Letter: Nickel Belt MP speaks out on Laurentian University controversy

Seeks public input on possible solutions for a collective collaboration

To the Expositor:

I confess that I was deeply disturbed when I heard the news about all the cuts at Laurentian University. I was aware of budgetary concerns however the reality of what transpired went far beyond what I imagined. It was though a bomb had been thrown in the heart of Greater Sudbury. Like many of you, I reacted emotionally. Laurentian is so much more than a post-secondary institution, much more than bricks and mortar, computers, laboratories and books! Laurentian is a community of hundreds of people who contribute to the economic, environmental, social, cultural, and of course, educational wealth of Nickel Belt – Greater Sudbury, and Northern Ontario. It is one of our gems of the North! It was officially announced May 2 that the federated institutions, Thorneloe, Huntington and University of Sudbury will be forced to sever ties with Laurentian. This is a further heartfelt loss to the sense of community and a tragedy for faculty and students who pursued their passions within those institutions. 

Yes, I reacted emotionally, first because the overwhelming loss faced by so many students, faculty and staff, but also because Laurentian has been a part of my life for many years. My father, Gaëtan Serré, was a graduate from Sacré-Coeur College who went to continue his studies at the brand-new University of Sudbury, the university that helped create Laurentian over 60 years ago. I am also a proud graduate of Laurentian; in fact, I am part of the very first cohort of graduates from the French business program. One of my daughters also obtained two diplomas from Laurentian. In short, we are three generations of graduates who have contributed to the well-being of their community, armed with the diplomas that we obtained here, in the North, without needing, nor wanting to go abroad. 

Some of you have questioned, what am I doing to help? I need to begin by clarifying that post-secondary institutions are accountable to provincial governments, therefore the Minister of Colleges and Universities and the Premier of Ontario. If the federal government would even attempt to step in, the Prime Minister would quickly be accused of meddling in their affairs. Where we can assist as a federal government, relates to the official languages, because we have a responsibility to ensure that minority communities have access to quality services where numbers warrant it. That is why my Franco-Ontarian colleagues and I have been working for several weeks with Minister Joly to study the options available to us. In Budget 2021 our government has prioritized $120 million over three years for minority official-language education in postsecondary institutions across Canada. We also have the support of the Liberal caucuses in Quebec and Ontario because they all recognize the importance of post-secondary training in French in Canada. 

Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, right, and his father Gaëtan Serré have deep links to Laurentian. The younger Serré graduated from Laurentian among the first cohort of graduates from the French business program, while his father continued his studies at the University of Sudbury, which went on to help create LU. One of the younger of Mr. Serré’s daughters obtained two Laurentian degrees as the third generation.

I want you to understand, just because we are not shouting out publicly does not mean that we are not doing anything. In fact, hours have been spent working towards options to assist when the requests are made, and the opportunity arises. There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes, I assure you! There is a legacy to uphold—Laurentian took pride in offering a wide variety of prestigious programs and spearheaded globally renown research projects. As a resident and as an MP I appreciate the magnitude of what is at stake and I will continue to work with all levels of government in my capacity. 

Constructive collaboration! 

Finally, I invite you to send me your possible solutions, your suggestions, and your constructive ideas. I think we all want the same thing; a strong Laurentian University that continues to protect and showcase our cultural history. A quality university that serves the Anglophone and Indigenous communities; and a quality university for, by and with francophones, ready to enrich the next generations of Franco-Ontarians, French-speaking immigrants, and Francophiles for the future. 

We are, we will be! 

Marc G. Serré, MP

Nickel Belt