Interview with Dyane Adam on the creation of the University of French Ontario

Between capricious funding, changes of government and a long process turned upside down by a pandemic, the birth of the Université de l’Ontario français was no easy task. Dyane Adam, one of the instigators, recounts behind the scenes before leaving all her senior management positions.

The creation of the University of French Ontario was a real obstacle course, what was the main obstacle to overcome?

It’s a race, there has always been the challenge of time. We were on a trajectory conditioned by external factors, whether it was an election – provincial, federal – so at any time, we risked not making progress in the project.

We barely had a one-year window to develop the project, make sure the government endorses it, develops a law and passes it. Funding was secured only [le provincial] called elections in May-June 2018. With the new government, […] there is a waiting period, another obstacle course to get that government to know about the project, endorse it, finance it…

While we were caught in a mad race for time, the federal government was going to elections in turn. […] Then we started in the middle of a pandemic in 2021 under demanding conditions. We built, hired, created our programs, launched the first courses, all virtual. It was already difficult for well-established universities, so imagine for us!

The teams were all motivated by the conviction that it was a project that had to succeed, Franco-Ontarians had wanted an autonomous French-language university for decades, it was a historical rendezvous that we would not could not miss, no matter the obstacles. »

A quote from Dyane Adam

How did you manage to finance theUOFto convince of the merits of the project?

You have to have this intimate conviction that you are on the right track and never accept a “no”; influence and never give up.

I admit that I can be very stubborn – nicely – but I don’t stop. We were a very close-knit team, we analyzed all the tactical strategies, we mobilized all the allies and the decision-makers so that it became irreversible and unavoidable. [dans le camp politique].

The Ford government entered in June 2018 with the priority of cleaning up public finances. Our new project was therefore put on hold but I had a good experience of working with governments. We had to get this new government to understand our project, the importance ofUOF for Franco-Ontarian society, and Ontario in general.

From December, with the big demonstration, the community rallied around the project and I felt that the government realized that it might have made a mistake. They were open to listening to us. »

A quote from Dyane Adam

It’s as if a train had left the station, was traveling at the right speed and all of a sudden, there was no fuel.

Then we managed to get federal funding. Within two weeks, Minister Joly and the Trudeau government agreed to pay us $1.9 million.

The University of French Ontario in Toronto.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Pierre-Mathieu Tremblay

We needed that amount to keep us alive. It allowed us to exist in times of uncertainty and to negotiate an agreement in principle before the federal government, in turn, went to an election.

How theUOF does it intend to make its mark in a competitive market? Given the low enrollment of Ontario high school students, would it have been better to bank on popular programs rather than create new ones?

I believe that the programs are perfect, transdisciplinary, they address key issues for the future – the environment, digital cultures, etc.

The reason the university hasn’t recruited a lot is that we’re just starting up. The Bachelor of Education is approved, it remains to be confirmed by the College of Teachers and we will add other programs in Mental Health, Law, as planned.

L’UOF it is a legacy for future generations. […] To have an entirely French-language university in the Canadian metropolis, which will become a beacon for all Francophones and Francophonies, for me, that’s wonderful. »

A quote from Dyane Adam

The University also targets students coming out of immersion schools as well as Francophones from English-language schools.

The idea is to offer these already French-speaking students an educational path in French that they could pursue at the same time as their university studies to ensure that they obtain their diploma in English-language establishments and that they can also keep their French, and even improve it.

What form would this agreement between universities take?

Alliances, partnerships, it can take all forms. At the design stage of theUOFwe had already secured interest from the University of Toronto, the[Université métropolitaine de Toronto]to develop this type of bridge between two universities around programs (in science and health, for example).

The team will work in this direction in the coming years, to offer many more choices to our Francophone and Francophile students.

The university will take its place but the reputation is being built. It’s a start-up and you can see it growing. It just takes time. »

A quote from Dyane Adam

The so-called “prestigious” universities are often caught in the shackles, some want to change the programs but cannot, the teachers are established in their way of being…

It is not because a university is 50 years old and has a storefront that it is more adapted to the realities of today’s market.

If you’re an ocean liner, it takes longer to turn around, whereas when you’re smaller, you have that flexibility and that ability to innovate.

What does Doug Ford’s re-election portend for Ontario’s Francophonie?

We are well on the way and I think that our current government understands the issues that affect the Francophonie.

Ms. Mulroney has remarkable leadership in that community, she has an important place and has the ear of Mr. Ford, so I think we are very well positioned to promote the interests of francophones.

Furthermore, you cannot engage in activism or work with governments without demonstrating diplomacy. It’s a matter of dialogue, of exchanging ideas, of influencing decision-makers.

However, you must never give up and if you are not satisfied, you must come back to the charge. This is all the more important for a minority group.

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