Multi-city rally held to protest cuts made to Laurentian University

The emotions were raw on Friday morning as supporters of Laurentian University gathered to mark what will be a dark day in the school's history.

April 30 marked the last day of work for some of the faculty impacted by the cuts that were made earlier in the month.

The 'Scholar Strike' is being described as a 'grass-roots effort' led by the labour movement. Simultaneous protests were held in Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

In Sudbury, over fifty cars showed up to the rally that made two laps around campus.

"The cuts that are being place are destroying the university," said professor Jean-Philippe Saucie. "It's putting into question whether the university actually deserves to remain a university. My feeling is they're hiding a lot of stuff, they're playing with numbers and they have an agenda and they've known for months and months and months ahead of time."

"These are esteemed scholars, these are people that have worked so hard and it's painful," said another supporting professor, Yovita Gwekwerere.

Among those in the convoy of vehicles was Helena Shepherd-Snider, a former employee of Laurentian University, she was a founder of the Laurentian University Staff Union (LUSU).

"It's unbelievable, something has to happen," she said. "I mean save Laurentian, save Northern Ontario, save Sudbury, all of those things. This is just the worst day, it's so sad."

Many in the convoy say this has left them with more questions than answers, some now even calling for an inquiry.

"There has to be accountability as to how we got into this mess - someone is liable, some group is liable," said Stan Snider.

"And I mean for Laurentian it's important - it's important for Sudbury, it's important for a lot of the cultural things that go on here, it's important for a lot of the academic things - so it's very disappointing the way things have unfolded," said another supporter, Tom Kovala.

The group made their way twice around campus, right under the window of the office of President Robert Haché.

"They're part of our community and this process is happening despite us, against us, it's a direct attack - not just on Sudbury but on Northern Ontario and post-secondary education," said Monique Beaudoin.

Some of the impacted professors were also in the crowd, including Julie Boissonneault. This was her last day at work.

"On a personal basis this is my last day of working and at the age I am, I mean - there's very few chances I'll put my foot somewhere else," she said.

Boissonneault says this is a community-run organization where everyone has to step up. She felt the mayor and council could have done more.

There were also impacted professors online, giving their thoughts to the protest organizers.

"I'm here to tell you that the process is secretive, cruel and inhumane - leaving us with no severance, no rights and in fact no agency," said political science professor Nadia Verelli.

"I knew that my employers were never keen on the existence of my program - I know this because they told me so - they told me so for the better part of 16 years," said Reuben Roth, a labour studies professor.

Another group had been planning a candlelight vigil for later into the evening but had to postpone due to social distancing concerns.

Protestors in Friday's convoy are vowing to keep the pressure up in hopes that someone in government will finally hear them.