Madam Speaker, on February 1, Laurentian University declared insolvency, taking many by surprise. We have since learned that Liberal members of Parliament and the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages were aware of the issue at Laurentian University prior to this announcement. This begs the question: Why did the government choose to sit on the sidelines and watch Laurentian University fail?
However, Laurentian University is not the only post-secondary institution in trouble in this country. I must, once again, implore the government to step in and ensure that what happened with Laurentian University does not happen again in Alberta, further jeopardizing minority official language education in Canada.
Campus Saint-Jean, the only French-language university west of Winnipeg, is at risk because of massive provincial cuts. Campus Saint-Jean is part of the University of Alberta, and over the past two and a half years, the Government of Alberta has cut the University of Alberta's funding by $170 million. Nearly half of the cuts to post-secondary education in Alberta have happened to the University of Alberta, and as a result, 1,000 faculty members in Edmonton are losing their jobs. Tuition fees are rising as much as 50%, and the fate of Campus Saint-Jean hangs in the balance.
Campus Saint-Jean is not an ordinary post-secondary institution. It serves a unique role in western Canada, and it is vital that it be supported. Its education programs train future teachers for Alberta and other provinces in primary and secondary French immersion and French programming. Without Campus Saint-Jean, Alberta would not have qualified teachers for the needs of francophone students, of parents like me and of students who, like my daughter Keltie, are enrolled in the bilingual program.
Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that Albertan francophone parents have the right to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in French. A year ago, the Supreme Court affirmed this right and more. It found that minority language communities must receive equivalent support to the majority language, not proportional support.
The implications for Alberta are very clear. Unless Campus Saint-Jean receives federal support, Alberta school boards will not be able to meet the equivalency standard. The government must not allow another French-language university to fail. The government must act now before it is too late.
The mandate of the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages outlines the government's stated commitment to Canada's official language in minority settings and calls for investment in infrastructure to support minority communities, including schools. However, current funding is not sufficient to meet the intent of the Official Languages Act. It is obvious that we need systemic change and a structure that acknowledges the need for post-secondary education support, not just support for kindergarten to grade 12, and we need this change in the long term.
Right now there is a crisis. Right now there is an immediate need for support that does not rely on provincial governments to match, like in Ontario, where the Ford government refused to fund Université de l'Ontario français. Alberta's government is failing to live up to its obligations, and just like those in Ontario, Albertans need the federal government to step in and save Campus Saint-Jean.
The future French-language instruction and vitality in Alberta and western Canada is at stake. Will the government show francophones in Alberta the same respect that it has shown francophones in Ontario—