Francophone and Francophile students gathered at Queen’s Park for a Day of Action on February 18, in hopes of pressuring the provincial government into establishing a French-language university in Ontario.

Last year, Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien (RÉFO) submitted a deposition demanding that Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne create a French-language university. The province has yet to take action in response.

The Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-O) expressed support for RÉFO and has prepared a policy outlining their support of increased funding for Francophone and bilingual post-secondary education. The CFS-O policy also stipulates that the creation of the French-language university should be administered by the Francophone and Francophile community in Ontario.

“There is definitely a need for additional institutions providing French-language courses, more specifically in the Greater Toronto Area, but it is important that the current underfunding of post-secondary education as a whole be addressed,” said Gabrielle Ross-Marquette, national executive representative of CFS-O.

“In a climate where satellite campuses are closing their doors as is happening for Laurentian University students in Barrie, we must continue to pressure the government to increase funding to existing French and bilingual institutions in the province,” added Ross-Marquette.

The government of Ontario offers two publicly funded French-language colleges, Collège Boréal and La Cité, in addition to 360 French-language courses listed online under the eCampus Ontario portal. Students can also pursue studies in French at one of Ontario’s nine French language and bilingual schools offering university programming including Glendon Campus at York University, University of Ottawa, and Laurentian University; however, Ross-Marquette suggested that the current system does not meet the needs of students.

“There is a dearth of upper-level French-language courses in bilingual institutions, forcing students to study in their second-language,” said Ross-Marquette. She believes that the lack of advanced French classes poses a particular problem for international students, as bilingual institutions are recruiting Francophone international students who may not speak English.

“The Federation sees the increase in availability of French programs as a positive gain for students in the province, if it is accompanied by sustaining and improving current program delivery in French,” said Ross-Marquette, explaining CFS-O’s stance.

At this time, Bill 104 — a private member’s bill put forth last May by NDP MPP France Gélinas that calls for the creation of a French-language university — has been tabled.

In addition to working with the Francophone post-secondary education communities and student groups such as RÉFO, an Advisory Committee on French Language Postsecondary Education has been established by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; its purpose is to advise the government on the best models of education for Francophones in central and southwestern Ontario. The committee is expected to present a report on their recommendations to the ministry by the end of March.