By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
News of a French-language university being built in Toronto is being welcomed by Durham Region’s Francophone groups.
The federal and Ontario governments recently announced a funding agreement to support the creation of Universite de l’Ontario francais, the first French-language university governed by and for Francophones in the province.
The two governments have pledged $126 million in funding over eight years, to be paid equally between both.
The university is expected to welcome its first students in September 2021.
There are approximately 620,000 residents who either identify as French or bilingual living in Ontario.
According to 2016 census data, around 9,700 of them are living within Durham Region.
Conseil des Organismes Francophones de la Région de Durham (COFRD) represents groups serving Francophone residents across the region.
COFRD secretary Helen Boudreau says they are pleased with the development of a French-language university.
“It is in addition to the whole system of French-education that is already in place,” Boudreau said. “It just sort of completes that whole education system.”
Boudreau said there are already French programs at universities such as the University of Ottawa and Laurentian University.
But now that opportunity will be available to Durham residents closer to home, Boudreau explains.
“There is an excitement that it is happening in southern Ontario,” Boudreau said.
The Ford government faced backlash in 2018 after announcing it was cutting funding for a French-language university, a move it eventually backed away from.
The province also planned to eliminate Ontario’s French-language services commissioner.
However, the commissioner’s position was not eliminated but transferred into the Office of the Ontario Ombudsmen.
The actions of the province caused criticism from many Franco-Ontarian residents and the federal government.
While Boudreau said the recent announcement would likely help repair some of the damage, she says the Ford government doesn’t deserve too much credit.
“If it had not been for the federal government stepping in [the university wouldn’t be moving forward.] Keep in mind, the provincial government is not having an active role in terms of [university] finances for a period of four years,” Boudreau said.
Overall, Boudreau says there are many services available for Francophones in Durham Region, even if it may take a little searching to find them.
More information on COFRD is available at cofrd.org