Nearly 60 activists from across the country gathered in Ottawa in February for CAUT’s third francophone conference. The meeting focused on austerity and its impact on francophone teachers, researchers and students, as well as French programs and courses in French.
“We are going to do a collective detox,” CAUT francophones’ committee chair Blanca Navarro Pardiñas told delegates at the opening session. Her announcement was followed by a packed two days of open discussion on austerity measures public education and research institutions are seeking in order to “trim the fat,” and concise training on how to read and understand the language of university and college budgets.
“Academic staff associations should fight to preserve French-language programming and against pressures to eliminate programs deemed unprofitable,” said Paul Deguire, professor of mathematics and statistics at the Université de Moncton.
Delegates also heard the moving testimony of Laurentian University librarian Leila Saadaoui, who sees francophone collections shrinking as a result of austerity cuts. “I want to offer quality French services to our students, but can’t afford to. I’m often asked if this or that resource exists in French and I answer yes, but we don’t have it,” she said.
The conference wound up on a positive note with various suggestions and remarks made about how to counter the austerity agenda, from the importance of using financial statements to judge an institution’s financial health, to calling on academic staff associations and bargaining teams to mobilize their communities around the issues.