At the end of September, Vice-President International and Francophonie, Sanni Yaya, released a summary report titled Towards a renewed Francophonie at the University of Ottawa: A Shared Responsibility. In addition to reporting on consultations held last spring that focused on the three themes of living in French at the University of Ottawa, university programs and research in French, administrative and faculty services in French, this report includes, in Appendix C, a progress report on the Action Plan for the Francophonie, that was adopted by the University in 2019 in response to the recommendations advanced by a Task Force on the Francophonie at the University of Ottawa chaired by Professor Linda Cardinal.
The Central Administration has been slow in recognizing the fragility of French and the linguistic imbalance on campus, and even slower in redressing this situation. This said, the 2019 Action Plan, the creation of the International and Francophonie vice-rectorate, last spring’s consultations, and last month’s summary report seem to be steps in the right direction.
Overall, the Report’s findings are not particularly surprising. We have long been aware of, and attentive to, the state of French on our campus. The challenges associated with offering courses and programs in French, promoting research in French, providing access to French-language services and funding the University’s francophone mandate are considerable and have long been known. The report also raises concerns about a negative perception of the fait français and the expression of disrespectful and denigrating comments about Francophones and the Francophonie. The APUO is troubled by this observation and strongly condemns the expression of such views. We continue to both regularly press the Employer to meet its obligation to ensure a healthy and safe work and learning environment, and to advance ways in which it can better fulfill its role and responsibilities.
The report has the merit of naming and reminding us of the challenges the University faces, as well as laying the groundwork for what it calls a “renewal of the Francophonie at the University of Ottawa.” In line the Report’s authors, we believe that this renewal is embodied in a few major orientations:
- The distinctive character of the University of Ottawa resides in it being both a Research University (member of the U15) and an English/French bilingual institution that plays a distinct role within the Ontario, Canadian and international Francophonie. This is an asset to be leveraged, not a burden to be carried.
- The new Vice-Rectorate of International and Francophonie must be provided with levels of financial and human resources that reflect the importance of its mandate.
- The Francophonie is a cross-cutting responsibility that must also be assumed by the entire Central Administration and considered in all its actions.
- Funding for the Francophonie must be transparent and accountable and reflect the importance of the University’s mandate.
The implementation of the University of Ottawa’s Action Plan for the Francophonie has important implications for the working conditions of APUO members and the learning conditions of our students. The APUO intends to ensure that this implementation is carried out in a collegial manner that enables the University to consolidate its distinct character and to successfully carry out its mandate.