Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, I rise today to support Senator Miville-Dechêne’s motion. I join my colleagues in expressing my chagrin at the Ontario government’s decision to cancel plans to establish the new Université de l’Ontario français in Toronto.
This announcement is a great disappointment to Franco-Ontarians. That institution brought hope to francophones in Ontario, particularly those who could not or did not want to move to pursue a post-secondary education. Everyone expected their education needs to be met.
In my home province, we are lucky to have the Université de Moncton as an option for all those who want to continue their post-secondary education in French. The Université de Moncton, which was founded in 1963, is the largest French-language university in Canada outside Quebec. It has three campuses located in three francophone regions of New Brunswick, namely Edmundston, Moncton and Shippagan.
It is interesting to note that the small Collège Saint-Joseph de Memramcook, the first Acadian college founded in 1864, became the Moncton campus. The Collège du Sacré-Coeur de Caraquet, which was later called the Collège de Bathurst, became the Shippagan campus, and finally, the Collège Saint-Louis, which was later called the Université Saint-Joseph, became the Edmundston campus.
Since it was founded in 1963, the Université de Moncton has awarded more than 50,000 degrees. The university now also includes a faculty of law, a faculty of engineering and a medical training centre. The university as we know it today has greatly changed over time. It was born out of the idea that Acadians deserved their own institution where they could get a post-secondary education in their own language. They were also convinced of the importance of having an institution that would reflect their culture and help promote and protect the French language.
One of the proudest Acadians I have ever known, our former colleague and a Speaker of this chamber, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, graduated from Université Saint-Joseph. I remember very well the day he was sworn in here as Governor General. He was surrounded by many proud Acadians and New Brunswickers. He became a professor at Collège Saint-Louis in Edmundston, and then served as Chancellor of the Université de Moncton from 2001 to 2004.
I would also share with you the accomplishments of the Royal Military College of Canada and the Royal Military College Saint-Jean for their efforts. These wonderful institutions bring together anglophones and francophones who work and learn together and then graduate together as proud bilingual members of our Canadian Armed Forces.
There is no doubt that a university can help to preserve the French language and the French culture as well as to promote a community’s bilingualism in —
The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry for interrupting you, Senator Day, but it is now 6 o’clock and unless we agree not to see the clock, I’m required to leave the chair until 8 p.m.
Is it agreed we do not see the clock, senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, Senator Day.
Senator Day: Thank you, Your Honour. The French university in Toronto was planned exactly for that reason, to preserve the culture of francophones in Ontario, but also to promote the use of the language and develop more Canadians as bilingual. Official languages are generally the responsibility of the federal government, and the federal government does its part to help preserve and protect our official languages.
This particular project, because it falls within provincial jurisdiction over education, is simply not within the federal purview. We can certainly bring it to the federal government’s attention and our disappointment in the decision to the province.
In fact, honourable senators should be aware that yesterday the House of Commons unanimously supported a motion of a similar theme, bringing to the attention of the provincial government the disappointment of the members of the House of Commons.
Allow me to say once again that I benefited from a bilingual post-secondary education and that I am deeply saddened by the recent events in Ontario. Franco-Ontarians are disappointed that their dream has been shattered, and so are we. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!