured crisis at Laurentian could be stopped at any
time by the Ontario government. The 2021 budget is the third budget in
row with reduced funding for PSE. It is time to invest in all students
no matter where they live in Ontario.'"
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