L’Université de l’Ontario français : Où se trouve Glendon dans ce débat?

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Perhaps Glendon isn’t such a special place after all? At least by 2020 it won’t be  – 2020 will mark the start of the inaugural academic year for l’Université de l’Ontario Français (UOF), breaking into the market of post-secondary institutions in Ontario whose programs are taught in French. How will it be different from other bilingual universities, like Laurentian or Glendon? Firstly, it will be the only university to offer all their courses, and subsequently their degrees, exclusively in French. Secondly, it could potentially be an institution governed by and for Francophones – though the details of this second distinction are still being sorted out. At the time of writing, a planning committee is in charge of seeing through the development of curriculum, governance structure, and other logistics, with pressure from the francophone community to have a say in the matter – a letter published by l’Assemblé de la Francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) highlights the need for francophone representation on the committee.

L’UOF est officiellement une entité légale, adoptée en loi à Queens Park le 14 décembre 2017. La création de cette université fait partie d’une loi omnibus proposée par le gouvernement Libéral qui comprend la reconnaissance d’Ottawa en tant que ville bilingue. L’adoption de cette loi est une réponse aux demandes de l’AFO de la part du gouvernement Libéral pour améliorer les services en français dans la province. En tant que demandes spécifiques qui concerne l’UOF, l’AFO exigeait que tout autre université cesse d’offrir leurs courses en français. Cela a évoqué des réactions polarisées dans la communauté francophone, notamment à Glendon.  Notre principal, M. Ipperciel, a annoncé que cette proposition serait « très triste ». Pour lui, l’UOF pourrait faire partie d’une constellation d’institutions qui offrent des formations en français, y compris Glendon. Pierre Zundel, président intérimaire de l’Université Laurentienne, espère que les universités adopteront une relation de collaboration et non de compétition. Il postule que l’inscription à l’UOF n’aura pas un grand impacte sur le taux d’inscriptions d’autres universités bilingues. La ministre des Affaires francophones de l’Ontario, Marie-France Lalonde, a confirmé que certains programmes offerts par l’UOF seront en partenariat avec des universités bilingues.

That being said, l’UOF is strongly considering setting up shop in Toronto, meaning it will be more directly competitive with Glendon for student enrollment than, say, Laurentian. A recent survey done by ONFR, however, shows Glendon might not have to worry as much as they think. The results show that while most Glendonites agree with the need for more French education options, francophone students especially aren’t ready to trade their bilingual education pour une éducation seulement en français.

And herein lies the crucial difference that (perhaps) keeps Glendon so unique. In addition to Anglophone learners (75% of the student body), Glendon is home to a good portion of international Francophones (10% of students) who came to improve their English – a selling-point l’UOF wouldn’t be able to offer. Bilingual education seems like the all-important middle ground for Anglophones, Franco-Ontarians, and international Francophones. Take it from me, a recent Glendon alum, vying for jobs with 90+ other extremely bright and competent post-grad classmates: where I’d probably find myself the weaker of candidates, my bilingualism has given me considerations from employers my colleagues wouldn’t have otherwise received – especially in the public and not-for-profit sectors. An education solely in French doesn’t necessarily respond directly to employers’ demands for candidates with language capabilities as much as a bilingual education would. A candidate’s mastery of both French and English would be taken into higher consideration, with the obvious assumption of working proficiency in English. So far, programmation entièrement en français is what l’UOF will offer, and I do not see how that will offer more for employees than a bilingual degree from Glendon would.

The passing of this omnibus law, as well as the subsequent creation of l’UOF, is a huge victory for language rights within the Franco-Ontarian community. The fact this law was passed and went relatively unnoticed by English media is indicative of the sorry state of la Francophonie we find ourselves in in Ontario.  La création de l’UOF sera sans doute un petit pas vers le but ultime d’une francophonie plus présente en Ontario.