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

Sudbury Says NO! to CCAA Wrecking of
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 staff).

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 particular.

On 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.

Earlier 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 completely 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.

Laurentian 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 themselves to.

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 if they didn't.

The 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 University:

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 on-going basis.

Stop the CCAA! Fund Laurentian University!

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Faculty, Students and the Community Speak Out

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 that 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 restructuring proposal...

"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, and 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 a 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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