University of Sudbury, Thorneloe vow to keep fighting after losing court decisions

Despite losing appeals aimed at stopping the cancellation of their agreement with Laurentian University, both Thorneloe and the University of Sudbury say they are not giving up their fight.

Both universities have operated for decades under an agreement with Laurentian, which the university terminated April 1 as part of its restructuring process. A third federated university, Huntington, signed an agreement with LU to sell its gerontology program.

Thorneloe and the U of S went to court, arguing that Laurentian has saved enough money – roughly $30 million -- through program and staffing cuts. Cancelling the agreement is expected to raise another $7 million for LU to help pay creditors and make long-term plans.

After the judges hearing the cases denied the motions Sunday, Thorneloe announced it would be appealing the decision.

"Thorneloe will file a motion for leave to appeal and a stay of the order to the Ontario Court of Appeal as it previously advised Laurentian it would do in the event of a decision against Thorneloe," the school said in a news release.

"The termination of the federation agreement would force the closure of Thorneloe's operation at Laurentian and the permanent loss of even more jobs in the Sudbury area."

"Laurentian's motive is to eliminate competition for its own courses and attempt to maximize its own tuition and grant revenues," John Gibaut, president of Thorneloe, said in the release.

"However, Thorneloe's unique offerings in religious studies, ancient studies and women gender and sexuality studies attract students to the Laurentian community. These students will end up having to pursue their education outside of northern Ontario."

For its part, the U of S said it still intends to keep fighting to take over all French-language programs from LU and become a francophone university.

"Laurentian University is hampering the University of Sudbury's ability to meet its quasi-constitutional obligations under the French Language Services Act, while blatantly ignoring its own quasi-constitutional obligations," the university said in a news release.

"It is important to act without delay because the current financial debacle at Laurentian University is causing irreparable harm to francophone students, present and future, as well as to the Franco-Ontarian community," Pierre Riopel, chair of the board of the University of Sudbury, said in the release.

"The University of Sudbury will diligently pursue its commitment to become an independent francophone university, so that it be able to not only deliver the courses it currently offers in French, but to offer the French-language programs and courses that Laurentian University has ceased to offer or that it is inadequately offering to meet the needs of the Francophone community."

Both Thorneloe and the U of S are awaiting the reasons from the judges for their decision to deny their appeals. John Meehan, president of the University of Sudbury, said in the release once they receive the reasons, their appeal will proceed.

"We believe that termination of the federation is not in the best interests of our students, faculty, employees and the communities we serve," Meehan said.

"We are very proud of what has been accomplished at the University of Sudbury with the Indigenous communities. We will continue to work with and support all of their initiatives to ensure that they will have an educational institution by, for and with Indigenous communities themselves."